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By Jeremy Bender for Business Insider, Oct 13, 2015
Since the beginning of 2013, the CIA has attempted to train and supply the moderate rebels in the fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with enough arms and ammunition to keep the rebellion alive.
And these weapons deliveries ultimately helped fuel a proxy war that now involves Russia's ongoing military interventions in Syria.
"With the enhanced insurgent firepower and with Russia steadily raising the number of airstrikes against the government’s opponents, the Syrian conflict is edging closer to an all-out proxy war between the United States and Russia," The New York Times reports.
Since the CIA began the program, it has trained and armed an estimated 10,000 fighters, according to the Associated Press.
Among the most effective weapons funneled to the rebels were TOW anti-tank missiles.
The overwhelming success of these TOW missiles have helped decimate the Syrian military's tanks and armored vehicles, negating a major advantage that Assad had so far had over the rebels. This allowed the rebels to score a large number of victories in Syria's northwest while coming close to threatening Assad's heartland in Latakia province.
A rebel invasion and victory in Latakia would do two things. First, it would almost certainly undermine the claims to governmental authority that Assad still claims. Second, it would place the rebels within striking distance of Russia's only Mediterranean port in the city of Tartous, necessitating further Russian involvement in Syria to protect their own strategic interests.
“It’s a proxy war by happenstance,” Jeffrey White, a defense fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Liz Sly of The Washington Post.
“The rebels happen to have a lot of TOWs in their inventory. The regime happened to attack them with Russian support. I don’t see it as a proxy war by decision.”
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