With an already tenuous ceasefire in Syria on the brink of collapse, U.S. officials are concerned that rebel groups could make a new push to acquire shoulder-fired missiles, which could then fall into the hands of ISIS and threaten U.S. and coalition aircraft.
The lightweight missiles, which are easy to use and transport, also could cross Syria’s borders and threaten civilian aircraft in Jordan and in Egypt, where ISIS is expanding its presence, three officials said. ISIS claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian jetliner over the Sinai last November. While U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that the group had brought down the plane with a crude bomb, the attack demonstrated ISIS interest in targeting civilian aviation.
The missiles, known as man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADs, have introduced an unpredictable and hard-to-defend element to the battlefield. U.S. officials have long resisted arming the rebels with MANPADs, fearing they’ll be obtained by Islamic militants in a country where the U.S. has little ability to control the flow of weapons.
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