Via Ali Gharib, what the Obama administration is providing the Syrian rebels:
- LOGISTICS AND COMMUNICATIONS ASSISTANCE – U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that “U.S. intelligence operatives and diplomats have stepped up their contacts with Syrian rebels in part to help organize their burgeoning military operations.” This includes helping with logistics and communications. The officials also told the Journal that the U.S. was considering providing intelligence to the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces.
- CONSULTING ON ARMS SALES – As in Libya, the U.S. is reportedly not directly involved in arming rebel forces. But that doesn’t mean — in either case — the U.S. is not involved at all. The New York Times reported last week that Syrian activists claimed the U.S. was “consulted” on arms deals where Saudi Arabia and Qatar paid for the Turks to make the transfers (U.S. officials said “they recognized that Syria’s neighbors would do so”).
- GATHERING INTELLIGENCE ON REBELS – The Journal also noted that “stepped-up links with the FSA are also part of an effort to gain a better understanding of the rebels’ capabilities and of the identities” in a bid to split the FSA from extremist anti-government fighters. This is in line with an earlier report that the administration considered facilitating allies’ work to arm anti-government forces.
- TECHNOLOGICAL AID AND TRAINING – Time Magazine reported last week that the administration ran a robust program of helping rebel communications not only among each other and allies, but also with the outside world. Those enraging videos of Assad’s foces shelling densely urban areas? Some of them are captured by rebels carrying guns in one hand and U.S.-provided cameras in the other, and uploaded to the web over satellite communications provided by the U.S. and operated with U.S. training.
This is at least what has been made public on US assistance to the Syrian opposition fighters. See here and here for some of why this aid is problematic and likely to exacerbate the conflict. Partly making up the rebels are elements of al-Qaeda and other Sunni extremists and UN reports have confirmed they have committed serious crimes and atrocities.