A “hostile act” is how Russia is now describing a contentious provision slipped into the 2017 NDAA allowing the arming of Syrian rebels with shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft missiles — theoretically providing the means for fighters aligned with the U.S. to shoot Russian jets out of the sky.
Russia, who has been assisting the Syrian Arab Army at the invitation of President Bashar al-Assad in fighting various terrorist groups, previously denounced stand-alone legislation designed to do the same.
This provision, now law, made its way into the massive $618.7 billion defense spending bill through rather unconventional means, as AlterNet first reported prior to Obama’s December 23rd signature,
“The new provision that permits this is buried in the conference report that accompanies the 2017 NDAA bill, which sits at a massive 3,067 pages in length. A congressional staffer who is familiar with the issue notified AlterNet of the quiet addition to the bill, which was made in a meeting of the bicameral conference committee.”
Indeed, although the U.S. prefers the term “moderate rebels” when discussing anti-Syrian government forces — ostensibly to distinguish the fighters from militants of the Islamic State — the groups literally are terrorist organizations and are accused of committing heinous and violent acts against Syrian civilians.
Russia and Syria have been bombing terrorists without regard to categorization — earning the consternation of the United States, whose goal of toppling the Assad regime relies on the anti-government terrorist fighters.
Had those so-called rebels been armed with portable anti-aircraft missile launchers — as the new defense budget bill passage allows — the liberation of Aleppo likely could not have occurred.
And, since the war in Syria rages on, Russia sees the crafty insertion of language allowing the dangerous weapons to be provided to Western-backed fighters as an inexcusably aggressive act.
“Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the policy change easing restrictions on weapons supplies had been set out in a new U.S. defense spending bill and that Moscow regarded the step as a hostile act.”
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Remarkably, State Department spokesman Mark Toner denied the startling change in policy indicated a switch in inent on the part of the United States, saying about the portable anti-aircraft missiles, known by the acronym MANPADS,
“Our position on MANPADS has not changed. We have a very deep concern about that kind of weaponry getting into Syria” to be used for shooting down civilian aircraft.
That explanation harkens back to legislation shelved by President Obama amid grave concerns from Congress arming rebels with this weaponry could escalate the situation in Syria from a proxy war into direct conflict between the U.S. and Russia — for the same reasons Moscow called the move a hostile act.
Quoted by Reuters, Zakharova said in a statement:
“Washington has placed its bets on supplying military aid to anti-government forces who don't differ than much from blood thirsty head choppers. Now, the possibility of supplying them with weapons, including mobile anti-aircraft complexes, has been written into this new bill.”
She added, “In the administration of B. Obama they must understand that any weapons handed over will quickly end up in the hands of jihadists,” noting perhaps that is the actual intent of the administration.
“We therefore view the step as a hostile act.”
Zakharova further accused the Obama administration of furthering its “anti-Russia line” by acting to “put a mine” under the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump — who has broken with the U.S. political establishment by calling allegations The Russians somehow hacked the election so much malarky.
Trump intimated throughout the presidential race his administration would seek to repair rapidly decaying diplomatic relations with Moscow — and despite a brief renewal of fears for nuclear war — the incoming president appears steadfast on that goal.
But, with the inauguration still weeks away, the possibility the current administration could discern a justifiable reason to provide Syrian rebel forces with anti-aircraft missiles — leaving Trump to deal with nasty consequences — remains distinct.
“The current occupants of the White House imagined that they could pressure Russia” over its support for Assad, Zakharova asserted. “Let's hope that those who replace them will be wiser.”