12 December 2013
UK and US: non-lethal aid into northern Syria suspended
A United States embassy spokesman in Turkey announced that the US has suspended all non-lethal aid to the opposition in northern Syria, after forces from the Islamic Front (a new coalition of six major Islamist rebel groups) seized bases and warehouses belonging to the Western-backed Supreme Military Council (SMC). Likewise, a spokesman from the British embassy in Turkey stated that ‘We have no plans to deliver any equipment while the situation remains so unclear. We will keep this under close review.’
The Islamic Front disconnected last week from the SMC and Free Syrian Army (FSA), and took over the headquarters and weapons warehouses at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey. According to the US spokesman, the situation is being investigated to ‘inventory the status of U.S. equipment and supplies provided to the SMC.’ The US alone has committed 250 million dollar worth non-lethal assistance (food rations, medical supplies, but possibly also communications equipment, intelligence assistance and body armour) to be delivered to the Syrian National Coalition, local opposition councils, and the SMC.
The Islamic Front’s success in capturing the weapons stores could undermine SMC assurances to the US that no supplies sent to their fighters would fall into the hands of Islamist brigades.