CIA helps airlift arms to Syrian rebels

A program airlifting military aid from Turkey and Arab states has sharply increased

Published March 25, 2013 2:25PM (EDT)

According to the New York Times Sunday, the CIA is increasing its aid to the airlift program supplying Syrian rebels with weapons and equipment from Turkey and a number of Arab governments.

The Times reported that the airlifts, which began in early 2012, now include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, as well as at other Jordanian and Turkish airports. An estimated 3,500 tons of equipment have been delivered through these flights. The Times noted too that U.S. intelligence officers check up on rebel groups and chiefs to determine who should receive the military aid and that Turkey oversaw much of the program.

Via the Times:

[E]ven as the Obama administration has publicly refused to give more than “nonlethal” aid to the rebels, the involvement of the C.I.A. in the arms shipments — albeit mostly in a consultative role, American officials say — has shown that the United States is more willing to help its Arab allies support the lethal side of the civil war.

The inclusion of the term "mostly" in the above paragraph is interesting and raises questions about the small role the CIA is playing outside of consultations.

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Arms Shipments Bashar Al-assad Cia Civil War Middle East Syria Syrian Rebels