By Joseph Klein
What happens when U.S. surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles end up in jihadist hands?
President Obama is considering ramping up military support to the Syrian rebels, who are increasingly dominated by jihadists. American anti-tank missiles have already appeared in videos in the hands of rebel forces. According to an April 21st report in Time Magazine, the White House is now considering sending the rebels shoulder-fired surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles known as manpads. In the wrong hands, such missiles could be used to take out commercial aircraft.
Senator John McCain is pushing the Obama administration to take that risk. To combat the Assad regime’s use of barrel bombs dropped on civilian populations from government helicopters, McCain said in a March interview with Time Magazine that he was “willing to take the risk of a manpad, the risk of them falling into the wrong hands.”
McCain’s willingness to take the risk of anti-aircraft missiles getting into the wrong hands is wrong-headed for several reasons. The most obvious reason is the blowback the United States and its allies will suffer when jihadists fighting in Syria take the weapons they have looted from the so-called “moderate” rebels and use them against us. Nearly half of the rebel fighters are “jihadists or hardline Islamists,” according to a summary by The Telegraph of a report the IHS Jane’s defense consultancy group issued last year. And they are the best trained and equipped forces amongst the Syrian opposition.