We Arm The Saudis So They Can Arm Islamists In Syria

The official word is that the Saudis are buying weapons from the Pentagon. But they couldn’t get these weapons if our government did not approve of the transaction. These weapons don’t seem to have much use except to arm Islamists in Syria.

From Foreign Policy:

No one is expecting a tank invasion of Saudi Arabia anytime soon, but the kingdom just put in a huge order for U.S.-made anti-tank missiles that has Saudi-watchers scratching their heads and wondering whether the deal is related to Riyadh’s support for the Syrian rebels.

The proposed weapons deal, which the Pentagon notified Congress of in early December, would provide Riyadh with more than 15,000 Raytheon anti-tank missiles at a cost of over $1 billion. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Military Balance report, Saudi Arabia’s total stockpile this year amounted to slightly more than 4,000 anti-tank missiles. In the past decade, the Pentagon has notified Congress of only one other sale of anti-tank missiles to Saudi Arabia — a 2009 deal that shipped roughly 5,000 missiles to the kingdom.

“It’s a very large number of missiles, including the most advanced version of the TOWs [tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided missiles],” said Jeffrey White, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former intelligence analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency. “The problem is: What’s the threat?”

That’s a tough question to answer. A military engagement with Iran, the most immediate potential threat faced by Riyadh, would be largely a naval and air engagement over the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia has fought a series of deadly skirmishes with insurgents in northern Yemen over the years, but those groups have no more than a handful of military vehicles. And Iraq, which posed a real threat during Saddam Hussein’s day, is far too consumed by its internal demons and the fallout from the war in Syria to ponder such foreign adventurism.

But one Saudi ally could desperately use anti-tank weapons — the Syrian rebels. In the past, Riyadh has been happy to oblige: It previously purchased anti-tank weapons from Croatia and funneled them to anti-Assad fighters, and it is now training and arming Syrian rebels in Jordan. Charles Lister, a London-based terrorism and insurgency analyst, said that rebels have also received as many as 100 Chinese HJ-8 anti-tank missiles from across the border with Jordan — and indeed, many videos show Syrian rebels using this weapon against Bashar al-Assad’s tanks.

It is officially illegal for Saudi Arabia to give purchased weapons from the US to another group. But in this case, the weapons are fungible. The Sauds’ plan could be to give Syrian Jihadists all their old weapons and then replace them with US weapons systems for their own stockpiles.

The Administration’s claim to only be financing and arming “moderate” Syrian rebels is not credible. It can’t really tell the difference. Since these groups mingle, arming the “moderates” also provides weapons for Jihadists. But this is even more egregious. The Saudi Kingdom is not going to be even trying to arm moderates. It will be using the weapons to arm Sunni extremists—the same ones who massacre Christians and other religious minorities.

The fact that the White House and the Pentagon are going along with this, makes the pretense that they are supporting “reform” in Syria even less credible, if that is possible.