A group of hard-line Islamists in Kuwait raised enough cash to arm 12,000 Syrian rebels this week, according to statements by the group’s leaders. The next step: flood the country with guided missiles, heat-seeking missiles and tandem warheads.
The United States is currently considering ways to provide small arms to moderate elements of the Syrian opposition. Washington officials swear they can keep those weapons from falling into extremists’ hands. Perhaps that’s so. But those CIA-led efforts may be eclipsed by a parallel push to give more powerful weapons — capable of taking down commercial aircraft — to the opposition. And these arms runners are far less concerned about the weapons winding up with the rebels’ al qaeda-aligned Islamist wing.
This week, the Great Kuwait Campaign, a private organization of Kuwaiti clerics and politicians, announced a new phase of its fundraising campaign after successfully raising several millions of dollars from auctioning off cars, rounding up gold jewelry and soliciting donations.
The fundraising announcement came from the campaign’s official Twitter account on Monday. The specifics about weaponry came from one of the campaign’s organizers, Dr. Shafi Al-Ajmi, a hardline Salafi cleric who said the group already purchased anti-aircraft missiles, grenades and RPGs, and was planning to acquire heat-seeking and guided missiles.
In a similar statement on Tuesday, Dr. Waleed Al-Tabtabai, a former Kuwaiti MP and campaign organizer said that rebels urgently need heat-seeking and anti-aircraft missiles as well as anti-tank and armor-piercing weapons. (The two clerics’ translated statements were flagged by the Middle East Media Research Institute, in a note to The Cable.)
Like many of the Syrian rebels, the campaign’s members are conservative Sunni Muslims who support the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad, an Alawite. In the past week, the clerics have auctioned off GMC and Mercedes sedans and characterized successes in religious and sectarian terms*.
The Kuwaiti government, which officially supports the overthrow of Assad, told Reuters on Wednesday that unofficial fundraising requires a special permit to ensure the money “is going to the right side or to the right party.” But some analysts doubt if Kuwait shares America’s concern about sophisticated weapons getting in the hands of extremists.
“Who are these weapons going to? We don’t know,” Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, tells The Cable. “Most of the heavy hitting Islamists, who are the best trained and most capable, have nothing to offer America and are intensely anti-Western.”
Falah al-Sawagh, a campaign member and former opposition member of Kuqait’s parliament, did little to allay these concerns an interview yesterday. “Our only rule is to collect money and to deliver this money to our brothers which are helping the Syrian people,” he told Reuters. “The world has abandoned the Syrian people and the Syrian revolution so it is normal that people start to give money to people who are fighting.”
*All tweets translated using Google Chrome
John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.| The Complex |
Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge.| The E-Ring |