Is Syria Supplying Weapons to Iraqi Militias?

Dissinformation or Truth? Nizar Nayouf and Farid Ghadry claim Syria is distributing anti-aircraft missiles in Iraq and Lebanon.

Nizar Nayouf, the Syrian dissident and author of the web newsletter, "al-Haqiqa," or "The Truth," sent out a special dispatch to warn that Syria is handing over shoulder held anti-aircraft missiles, the 9K310 Egla-1 or Gimlet, to Iraqi resistance groups. The system is designed for destroying low flying aircraft and helicopters.

Nayouf insists that General Amin Sharaba has distributed the missiles. Nayouf reports that al-Haqiqa was told this by a good military source working for Air Force Intelligence in the Ghouta, in the suburbs of Damascus.

Nayouf was also the first give a detailed report on how Iraqi WMD had been hidden in three locations in Syria. Much like his present report. He gave names, dates, and places. He even included a hand written map of the hidden sites in Syria, which he insisted had been turned over to him by his deep throat in Syrian intelligence. (Nayouf has since taken down the map and reporting on this, alas.)

Farid Gadry jumped on the Gimlet bandwagon, sending out a circular in the name of the Reform Party of Syria, claiming:

Washington DC – February 8, 2007/RPS/ — The Middle East Newswire reported today, quoting from Lebanese opposition figures, that Syria has provided Hezbollah with the advanced Russian-made SA-18 missiles. It quoted the Lebanese Army as saying: "Hezbollah intends to significantly increase its anti-aircraft capabilities for any future war with Israel".

The SA-18 are sold to Syria under strict guidelines that prohibits Syria from re-deployment of the shoulder-based missile to another entity. According to the same sources quoted by MENEWS, the SA-18 anti-aircraft missiles have been concealed in the Bekaa valley across the border with Syria.

American authorities in Iraq have not blamed this on Syria yet, but this kind of reporting by the Syrian opposition is clearly intended to get infiltrated into the intelligence mix.  General Conway in Iraq denied that recently downed helicopters had been hit by sophisticated weaponry. Although, "he said the CH-46 was not believed to have been shot down, Conway said Wednesday there was a new and troubling "intensity of effort" by insurgents to attack helicopters. The Fox News story, continues:

The most commonly seen anti-aircraft missiles among insurgents is the SA-7, which Marine troop transports have equipment to avoid, Conway said.

But he said more modern, portable anti-aircraft missiles, the SA-16 and SA-18 had begun to appear. The SA-16 uses a more advanced infrared guidance system and is effective at altitudes of up to about 10,000 feet.

Is Iran supplying advanced weaponry to Iraqi militias?

The Wall Street Journal and other papers reported: Secretary of Defense Gates said serial numbers and other markings on bombs, particularly the deadly new "shaped charge" IEDs, show Iranians are supplying weapons and technology, but "he didn't draw a direct link to the Tehran government." He also didn't explain how the serial numbers show they came from Iran or from private contractors.

US Flying Fortresses used to bomb downtown Damascus

This report made me think of the 1948 War in Palestine, when the US and other major powers imposed an arms embargo on both Arab governments and Israel. Despite the embargo, US merchants and Jewish Americans supplied Israeli forces with large amounts of arms. In July of 1948, three American supplied Flying Fortresses bombed down-town Damascus for three days after a truce had been declared. Although the Syrian government complained bitterly to American officials in Damascus that the airplanes proved the U.S. was not respecting its arms embargo, U.S. officials announced that "the planes had been acquired from American civilians over whom the U.S. government had no control."

Interestingly, a Flying Fortress hit the residence of the U.S. military Attaché, badly damaging his house and wounding the Attaché. "The Syrian government censored all press reports about the provenance of the bombers in order to avoid further stirring up the passions of the local populace."

A report of this bombing can be found in the US National Archives: Robert Memminger,  charge' d'affaires (Damascus) to Secretary of State, "Syria, Monthly Political Review – July – 1948," (31 July 1948) 890D.00/7-3148.

Ironically, this is the only occasion in Syrian history that a US official has been wounded in Syria. (At least, I am not aware of any American official being hurt in Syria.)

Comments (17)

MSK said:

Dear Josh,

it’s a cute anecdote, but what’s the point? Back then the weapons and planes were transported via a number of stops ’cause the US gov’t was keen to prevent any direct supply. US arms support for Israel didn’t take off ’till the late 60s.

Most of the arms for Israel came from Czechoslovakia and assorted countries.

As for the “Syrian arms link” – what do YOU think?


February 10th, 2007, 3:20 pm


Antoun said:

I’m not so trustworthy of the source, Syria’s pro-Zionist opposition, which was virtually created by the CIA and is only existing as a result of American funds.

The RPS’ only aim is to push Washington into military confrontation with Syria. They will concoct stories of Syria supplying weapons into Iraq, hiding WMDS etc. to convince doubters in Washington to engage militarily with Syria.

And from someone in the field, citing only “a good military source” is poor journalism. Sounds like something from a gossip magazine, because that’s all it is … gossip.

February 10th, 2007, 3:33 pm


Alex said:


Today, this wonderful American administration can start a major war using a similar “cute anecdote” as an effective excuse.

Israel can too.


This statement alone “Nayouf reports that al-Haqiqa was told this by a good military source working for Air Force Intelligence in the Ghouta, in the suburbs of Damascus”

makes the whole thing not reliable. Who would endanger his sources in such a direct way?

If Mr. Nayouf was more mature and more reliable, he would not need to mention “trust me, I know some people who know everything, who told me…”

February 10th, 2007, 3:46 pm


Joshua said:

The anecdote is cute. What it means is that tracking arms to governments is very difficult when there are many private suppliers and the trade is not made illegal by supplying countries. I don’t believe it is illegal in either the US or Iran to sell weapons in Iraq, although I must add that I am not a specialist on the laws of either country. The US government did not place a ban on private American contractors providing arms to Israel in 1948, which is why the USG had to explain to Syrians that it did not have control over the vast amount of decommissioned arms and planes from WWII, which could easily be bought at auction from the military and sent to Israel.

There is no good assessment of the proportion of Israeli arms supplied by US manufacturers. Israel stressed the Czech supplies and downplayed US and Western suppliers for diplomatic reasons, much as Shukri al-Quwatli did. He didn’t want Syrians to know that Americans were supplying Israel because he believed it would demoralize Arab fighters and reflect badly on Syria, which had much less success in acquiring arms than the Zionists.

You claim that “Most of the arms for Israel came from Czechoslovakia.” Do we know that? Yes, Czechoslovakia supplied arms to Israel at a critical time during the war, but “most?” I would bet most arms came from British supplies taken by the Yishuv. The Hagana was a legal force under the Mandate and could acquire arms from Palestinian authorities and British suppliers until the embargo was imposed. I am not sure we know where most arms came from that were used during the war.

Do I think the Syrian government is supplying Iraqi militia’s with arms? I don’t know, but I doubt Syria would be interested at this time in supplying arms to Iraq. Rice has just allowed negotiations over refugees with Syria. Limited, but a toe in the door for Syria. Germany is now opening up wider to Syria with Steinmeier’s newest announcements. “‘Germany calls for conducting a dialogue with Syria and opposes any attempt to isolate her,’ Steinmeier said during the meeting.”

Syria’s charm campaign to get back into the good graces of the EU and US would be jeopardized by the sale of weapons. Moreover, Syria is trying to normalize relations with the Iraqi government, as well.

None of this adds up to weapons sales, even if many Syrians would like their government to support anti-American activities in Iraq.

With the flood of new weapons coming into the Middle East arena from all sides, it will be hard to keep track of them. New American supplies to its allies in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and the Gulf will make it enticing for its enemies to look for new supplies as well. Escalation is unfortunately the name of the game.

Everyone knows that the Russian occupation of Afghanistan was defeated largely due to the US supply of stinger anti-aircraft missiles to anti-government militias. Iraqi militias will do everything they can to emulate this lesson. They will eventually find suppliers of anti-aircraft missiles. Hizbullah too. it is only a matter of time, I suspect.

February 10th, 2007, 4:19 pm


Alex said:

سيادة الاخ الرئيس بشار الاسد
رئيس الجمهورية العربية السورية- حفظه الله

اهديكم اطيب التحيات مقرونه بالاماني بالصحة والخير والتقدم لا يخفى عليكم حجم المعاناة التي يواجهها اشقاؤكم من ابناء الشعب العراقي كنتيجة للعمليات الارهابية والخلل في العملية السياسية التي تجري في العراق والذي اصبح مسرحاً لكل من يريد تصفية حساباته على دماء واجساد العراقيين الابرياء.
انني في الوقت الذي اثمن فيه موقف سوريا الشقيقة تجاه العراقيين المتواجدين في سوريا في دعم ومساندة الشعب العراقي وقواه المعارضة الوطنية التي تصدت لنظام صدام، فأنني على يقين من انكم لن تدخروا جهداً في سبيل مساعدتهم وابداء كل سبل المعاونة لهم لتسهيل امر أااماتهم المؤقتة في بلدهم ولحين انجلاء الغمة السوداء عن العراق.
انتهز هذه الفرصة لانقل لكم تحيات وتمنيات الاخوات والاخوة اعضاء القائمة العراقية الوطنية بالتوفيق والبركة.
مع خالص اعتباري وتقديري
اياد علاوي
رئيس القائمة العراقية
10 شباط 2007

February 10th, 2007, 4:48 pm


G said:

Wow what losers.

Merkel also said this:

International pleas for ‘constructive’ Syrian policies in the Middle East had so far not been heeded by Damascus, Merkel said in a speech opening the annual Munich Security Conference.

‘Syria should have no doubt about the determination of the international community to protect Israel and support Lebanon,’ said Merkel.

Moreover, Syria is trying to normalize relations with the Iraqi government, as well.

I guess so, by hosting Dhari and refusing to hand him over to Iraq! It also showed from the Iraqis’ reactions and statements how much Syria is trying to normalize!

February 10th, 2007, 4:56 pm


Alex said:

While G and his friends “the winners” continue to wait for their papa the United States to invade their backward enemy Syria so that they can finally dance in the streets in utter joy, here is the big picture … I will link it in Bold because it is worth reading, and reading again:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has attacked the United States for what he said was its “almost uncontained” use of force around the world.

America’s “very dangerous” approach to global relations was fuelling a nuclear arms race, he told a security summit.

Mr Putin told senior security officials from around the world that nations were “witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations”.

“One state, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way,” he said, speaking through a translator.

“This is very dangerous. Nobody feels secure anymore because nobody can hide behind international law.

“This is nourishing an arms race with the desire of countries to get nuclear weapons.”

BBC defence and security correspondent Rob Watson, in Munich, said Mr Putin’s speech was a strident performance which may well be remembered as a turning point in international relations.

February 10th, 2007, 5:26 pm


G said:

In such times, the continued support of Poland and the growing readiness of the Czech Republic to defy the anger of Russian leaders in deploying U.S. GBIs so close to Russian soil despite being a former long-time Soviet satellite is particularly striking. It is a demonstration that the growing capabilities of the U.S.-built GBI system have the potential to reinvigorate the NATO alliance for another generation in Europe, just as they have dramatically strengthened U.S.-Japanese ties in Asia.

The GBI program is not designed to protect either the United States or its European allies from the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, the most destructive military force on the planet. Nor could it. The thousands of Russian nuclear warheads, many of them multiple independently targeted-reentry vehicles, or MIRVs, could easily swamp the handful of GBIs already installed at Fort Greeley, Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Even if the current U.S. deployment expansion goes ahead on schedule, no more than 18 in all are expected to be in place by the end of next year. The program is primarily intended to defend the United States — and ultimately European allies — against individual, or a few, nuclear-armed missiles that so-called “rogue states” like North Korea and Iran, not Russia, could use to threaten them.

However, Vondra’s statement showed that the growing credibility of the GBI system is already emboldening even small countries close to major powers like Russia to defy them and move more closely into the U.S. camp with long-term commitments than they were previously willing, or thought themselves able, to do. It therefore confirmed the positive strategic impact on U.S. global standing and diplomacy of successes in the BMD program. More will likely follow.

Unfortunately for Putin, Germany also supports the US missile system in Europe.

February 10th, 2007, 5:49 pm


MSK said:

Dear Josh,

of course, I agree with you that it probably will never be possible to ascertain where which weapons for the Jewish/Israeli forces came from.

My reference to the Czech arms meant “arms imported during the 48/49 War”, but even there … we’ll never know for certain.

Your point on “what exactly are the regulations for arms import to Iraq” is an excellent one, and one that I’d been thinking about as well. It is quite prescient in relation to the “Iran is supporting the bad guys” claims. Almost everyone seems to forget that the Sadr Movement (Muqtada, Mahdi Army) is part of the Iraqi government, just as much as SCIRI and Dawa Party, the Kurds, and others are.

In terms of arms imports, Iraq is under emergency law and, in any case, the state has a monopoly on arms & violence. Hence, any arms imports that do not go to government institutions are illegal.

I personally don’t think that Syria is officially supporting anyone in Iraq or even supplying weapons. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if people within the army/security apparatus do so, either without the leadership knowing anything about it or with the leadership knowing but unable to stop it.

I have serious doubts about “The Gang of Four”‘s ability to truly control the Syrian state apparatus.

But Sunni Iraqi groups don’t need any supplies from Syria – they can get them from the Iraqi security forces (just like Shi’ite groups do) and via Saudi or even Jordan.

On the other hand, the Syrian gov’t allows people like Mishan al-Jaburi to “reside” in Damascus …


February 10th, 2007, 7:05 pm


G said:

I personally don’t think that Syria is officially supporting anyone in Iraq or even supplying weapons. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if people within the army/security apparatus do so, either without the leadership knowing anything about it or with the leadership knowing but unable to stop it.

I have serious doubts about “The Gang of Four”’s ability to truly control the Syrian state apparatus.

And why is that? What is this based on? Why wouldn’t the leadership know about it and support it, like they officially knew about, supported, facilitated, and encouraged the flow of fighters into Iraq?

February 10th, 2007, 7:51 pm


Bilal Nawaf said:

Please watch the following and it will explain what is Syria doing in Iraq.

February 10th, 2007, 8:24 pm


MSK said:


Al-Zawraa was broadcast via NileSat (Egyptian TV station). The Egyptian authorities, when asked about Al-Zawraa, said that there’s nothing they can do since it doesn’t break Egyptian law. Btw, there haven’t been any new broadcasts for about a week or so.

Other than letting Al-Juburi live in Damascus (like Khaled Mashal of Hamas, etc.) Syria isn’t “doing” anything in relation to Al-Zawraa.


I had some other articles in the pipeline on Aqoul, but I guess I’ll prioritize the one on “Syria and Iraq”. So check there over the next few days.


February 10th, 2007, 8:42 pm


Bilal Nawaf said:


NO this was on CBS and do not tell me they are not reliable.
Syria openly support Mashal. Do they openly support Al Zawraa? It looks they do and that is very bad.

February 10th, 2007, 8:51 pm


MSK said:


I saw the same CBS video. And in my first comment on this thread I even mentioned the fact that the Syrian gov’t allows people like Mishan al-Jaburi to “reside” in Damascus.

NOTHING in the video says that Al-Zawraa is produced in Damascus.

So the Syrian gov’t lets all sorts of Iraqis – Shi’ites, Sunnis, Ba’thists, people like Al-Jaburi – live in Syria. That’s not new.

And Egypt let Al-Zawraa be broadcast via NileSat (at least until a few days ago).

Letting people reside in Damascus doesn’t mean that the Syrian gov’t is supplying Iraqi groups with weapons.

What’s your point?


February 10th, 2007, 9:06 pm


Bilal Nawaf said:

In the CBS it clearly says that AlZawra TV is “run from Damascus” and at the end it says that this Zawra live openly in Damascus.
My point is that if we do not support him why give him refuge. Don’t we have enough problems on our back?

February 10th, 2007, 9:16 pm


Alex said:


Again, anything the Syrians do you find it outrageous. If they reverse policy and start doing the exact opposite, again you will find it outrageous.

Syria says it is supporting all those who resist the US occupation in Iraq. For example, in that video you linked many times so far, Moqtada Elsadr who is hated by the Al-Zawraa people has himself spent two weeks in Damascus last year and he loved it.

So Syria seems to be doing what it said it wants to do … resist the US occupation of Iraq.

Besides, you have been constantly complaining about Syria because it is a weak agent for advancing the dangerous Iranian/Shiite plans for controlling teh Arab world, yet now you are complaining that Syria is supporting Iraqi Sunnis … which would be against the wishes of Syria’s Iranian masters, no?

The Zogby poll last month showed that 80% of “moderate” Arabs see the US as their number one threat. Despite the corruption and the authoritarian rule, the Syrian regime is usually the most “democratic” in its regional policies … they know what the Arab people want, and they are the only Arab regime independent enough to adopt the same positions adopted at the popular level.

And that meant “obstructing American Israeli plans for the Area” … it sounds sooo baathist, but it is often true.

February 10th, 2007, 9:36 pm


Bilal Nawaf said:


It is strange that you think that way. I told you if Bashar makes something stupid and admit it that does not mean he is excused. I also do not find anything Bashar (& not the Syrians as there is a big diference) is outrageous but most of what he does is outrageous because it is so.

February 11th, 2007, 2:52 am


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