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Britain's Secret Plan to Arm Syrian Rebels Revealed

The United Kingdom drew up plans to train and equip a 100,000-strong Syrian rebel army, but the initiative was ultimately deemed too risky.
By Elad Benari, Canada
First Publish: 7/4/2014, 10:06 PM

Syrian rebels in Aleppo
Syrian rebels in Aleppo
Reuters

The United Kingdom drew up plans to train and equip a 100,000-strong Syrian rebel army to defeat President Bashar Al-Assad, the BBC reported on Thursday.

The secret initiative, put forward two years ago, was the brainchild of the then most senior UK military officer, General Sir David Richards.

It was considered by Prime Minister David Cameron and the National Security Council, as well as U.S. officials, but was deemed too risky, according to the BBC.

Insiders told the BBC that Richards, then chief of the defense staff but since retired from the military, warned Downing Street there were only two ways to end the Syrian civil war quickly - to let Assad win, or to defeat him.

With ministers having pledged not to commit British "boots on the ground", his initiative proposed vetting and training a substantial army of moderate Syrian rebels at bases in Turkey and Jordan, according to the report.

Cameron was reportedly told the "extract, equip, train" plan would involve an international coalition. It would take a year, but this would buy time for an alternative Syrian government to be formed in exile.

Once the Syrian force was ready, it would march on Damascus, with the cover of fighter jets from the West and Gulf allies.

The plan envisaged a "shock and awe" campaign, similar to the one that routed Saddam's military in 2003, but spearheaded by Syrians.

Throughout the civil war in Syria, there have been calls on the West to arm the rebels in order to help them fight Assad’s forces. Small-scale weapons aid and some military training has already been supplied to select rebel groups, along with "non-lethal" aid such as medical supplies and other equipment. More extensive assistance has been ruled out, due to fear that jihadist rebel groups, such as the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, might get their hands on these weapons.

Last week, officials in Washington said that the Obama administration has proposed a $500 million program to train and equip the moderate opposition fighting in Syria, a plan which the BBC noted was similar to the British plan.

A leading Syrian opposition figure recently said that western states could send desperately-needed arms to rebel groups in Syria "within weeks" and a recent report indicated that Obama is close to authorizing a military-led mission to train moderate Syrian rebels to fight the regime and Al-Qaeda-linked groups.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)