U.S.-Backed Rebels Receive Stingers

NICOSIA [MENL] -- Sunni rebels have begun to receive U.S.-origin surface-to-air missiles from Turkey.

Diplomatic sources said Sunni rebels supported by Washington have been receiving the U.S.-origin Stinger surface-to-air missile. They said the Stingers arrived from Turkey over the last month and were responsible for downing at least two warplanes in Syria.

“The Stingers have been supplied to a militia now in Dir Al Zour” a source. referring to the northern Syrian province, said. “The missiles come from production lines in Turkey.”

The sources said the Stinger missiles were procured for the rebels by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. They said Washington, after years of opposing SMS to the rebels, agreed to the transfer in an effort to hamper the Russian air campaign that rolled back rebel gains in the war against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“The Americans want to stop a Russian victory at any price,” the source said.

The sources identified one recipient of the Stingers as the Raga Revolutionaries Brigades. Raga Revolutionaries, deemed an afiiliate of the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army, was said to have received the Stingers and other weapons from Turkey in March 2016.

Neither the rebels nor Turkey confirmed that SAMs were used to down Russian or Syrian warplanes. Turkey's state-owned companies have produced Stingers as part of short-range air defense systems developed for the Turkish Air Force.

But the sources said the Stingers were being used to bolster lslamic militias in Syria aligned with Ankara. They said Rana Revolutionaries was cooperating with Islamic State of Iraq and Levant and attacking Kurdish units in northern Syria.

“There had long been a dispute within the Turkish leadership whether to give the missiles to the rebels,” another source said.

“it seems that the Stinger supplies depended on whether Turkey's lslamic militia allies would help stop the advance of the Kurds.”