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"We have just been given a preview of something that could happen a lot," says Cole. The "migration of US heavy weaponry and even 'moderate' fighters – to ISIL and al-Qaeda." (Screengrab)

American Weapons, Provided to Syrian rebels, Fall into Hands of al-Qaeda

Juan Cole

 by Informed Comment

The al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (the Succor Front) not only took the territory of the moderate Muslim Syria Revolutionaries Front this weekend, it also polished off the Movement of the Resolute .

The Movement of the Resolute (Harakat al-Hazm) represented itself as secular, but had its roots in a fundamentalist group backed by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, the “Time of Muhammad” Front.

Last spring the Movement of the Resolute revealed that it had American TOW anti-tank batteries and access to other weapons. The TOWs were apparently supplied to them via Qatar or Turkey with American acquiescence.

Syrian al-Qaeda has swept into rural Idlib Province, taking over the checkpoints of the Free Syrian Army miderates.

This development is so disturbing because the current Obama administration plan is to train and arm the very sorts of people who were just defeated by al-Qaeda. The introduction of American heavy weapons into the midst of a civil war is not a very healthy development, since weapons inevitably travel between groups (through graft or conquest). We have just been given a preview of something that could happen a lot– migration of US heavy weaponry and even “moderate” fighters– to ISIL and al-Qaeda.

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© 2021 Juan Cole
Juan Cole

Juan Cole

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His newest book, "Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires" was published in 2020. He is also the author of  "The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East" (2015) and "Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East" (2008).  He has appeared widely on television, radio, and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. 

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