US fears indirect arming of Islamic State

White House expressed concern over such transfers in justifying the pace of its arming of moderate Syrian groups.

September 10, 2014 00:20
2 minute read.
Islamic State

An Islamic State terrorist holds a flag with the group's insignia.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – Islamic State fighters have captured and mastered weapons provided by Saudi Arabia and the US to moderate Syrian rebels, and are using them against Kurdish forces in Iraq, an independent study concludes in a report released this week.

Members of the Conflict Armament Research organization embedded with Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to conduct the study. Kurdish troops granted the group access to arms captured in successful battles against the Islamist group.

Both Riyadh and Washington have authorized the transfer of heavy antitank missiles, and an array of light arms, to groups seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad. Those weapons were found in Islamic State hands, the group found.

Millions of dollars in arms and ammunition provided by the US to the Iraqi armed forces have already fallen to Islamic State, after Iraqi troops fled their positions in droves during the group's initial advance on the city of Mosul. Iraq's second largest arms depot was also taken by Islamic State.

On Monday, the White House expressed concern over such transfers in justifying the pace of its arming of moderate Syrian groups.

“We didn’t want to provide assistance to every individual who said that they were fighting Bashar Assad,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. “Had we done that without thoroughly vetting them and building the kind of relationship that’s necessary to understand who we’re providing weapons to, we would have inadvertently provided weapons to the very people we’re now fighting in Iraq.”

The report was published as the parents of Steven Sotloff, an Israeli-American journalist beheaded by Islamic State, also known as ISIS, last week, claimed “so-called moderate” Syrian rebels sold their son to the terrorist group.

“We believe that these so-called moderate rebels that people want our administration to support, one of them sold him probably for something between $25,000 and $50,000 to ISIS and that was the reason he was captured,” the family’s spokesman claimed.

Sotloff was murdered in a video published on September 2 by Islamic State, which threatened to kill a British citizen next should US air strikes continue against its assets.

On NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, US President Barack Obama said that the boots on the ground fighting Islamic State in Syria would ultimately have to be Syrian troops.

On the other end of the fight, Great Britain said it would provide machine guns and ammunition to the Iraqi military and allied Kurdish forces for combat in the country’s north.

“The Kurdish forces remain significantly less well equipped than [Islamic State] and we are responding to help them defend themselves, protect citizens and push back [Islamic State] advances,” Britain’s Defense Ministry said.

At the White House, Obama prepared an address to the American people scheduled for Wednesday night, the eve of the September 11 attacks, that outlines his political and military strategy to combat the group.

US officials say they have no indications that terrorist groups seek to target American assets around the world to mark the anniversary.

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