Syrian rebels claim new weapons may see them topple regime in six months

Free Syrian Army would be used for one objective only: ‘to fight the regime of Bashar al-Assad’

Syrian insurgents have received fresh supplies of weapons that could halt recent advances made by government forces, according to Selim Idriss, head of the Free Syrian Army's military command.

He said if his army received “enough training and arms and [is] well organised, I think we need about six months to topple the regime”.

"We've received quantities of new types of weapons, including some that we asked for and that we believe will change the course of the battle on the ground," said Free Syrian Army spokesman Louay Muqdad.

Among the arms requested are shoulder-fired ground-to- air-missiles and anti-tank weapons which the West fears could fall into the hands of extremist fundamentalists.


Mr Muqdad tried to allay such concerns by saying they would be distributed only to Free Syrian Army personnel and only “used for one objective, which is to fight the regime of Bashar al-Assad”.

Saudi weapons
Saudi Arabia has, reportedly, transferred to Gen Idriss limited numbers of these weapons, said to have been bought from France and Belgium. However, he has little control over the hundreds of units, many of them fundamentalist, loosely affiliated with the Free Syrian Army.

Russian president Vladimir Putin criticised the arming of the rebels and warned that if Mr Assad suddenly fell, a political vacuum could emerge that could be filled by “terrorist organisations”.

Eleven foreign ministers from the Friends of Syria group are to meet in Qatar today to address how to co-ordinate military and other assistance to the rebels.

On the ground around Damascus, troops reportedly bombarded the suburb of Quabun with the aim of driving rebels from the strategic eastern district next to a large wooded area that has provided cover for rebels seeking to infiltrate the capital.

Aleppo offensive
The military continued its offensive in the northern city of Aleppo, targeting the northern Sheikh Maqsud and the central Suleiman al-Halabi districts.

Qatar has expelled 18 Lebanese in line with a decision by the six-member Gulf Co-operation Council, which backs the rebels, to deport Hizbullah supporters, mostly Shias. The aim is to pressure the Lebanese Hizbullah movement to pull its pro-government fighters – estimated at 2,000-5,000 – out of Syria.

Saudi Arabia is threatening to follow suit and expel Lebanese; the United Arab Emirates has already expelled a number of Lebanese workers, the majority Shias. While the council has condemned Hizbullah's involvement, member countries have supported the deployment of thousands of fundamentalists in Syria and has provided arms and funds to rebels and foreign fighters.

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times