Though the Obama administration continues to deny that it is providing arms to Syrian rebels, intelligence officials in the region, as well as here in America, maintain that there is indeed an American presence along the borders. A small number of CIA officers are working in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which of Syria’s rebel fighters will receive weapons to battle the Syrian government.
The weapons, including automatic rifles, ammunition and rocket-propelled grenades, are being provided by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and are being transported across the Turkish border though underground organizations such as Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood. CIA officers have been present in Turkey for several weeks, and are also working to keep these weapons from groups allied with Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, according to a senior American official via the New York Times.
While the Obama administration has repeatedly said it will not provide arms to Syrian fighters, it has acknowledged that allied neighbors of Syria would. So far, the CI.A presence has been the only known involvement for the United States in the military efforts against the Syrian government. Publically, Washington continues to mount pressure against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has supported the violent crackdown against the Syrian citizens battling the government.
“CIA officers are there and they are trying to make new sources and recruit people,” one Arab intelligence official told the New York Times. A steady flow of intelligence regarding the growth of the Syrian government’s opposition could prove vital in the long term.
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On Monday, President Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in an effort to curb the shipment of arms to Syria, Russia’s ally in the Middle East. A steady supply of new weapons on both sides of the struggle would inevitably lead to more violence.
“We’d like to see arms sales to the Assad regime come to an end, because we believe they’ve demonstrated that they will only use their military against their own civilian population,” Benjamin J. Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said after the meeting.
So far, there has no been no statement from the White House, the CIA or State Department commenting on intelligence operations in support of the Syrian rebels.