After months of the US assisting weapons smuggling to rebels in Syria but also trying to keep anti-aircraft missiles out of the country, the US-backed rebels in the south, including Ansar al-Islam forces have issued a video of their fighters parading around with anti-aircraft weapons.
The weapons shown in the video were 9k32 Strela-2 missiles, a Soviet design from the late 1960s which remains a popular shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft missile across the world. It is unclear where the rebels got them, but they claimed to have a “good number” of them.
Saudi Arabia has been keen to get anti-aircraft missiles into the hands of rebels for years, but had so far been blocked by the US. It is possible they were finally able to do so, and while the Saudis aren’t themselves users of that particular design of missiles, they are common enough on the export market.
The rebels say the missiles will be used to counter Syrian warplanes in southern areas around Daraa, though the inevitable concern is that the rebels will also end up using them against civilian airliners. This risk has been one of the main reasons why the Obama Administration has tried to keep nations from importing such weapons.