Michael Carl is a veteran journalist with overseas military experience and experience as a political consultant. He also has two Master's Degrees, is a bi-vocational pastor and lives with his family in the Northeast United States.More ↓Less ↑
Arabic websites report that Syrian rebels have captured long-range missiles and chemical weapons, weapons that analysts say the rebels intend to turn on the Syrian people, then blame on embattled Syrian President Bashir Assad.
Middle East analyst Theodore Shoebat, son of former PLO terrorist-turned-Middle East analyst and Christian human rights activist Walid Shoebat, says light security at Syrian military installations allowed the rebels to capture a variety of weapons.
“The name of the base is called Al-Hajar al-Aswad military base which was not guarded well. Much of these installations lack security,” Shoebat said. “This shows us the kind of weapons that the rebels could get their hands on. These are not only rockets but chemical weapons and sarin gas,” Shoebat said.
Shoebat says that even though Assad may not use the weapons against Israel, there is no certainty that the rebels won’t.
“The rebels are crazy enough to attack Israel with the weapons, while Assad is not. Netanyahu stated just in July of this year that al-Assad would soon fall, but that he was more worried [about] a collapse of Syria’s current regime, which would leave its chemical weaponry open to the hands of Islamists,” Shoebat said.
Walid Shoebat writes with Theodore Shoebat that based on their analysis of the Arabic websites and other media outlets reporting on the weapons, the rebels may even use the weapons on the Syrian population.
“The rebels have seized chemical weapons, and they are willing to use them on innocent people. According to Russia Today, Syrian rebels have obtained chemical weapons from Libya and are planning on using them on civilians, and then blaming it on Assad,” the Shoebats wrote.
“This is an effort between the Syrian rebels and their allies in Turkey, alongside cooperation with Libyan rebels under Abdel Hakim bel Haj,” the Shoebats wrote.
These missiles differ from the weapons cited in an October Wall Street Journal story that reported the rebels had acquired short-range, hand-held anti-aircraft weapons.
“Video footage uploaded to the Internet earlier this week appears to show rebels in Aleppo using weapons that military experts and rebels say are heat-seeking, shoulder-fired missiles, the first documented instance in the conflict,” that report said.
“Versions of the weapons – also known as man-portable air defense systems, or Manpads – have been smuggled into the country over the past two months through Turkey and to a lesser extent Lebanon, according to Syrian rebels and those who supply them arms through an operations room coordinated by regional governments,” the report said.
A former Defense Department analyst who asks not to be named confirms the reports.
“Some of the weapons are captured from government depots overtaken by the rebels,” the Defense Department analyst said.
However, the DoD analyst says plenty of weapons are flowing from other sources, including Libya.
“Others, including RPGs, are coming in from the outside, some of which are coming from pilfered bunkers in Libya by jihadists joining the rebels,” the DoD analyst said.
American Enterprise Institute Middle East analyst Michael Rubin says it was inevitable that the rebels would eventually acquire sophisticated, high-powered weaponry.
“As to Assad’s weaponry, eventually it’s going to fall to one group or another. It’s not going to magically disappear just because Obama wishes it would,” Rubin said. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and chances are the most radical groups will have the most will.”
Military and Foreign Policy analyst Scott Stewart says the reports of the rebels seizing the weapons are true, but the rebels’ ability to use them is another question.
“It is highly likely that they have seized long range artillery rockets with the large quantities of other munitions they have seized,” Stewart said.
However, Stewart is skeptical of the rebels’ ability.
“The problem is, however, as shown by the recent events in Gaza, that such rockets are very difficult to use in a militarily effective manner without experience, training and a lot of weather radars and other equipment you used to measure the wind, etc. and correctly plot their trajectory to hit your intended target,” Stewart said.
“Artillery rockets can be devastating if they are properly employed, but it is difficult to do so in an ad hoc military structure like the Syrian rebel groups,” Stewart said.
Stewart’s concerns have likely been met because of reports that the rebels have adopted a command structure.
Stewart’s analysis suggests that the rebels’ main impediment to successful deployment and operation of the weapons is a missing command structure.
However, Reuters recently reported that the rebels have established a unified command and as a result, are hoping for more weapons.
“Syrian rebels expect greater military help from Gulf Arab states after they announced a new command structure which aims finally to unite President Bashar al-Assad’s armed opponents, rebel commanders said on Monday,” Reuters said.
“Rebel fighters have made gains across the country in the last month, seizing military bases and taking on Assad’s better-armed forces on the fringes of his powerbase in Damascus,” Reuters reported.