The U.S. has signed the Arms Trade Tray, but has not ratified it and continues to send arms into war torn countries, including Syria. Light weapons, machine guns and munitions continue to be sent to the Syrian opposition. Vehicles and other equipment have also been sent. As of May 2014 the US has allotted over $287 million to support the unarmed opposition. Over half has been delivered as of March 2014. The continuation of sending arms to Syria is part of the problem and not the solution to resolving age-old disputes.
With over 160,000 deaths and six million people displaced, the Syrian conflict continues to destroy the population, the land and its rich culture by inflicting tremendous suffering on all Syrians.
Pax Christi USA members can make a difference by being in touch with our elected officials; all of whom are in their home states for the month of August asking that the U.S. government stop the flow of arms into Syria.
From the Pax Christi International document on the ATT and where each country stands:
The USA has signed the ATT but has not ratified the treaty.
In fall 2012, United States of America put pressure on Iraq to prevent Iranian transport of weapons to Syria through Iraqi airspace, voicing the formal concern that the UN embargo on Iranian arms exports was violated.
Barack Obama was initially opposed to arms transfer to opposition groups, fearing that the USA may be pulled in to a proxy war and that US-supplied weapons may proliferate within and beyond Syrian borders to unintended parties. The USA sent non-lethal military aid, including communications equipment and night-vision goggles, to Syrian rebels. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton claimed that this equipment would “help activists organize, evade attacks by the regime, and connect to the outside world.”
In July 2013, the House and Senate intelligence committees voiced their support for CIA shipment of weapons to opposition forces. From mid-2013, the CIA delivered light machine guns, as well as other small arms, light weapons, and munitions, to the Syrian opposition. Beyond this, there is little specific information available in the public domain about covert American support for the Syrian opposition, although the political debate about this support in general is open.
Reportedly, the USA has arranged for anti-tank weaponry, such as rocket-propelled grenades, to be supplied to opposition forces through a third party. In 2013, 50 Red Arrow-8 anti-tank missiles were provide to the Syrian rebels by an unknown country, according to the SIPRI Arms Transfers Database. The database contains no speculation about the country of origin.
As of November 2013, about 600 tons of weapons had been delivered to Syrian rebels since the beginning of the year by the CIA together with Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
In June 2013, The Wall Street Journal reported that the CIA had begun transferring weapons to Jordan via “a network of secret warehouses” in order to arm groups of Syrian opposition forces. The article also reports that before President Obama’s decision to arm opposition forces, the CIA had begun to stockpile “Soviet-era weapons, including ammunition for Kalashnikov rifles and armour-piercing antitank missiles.”
Information on the arms transfer to Syrian rebels is not readily available, due to the covert nature of the CIA operations. Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel, in September 2013, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that steps were being taken covertly to arm some Syrian opposition forces. In Hagel’s words, “it was June of this year that the president made the decision to support lethal assistance to the opposition. As you all know, we have been very supportive with hundreds of millions of dollars of non-lethal assistance. The vetting process that Secretary Kerry noted has been significant, but—I’ll ask General Dempsey if he wants to add anything—but we, the Department of Defence, have not been directly involved in this. This is, as you know, a covert action. And, as Secretary Kerry noted, probably to [go] into much more detail would—would require a closed or classified hearing.” That same month, The Washington Post reported on CIA delivery of light weapons and other traceable munitions. These shipments, according to the Post, “are to flow through a network of clandestine bases in Turkey and Jordan that were expanded over the past year as the agency sought to help Middle Eastern allies, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, direct weapons to moderate Syrian rebel forces.” The State Department also delivered vehicles and other equipment.
Mark S. Ward, the senior advisor on assistance to Syria in the State Department, told The Washington Post in September 2013 that “[lethal aid] doesn’t only lead to a more effective force, but it increases its ability to hold coalition groups together. They see their leadership is having some impact.” Later in the article, Ward expressed his hopes for strong US-Syrian relationships after the civil war comes to a close: “When you finally have a free Syrian government, you will know them and they will know us. We will have been working with them week after week, month after month. These won’t be strangers.”
In April 2014, Reuters reported that the US government was planning to increase training and transfer of small arms to opposition forces. The weapons would be sent to moderate rebel groups located in Jordan. The shipments will not include surface-to-air missiles. Despite pressure from rebel groups, the Obama administration has expressed concern that such advanced weapons could fall into the wrong hands.
Also in April 2014, a writer for the website War on the Rocks expresses the general uncertainty over whether the US is providing weapons or simply allowing arms transfers from other states to flow unimpeded. The author, with many others on the internet, looks through YouTube videos of the conflict in order to identify weapons’ origins. For example, Oryx Blog has pointed out a US-made BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missile.
As of May 2014, the USA has allotted over $287 million to support the unarmed opposition. Over half of this has been delivered as of March 2014.