“Syrian rebels, frustrated by the West’s reluctance to provide arms, have found a supplier in an unlikely source: Sudan, a country that has been under international arms embargoes and maintains close ties with a stalwart backer of the Syrian government, Iran,” nytimes.com reports. “In deals that have not been publicly acknowledged, Western officials and Syrian rebels say, Sudan’s government sold Sudanese- and Chinese-made arms to Qatar, which arranged delivery through Turkey to the rebels. The shipments included antiaircraft missiles and newly manufactured small-arms cartridges, which were seen on the battlefield in Syria — all of which have helped the rebels combat the Syrian government’s better-armed forces and loyalist militias.” Quite how all these machine gun machinations—not to mention Operation Fast and Furious—square with the accountability and transparency goals of the United Nations Small Arms Trade Treaty is anyone’s guess. My guess? They don’t. And if you don’t think the Middle East is a Gordian knot of armed antagonists, make the jump for a slice of STRATFOR’s analysis . . .
Both Iran and Syria would like to build up an additional source of militant leverage against Israel. The Iranian regime grew concerned with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region that led Hamas to distance itself from the Iran-Syria axis. When the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Egypt, and when Syrian Islamists were making gains in their rebellion against the al Assad regime, Hamas calculated that in this sectarian environment it was better to align with its ideological allies than to risk alienating itself by maintaining a close relationship with the Syrian and Iranian regimes. As sectarian tensions grew over the Syrian battle of Qusair in the spring, reports began emerging that some Hamas fighters had joined Sunni rebels in Syria against the regime. At that point, Iran had to worry about its leverage weakening among Palestinian proxies in Gaza, Syria and Lebanon, all while Iran’s main ally Hezbollah was heavily preoccupied with trying to hold its ground in Lebanon while fighting Sunni rebels in Syria.
But Iran also sought ways to maintain its leverage among the Palestinians. Even as Hamas tried to publicly distance itself from Tehran, it was Iran’s supply of long-range Fajr-5 rockets to Hamas that nearly led to an Israeli invasion of Gaza at the end of 2012 and exposed a still robust relationship between the ideologically opposed allies. With Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood politically sidelined, the Egyptian military bearing down on Hamas in the Sinai Peninsula and cutting off the group’s supply lines and Syria’s Sunni rebels in a stalemate with the regime, Hamas is likely to find even more reason to remain close to Tehran. Iran, meanwhile, is trying to compensate for the sectarian challenges confronting its allies in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq by widening its militant proxy network wherever it can. Part of this strategy involves building up a presence in the West Bank to threaten Israel. This strategy also falls in line with Hamas’ interest in undermining Fatah, especially as the Fatah-led Palestinian National Authority engages in more peace negotiations with Israel that fail to acknowledge Hamas’ authority in the Gaza Strip.
Good luck Mr. John “Peace is not made by pantomime” Kerry. And thank for giving extremists full-auto firearms and God knows what else while seeking to deny “assault weapons” to law-abiding Americans. [h/t CJ Chivers]