BEIRUT — American antitank missiles supplied to Syrian rebels are playing an unexpectedly prominent role in shaping the Syrian battlefield, giving the conflict the semblance of a proxy war between the United States and Russia, despite President Obama’s express desire to avoid one.
Since Wednesday, when Syrian troops launched their first offensive backed by the might of Russia’s military, dozens of videos have been posted on YouTube showing rebels firing the U.S.-made missiles at Russian-made tanks and armored vehicles belonging to the Syrian army. Appearing as twirling balls of light, they zigzag across the Syrian countryside until they find and blast their target in a ball of flame. The rebels claim they took out 24 tanks and armored vehicles on the first day, and the toll has risen daily since then. “It was a tank massacre,” said Capt. Mustafa Moarati, whose Tajamu al-Izza group says it destroyed seven tanks and armored vehicles Wednesday.
It was no accident; say U.S. officials and military analysts, that the first targets of Russian airstrikes in Syria were the locations where the rebels armed with TOW missiles have made the most substantial gains and where they most directly threaten Assad’s hold over his family’s heartland in the coastal province of Latakia. Those areas were also where the first offensive since the Russian intervention was launched, with columns of Syrian armored vehicles and tanks setting out from government strongholds into the countryside of the provinces of Hama and Idlib. What the TOWs have done, White said, is “offset the regime’s advantage in armor. The TOWs have cut away at that edge, and that’s what we’ve seen playing out. It’s like the Stingers in Afghanistan.”
Source: The Washington Post