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A major story about the escalating war in Syria was overshadowed by news of the al Qaeda attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi.  Three days after that attack, The Times (UK) carried a story that a Libyan freighter loaded with stolen SA-7 antiaircraft missiles had offloaded at a Turkish port.

That September 14 article was captioned,“Syrian rebels squabble over weapons as biggest shipload arrives from Libya.”

Meanwhile, ABC has reported that one of three Americans killed with Ambassador Stevens was part of group assigned to locate these looted Libyan MANPADS, shoulder-fired missiles that can be used to shoot down airliners.  

- MORE -  

The Times report states that a Libyan ship, 'The Intisaar', docked at the Turkish port of Iskenderun after "papers stamped by the port authority” were issued to “the ship's captain, Omar Mousaeeb." Mousaeeb is identified as "a Libyan from Benghazi and the head of an organization called the Libyan National Council for Relief and Support," reportedly delivering supplies to armed opposition groups in Syria.

If accurate, that account provides some of the most solid, detailed evidence yet of how the Eastern Libyan city of Benghazi has become the North African supply hub for weapons and foreign fighters arriving for regime change operations in Syria.  This has been happening right under the nose of U.S. diplomatic and intelligence officers posted in Benghazi.  The late Ambassador, Chris Stevens, arrived in Benghazi aboard a freighter in April 2011, and promptly set up shop coordinating Islamic militia groups in the overthrow of Muammar Gadhaffi’s regime.

According to the article, there were 400 tons of weapons, including an unspecified number of hand-held anti-aircraft missiles, aboard the ship.  This is merely the largest in a number of weapons shipments that have arrived in Turkey with the seemingly coordination and complicity by Turkish authorities.

After the overthrow of the Libyan government, huge weapons stockpiles were looted and went unaccounted for.  The Times quotes Libyan officials that "more than 5,000 of the missiles had vanished." The article references an incident earlier this year in which a Libyan ship carrying "a large consignment of Libyan weapons, including PRGs and heavy ammunition," was seized by the Lebanese authorities in Lebanon’s northern territorial waters.

U.S. officials have repeatedly stated concern that advanced weaponry from Libyan stockpiles, such as MANPADS, have not been accounted for.  It was reported that one of the reasons for the continued presence of the Ambassador and the large CIA station in Benghazi are concerns about militant groups outside of Libya obtaining these weapons.  In fact, a retired Navy Seal who died with the Ambassador stated to ABC that he was in Libya on a mission to locate these missiles.  See, ABC, The Blotter, American Killed in Libya was ON Intel Mission to Track Weapons,

One of the Americans killed alongside Ambassador Christopher Stevens in an attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya Tuesday told ABC News before his death that he was working with the State Department on an intelligence mission to round up dangerous weapons in the war-torn nation.

In an interview with ABC News last month, Glen Doherty, a 42-year-old former Navy SEAL who worked as a contractor with the State Department, said he personally went into the field to track down so-called MANPADS, shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, and destroy them.

It would seem that such efforts to prevent the export of MANPADS from Libya, if The Times and ABC are correct, has not been successful.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Hopefully the missiles were confiscated (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and won't be going to the war zone.

    You may think that. I couldn't possibly comment.-- Francis Urqhart

    by Johnny Q on Fri Sep 28, 2012 at 02:22:28 PM PDT

    •  Maybe. But, there are more out there. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KenBee, terabytes, Creosote

      Lots of them, and they have street value.  Futures values for Libyan MANPADS are traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

      •  VOA (08-16-12) 15K Libyan SAMs still missing (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        terabytes, 207wickedgood, Creosote

        It's funny, though, that VOA reports that as many as 15,000 Libyan SAMs have gone missing

           News / Middle East
            Syrian Rebels Step Up Efforts to Get Anti-Aircraft Missiles


            U.S. Army soldiers with a Stinger missile launcher.

            Related Articles

            West Still Debating Whether to Arm Syrian Rebels
            Syrian Rebels State Terms for Freeing Iranians
            Azaz Residents Pick Up After Aerial Bombings

            TEXT SIZE
            Jamie Dettmer

            August 16, 2012
            ALEPPO, Syria - Syrian rebels are redoubling their efforts to acquire portable anti-aircraft missiles following government airstrikes on cities and towns in the north of the country.

            In the latest such strike, a Syrian Air Force jet bombed the rebel-held town of Azaz near the Turkish border, killing at least 50 people and wounding more than 100.

            Rebel commanders and activists say their buyers are now scouring the arms black markets in the region to get the shoulder-fired missiles that can counter the government airstrikes.

            According to opposition activist “Tony” al-Taieb, who works with the rebel military council in Aleppo, representatives with cash from rich Syrian exiles are negotiating to buy the portable surface-to-air missiles, often called SAMS or MANPADS, for “Man-Portable-Air-Defense-System.”

            “Don’t believe everything you hear about the Qataris and Saudis supplying us with heavier weaponry,” al-Taieb says. “We are getting hardly anything from them.”

            Al-Taieb said acquiring as many MANPADS missile systems as possible was now the highest priority for the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the umbrella organization for many of the rebel brigades that have been trying to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the past 18 months.

            He said the government airstrikes on Aleppo, Azaz, Tel Rifat and villages such as Akhtarin and other settlements closer to the Turkish border were apparently designed to menace the rebel enclave in the region and disrupt rebel supply routes from Turkey.

            Military analysts say shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles can turn the tide of battle in an insurgency war like the one in Syria.

            The example most often cited is the Afghan Mujahedeen insurgency against the Soviet Army in Afghanistan 25 years ago. Many military analysts say U.S.-supplied Stinger portable missiles downed dozens of Moscow’s feared Hind attack helicopters and helped the Afghan guerrillas defeat the Soviets.

            According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, many of the casualties in the town of Azaz were women and children buried under piles of rubble. Opposition activists in Azaz said the death toll would likely rise to 25.
            Rebel commanders say portable surface-to-air missiles could help them defend towns such as Azaz and even give them the advantage in Aleppo, where forces loyal to President Assad managed to uproot rebels from parts of the city after eight days of bloody fighting.

            “We need a no-fly zone and, failing that, anti-aircraft missiles,” says Zaher Sherkat, a 32-year-old commander of the rebel Abu Bakr brigade. The unit is now down to about 120 fighters after losing 20 men in the Aleppo fighting.

            “We have had 20 ‘martyrs’ from my brigade and about 30 wounded,” he says.

            Sherkat says he established the brigade after Assad’s forces killed half a dozen children in his hometown of Al Bab.

            Despite press reports that rebels already have a small supply of MANPADS missiles, rebel commanders insist they don’t. And there have been no verified media reports of rebels firing such missiles.

            Last week, rebels in Deir el-Zour province claimed they had shot down a Syrian jet, and activists released a video they said showed the government Soviet-made MiG warplane catching fire after apparently being hit by ground fire.

            The jet exploded in flames and rebels claimed to have captured the pilot. Rebels said they shot down the plane using a captured 14.5 mm anti-aircraft gun, the largest weapon in their armory.

            “Machine guns were used to shoot at the plane,” says Aref Hammoud, an FSA spokesman in Turkey. “It was in a low range, which made it possible to hit.”

            The Syrian government conceded it had lost a warplane, but said it crashed because of “technical difficulties.”

            The U.S. and other western governments sympathetic to the anti-Assad rebellion have so far declined to supply the rebels with portable anti-aircraft missiles. One reason cited is that such missiles, capable of shooting down a commercial aircraft, could fall into the hands of terrorists or foreign Jihadists now reported infiltrating into Syria.

            At a recent meeting with reporters in Washington, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro said the U.S. government hadn’t seen any evidence of MANPADS missiles getting into Syria from Libya, but acknowledged such a possibility was an area of concern.

            U.S. officials estimate that the late Moammar Gaddafi’s Libya may have had as many as 20,000 MANPADS missile systems and that several thousand of them turned up missing during the civil war there last year.

            Al-Taieb, the Aleppo opposition activist, would not talk about the possibility that Syrian rebels were buying some of the Libyan missiles.

            “In the coming days we will have a consignment of MANPADS, Insha'Allah,” says al-Taieb. Asked whether if rebels managed to secure MANPADS, would they have trouble moving them into Turkey and then across the border, he responded:

            “The Turkish government turns a blind eye to some things but not others.”


        •  20,000 Libyan MANPADS - 5,000 secured = 15,000 (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          20,000 Libyan MANPADS - 5,000 secured = 15,000 lose and on the global market.

          The first tranche go from Benghazi to Turkey to Syria to take out the Syrian AF, then move on to Iran. But, some may end up blowing up US flag carriers.  That can be blamed on Hezbollah, providing a cassus belli for war with Iran.

          Put the above VOA story together with the below:

          5,000 Libyan MANPADS Secured
          Some May Have Been Smuggled Out
          Apr. 12, 2012 - 11:14AM |
          By ANDREW CHUTER | Comments

          A team of weapons experts has been unable to rule out the possibility that a number of man-operated portable weapons secured from Libya may have leaked out of the country or been acquired by terrorists.
          A team of weapons experts has been unable to rule out the possibility that a number of man-operated portable weapons secured from Libya may have leaked out of the country or been acquired by terrorists. (Mahmud Turkia / Agence France-Presse)

          LONDON — A multinational team of weapons experts has secured and destroyed 5,000 Libyan man-operated portable air defense systems and components left over after the fall of the Gadhafi regime, according to the British Ministry of Defence. The team has been unable to rule out the possibility that a number of the weapons may have leaked out of the country or been acquired by terrorists.

          “The team has concluded that most remaining MANPADS are likely to be under the control of regional military councils and militias,” the British said, adding that they were helping fund the Libyan authorities and the U.N. implementation of a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program to bring the remaining systems back under the control of the central government.

          A joint military-civilian team made up of U.K., French, U.S. and Libyan personnel have been in country since last August helping to track down the large numbers of weapons left by Gadhafi’s regime.

          The U.S. government estimates Gadhafi’s forces had about 20,000 MANPADS in their armory at the time of the regime’s collapse, raising fears that the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorist organizations.

          In the hands of terrorist organizations.  I didn't say it, VOA did.
  •  The Times is not what it once was (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It is owned by Murdoch, remember?

    and isn't as reliable as in the old pre-1978 days of 'The Thunderer'.  

  •  'round up' different that 'track ' (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    leveymg, Creosote

    so, were they doing both and under what authority and rounding up with what police or military?

    Tracking may have been successful if 'preventing' wasn't.

    The choice to 'track' rather than 'prevent' will come back to bite us.

    So the weapons were 'stamped' by Turkish authorities in the port, are they being confiscated or shipped and dispersed?

    Are they tracked but disabled?

    Also Times is subscription, this headline very worrisome:

    Syrian regime moves to secure its chemical weapons
    One can see as a losing strategy to allow them to be 'stolen'

    what can prevent that?

    Good to see you Mark, keep it up.

    This machine kills Fascists.

    by KenBee on Fri Sep 28, 2012 at 03:49:35 PM PDT

    •  Policy of regime change led to this proliferation (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KenBee, Creosote
      The choice to 'track' rather than 'prevent' will come back to bite us.
      The really scary thing is that those who are in charge of these things in Foggy Bottom and Langley intend to repeat the pattern in Syria.  Wash and rinse again.
      Official: State-DoD team preparing to contain shoulder-fired missiles in Syria
      By Julie Ershadi - 08/08/12 03:53 PM ET

      Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles might have caught the world's attention, but the Obama administration is also working behind the scenes to prevent more conventional shoulder-fired missiles from falling into the wrong hands, the State Department's liaison to the Pentagon said Wednesday.

      Andrew Shapiro, the assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, said the State Department-led interagency task force charged with containing man-portable air-defense systems — or MANPADS — was ready for action in Syria after learning the lessons of Libya. Thousands of heat-seeking missiles are believed to have disappeared from Libyan armories during last year's civil war, creating a potential security risk for commercial airliners for decades to come and possibly contributing to the violence in Mali.

      “As violence grows in Syria,” Shapiro said in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “the MANPADS Task Force is building off its experience in Libya to plan and prepare for possible contingencies in Syria.”


      What is it going to take to convince these people that "containment" has already failed, and that double-down in Syria is unleashing an angry dragon 10 times as big?  Are we really safer in a world with 15,000 loose MANPADS?  

      But, we seem to have created the horns of our won dilemma.  If we try to reign in this thing, what's to stop the Sunni militants from turning the missiles on us?  If we let them rip in Syria, then we risk a regional and global war of retribution with the world's Shi'ia, and will have to continue fighting AQ at the same time.

      It's not as if this wasn't foreseeable.  But, onward to Damascus and from there to Tehran.  This spiral has got to be making somebody happy, somewhere.

  •  Thanks for this sound and insightful reporting. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It would be valuable to learn what your views are on the chances of the Assad regime being ended, and some less murderous government put in place before the deaths of countless more Syrian civilians.

    •  Assad is a vestige of Arab Pan-Nationalism, a dead (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ideology, in many people's views.  The Ba'ath parties were an effort to create a secular socialistic state and what was once viewed as a modern model of development centered around centralized control of the economy.   The regime lost its Cold War patron with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and hasn't ever really recovered or successfully made the transition to the IMF neoliberal model.  

      It shares with Iraq and many countries in the region a fundamental problem that its borders were drawn in Whitehall at the end of World War One as lines on a map that intentionally divided up the major ethnic and religious groups of the region.   That weakens attempts to create popular, centralized governments.

      Most fundamentally, Syrian Ba'ath Party, never quite escaped the fact that it's core Inner party membership is, with some exceptions, clan-based and restricted to Alawite families, a tiny minority with a base of power in the western coastal area.  That makes the Assad regime prone to the weaknesses of minority rule. It contains within itself the problems of the old within a new wrapper, and is built upon a legacy of a brutal civil war -- the Long War of Terror (1976-82) -- that had put down the last uprising of the Sunni.

      That last fact, however, means that once the Alawite lose the protection of the Syrian state and Army, they are likely to meet the same fate as the Serbs in Kosovo.  The Saudi-backed Sunni militias will wipe them out or "ethnically cleanse" them, so they must continue fighting.   That process will take a long time on its own, even with foreign fighters armed with more powerful weapons, and would be an unacceptable meat-grinder.

      The only resolution I can foresee would be for the Alawite to be guaranteed security and economic viability by sharing of national revenues within urban areas they now control, while the Sunni western parts of the country is allowed a sort of semi-autonomy under self- rule.  I'm not sure that arrangement can be guaranteed or enforced, and it looks like Lebanon may be the model.  

      The other alternative is western military intervention, with a regionalization of hostilities and major blowback.   I don't think that would be a wise move for the United States, as much as it would delight some in the region.

      I am not sure what we can do about the proliferation of Libyan MANPADS.  That genie is out of the bottle, but that was quite predictable.

      The policy of regime change is not a one-size fits all solution.  Egypt was more than ripe for Mubarak's departure, and that has been urged for years.   Humanitarian intervention has failed to democratize Libya, which has instead split along tribal lines.  Covert intervention in Syria has reignited religious war that has brought chaos and weakened Syria's military, and serves to arouse, divide and alienate other Arab states in the event Israel goes to war with Iran.

      We've set off forces that have no clear peaceful resolution or point where the U.S. can safely extricate itself.  Keeping us involved seems to have been the major objective, and the policy appears to be likely to succeed if that is the goal.

      •  Beautifully seen and written. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        This struck me immediately:

        It [Syria] shares with Iraq and many countries in the region a fundamental problem that its borders were drawn in Whitehall at the end of World War One as lines on a map that intentionally divided up the major ethnic and religious groups of the region.
        A few people at a table. Countless lives then destroyed, decade after decade.

        Thank you for the acuteness of your thought.

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