Is Croatia arming the Syrian Rebels?

Sources point to the prevelance of Croatian-made weaponry in Syria as a sign that the non-EU member state may be arming non-extremist rebels

by The Commentator on 22 February 2013 16:06

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As the conflict in Syria burns on, questions are beginning to be asked over a new tranche of weaponry that appears to have found its way into the hands of the Syrian rebels. 

The heavy-duty armaments that have been used in recent weeks may go some way to explaining how and why anti-Assad elements feel more able to not simply threaten the dictator and his army, but also proxy groups like Hezbollah as has been witnessed in recent days.

Sources tell The Commentator that one theory being explored is that Croatia, which is not yet a member of the European Union, may be assisting in the supply of weapons to the Syrian rebels. The rationale, it is argued, may lie in the fact that Croatia is not yet privy to the European Union's arms embargo in Syria, and may be taking up the fight on behalf of Western powers as a result of this loophole.

While the country is due to join the EU formally later this year, there is a window of opportunity for Western actors, including those in London and Washington, to seek assistance from Zagreb on the issue of arming the non-extremist rebels. One Washington-based source close to the Syrian rebels told analyst Michael Weiss that Croatia “might be involved”.

Weiss writes in Now Lebanon:

"In one of the most strangely neglected stories in the two-year Syria conflict, beginning on January 1, four new weapon models began appearing in large quantities in Daraa province, none used at any time by the Syrian military. The M60 recoilless gun, the M79 Osa rocket launcher, the RPG-22 rocket launcher and the Milkor MGL/RBG-6 grenade launcher hadn’t been shown in any opposition videos until the new year.From Daraa, these munitions began popping up in other provinces.

That sophisticated anti-tank and anti-infantry munitions are now being funneled exclusively to non-extremist rebel units, who themselves are committed to isolating al-Qaeda, suggests either a staggering coincidence or some degree of external facilitation. Now here’s another interesting fact. The M60, the M79, the RBG-6 and the RPG-22 are all currently in use by the Croatian Army."

Croatia was quick to recognise the Syrian National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people, and it is a a member of the Friends of Syria umbrella group. Weiss argues that the move may have a 'nice geopolitical motive' behind it, helping undermine Assad's Syria, a proxy of Russia.

But another theory is that the weapons have been coming from Libya, an idea which has been called, "more persuasive",

Libya under its new government was one of the initial arms-runners to the Syrian opposition. The former Yugoslavia, which manufactured the M60 and M79, formerly enjoyed warm ties with Muammar Gaddafi, as did Croatia prior to the Libyan revolt and subsequent NATO intervention. This may go some way to explaining the prevalance of these weapons in the North African state.

It is possible that the M60s, M79s, RPG-22s and RBG-6s were sold to Libya long ago and were only just emptied from warehouses by the National Transition Council.

The Libya explanation may be more persuasive as new stockpiles of Libyan weapons have been appearing and disappearing from Mali.

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