Syria Video Special: Story Behind “Saudi Arabia’s Anti-Tank Weapons to Insurgents”

Joanna Paraszczuk
By Joanna Paraszczuk June 21, 2013 19:13 Updated

Syria Video Special: Story Behind “Saudi Arabia’s Anti-Tank Weapons to Insurgents”

Tracking foreign-supplied anti-tank weapons to insurgents since December 2012

Following an announcement by Washington this week that the US was prepared for overt provision of arms to certain groups in the Syrian insurgency, Britain’s Daily Telegraph declared Wednesday that Syrian insurgents in Aleppo have received the first significant shipment of foreign-supplied weapons.

According to the Telegraph, insurgents told them that Saudi Arabia had sent Soviet-made Konkurs anti-tank missiles, as “the White House has lifted an unofficial embargo on its Gulf allies sending heavy weapons to the rebels”.

The problem with the article? There was no evidence other than the claim of a few insurgents that (a) the Konkurs weapons reently-arrived; that (b) they have been supplied by the Saudi government and that c) they have now shown up because Washington lifted a de facto embargo.

What is the real story here?

The 9M113 Konkurs is a semi-automatic command to line of sight (SACLOS) wire-guided anti-tank missile. It was developed by the USSR and entered into service in 1974. The Syrian Army also possesses the Konkurs, supplied by Russia.

In contrast to the Daily Telegraph’s presentation of the Konkurs’ appearance as a recent development:

1. Syrian insurgents have been using Konkurs anti-tank weapons since about December 2012, the same time as Croatian weapons — likely supplied by Saudi Arabia and supported by a covert multilateral effort, including the US, Britain, and France — were first spotted in Syria.

2. Video shows the use of the Konkurs in Idlib, Hama, Aleppo and Homs Provinces.

3. Video shows that Islamist factions possess and have used the Konkurs anti-tank weapons.

DECEMBER 2012

Shows a “Captain Ammar Sa’ad Addin” using the weapon:

JANUARY 2013

— HAMA, DARAA BRIGADE AND DESCENDANTS OF THE PROPHET BRIGADE

— ALEPPO, KHAN AL-ASAL DISTRICT, POLICE SCHOOL

— HAMA PROVINCE

— HAMA PROVINCE, TEL AL SHEIKH HADID, KAFR ZITA, NORTH HAMA PLAIN

FEBRUARY 2013

— MAJLIS SHURA AL MUJIHADEEN TRAINING COURSE

Footage shows a training session in the use of the Konkurs — the flag is that of the “Islamic State of Iraq”. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen (Shura Council) are a “small group of jihadists that was led by a Syrian who had trained in Afghanistan. Group dissolved after leader was killed in September; many fighters have joined [Jabhat] al-Nusra or Ahrar [al-Sham]“. http:

APRIL 2013

— IDLIB PROVINCE, LIWA DAWOUD BRIGADE

Video branded to the Liwa Dawoud Brigade, an Islamist faction in Idlib, shows a Konkurs rocket used to destroy a Syrian Army ZSU-23-4 “Shilka”. The location of the clip is not shown:

MAY 2013

— HAMA PROVINCE, QASR AL MUKHARRAM

Konkurs used in “Battle Of One Body” to destroy a regime tank:

— HOMS CITY, BABA AMR
F
ootage shows insurgents using a Konkurs rocket to destroy a Syrian army T72

— IDLIB PROVINCE

During the “Battle Of One Body”:

Beyond the Konkurs story, footage shows insurgents using supplied rockets and a rocket launcher in the village of al-Mughayyir in the North Hama Plain, west of Kfar Zita:

JUNE 2013

— IDLIB PROVINCE

Video from 20 June:

(Thanks to blogger Brown Moses for sharing some of the videos.)

Joanna Paraszczuk
By Joanna Paraszczuk June 21, 2013 19:13 Updated
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14 Comments

  1. Overleaf June 22, 10:53

    The LA Times article says that 80 to 100 rebels are being trained per month. So by now there could be as many as 500 trained rebels in the Concourse and recoilless guns.

    So why would they be supplied with only 4 to 5 Concourse? Obviously a lot more is in the works or the CIA wouldn’t have bothered with the training.

    Reply to this comment
  2. sasss31 June 22, 09:10

    “dleclared Wednesday ”

    Spelling error.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Catmari June 22, 08:51

    Joanna,
    Not to criticise your detailed and convincing video analysis, but what I miss from the Brown Moses type of focus on what kinds of weapons are coming into Syria from where and when/how they arrive in wonky video-based weapon-identification stories, is the analysis of what these various pieces of information reveal about the larger political and strategic context of the conflict.

    Once it’s established that certain weapons are entering Syria (and the Brown Moseses of this world do a fine job of that), more importantly (enter the real journalist) – what does it mean that weapons are sent from SA as opposed to Croatia? What is the significance of a particular type of weapon? What do the dates they make it into Syria and the intervals in between say about who is pulling the strings both inside and outside Syria and what strings are being pulled? What information can we glean from these weapon shipments about the (perhaps unstated) policy, strategy and even sectarian decisions regarding Syria that are being made or discussed in or amongst the various countries involved? That’s what I want to know.

    I would add that in my opinion, whether a particular newspaper gets the story straight or not isn’t half as important as incisive and insightful analysis by a good journalist or keen observer based on verifiable evidence dug up and identified by people like Brown Moses.

    So I’m looking forward to part two: ‘The Real Significance of the Syria Video Special’. :-)

    Reply to this comment
    • Overleaf June 22, 11:06

      Weapon kinds, and shipments is a small part of the story. Obviously you need anti-tank weapons and portable canons, mortars, anti-aircraft, etc.

      But this is a tiny portal into the bigger picture. How this can lead to who is pulling the strings (if there are any to begin with – Libya shows that there are few if any strings) needs a leap of faith and imagination. Any such analysis without other types of meaningful evidence would be highly speculative.

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      • Catmari June 22, 17:29

        I agree the Libyan connection is more of a free-for-all, given there is barely a Libyan government in place to make any kind of strategic decisions about anything, but who is sending the other weapons and who is approving these shipments is obviously key to who is pulling the strings.

        I’ve been a reader here since mid-2009 and the acumen of Scott’s analyses – often based on a kaleidoscope of both facts and plausible but unverified reports – has never ceased to amaze me. I believe Joanna, an experienced journalist with first-hand knowledge of the region, also brings a lot to the table. I’m confident even just their analytic instincts are often quite close to the truth.

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        • Scott Lucas June 22, 17:56

          Catmari,

          Thank you for the kind words.

          S.

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        • Overleaf June 22, 23:12

          Ditto here on Scott and Joanna’s boundless effort to bring some sanity and analysis to this complex conflict. Thank you.

          Catmari – not sure why you insist there must be “strings attached” to any bullet supplied or any help offered. I don’t see strings in Iraq or Libya, and they were both examples of leftwing post-colonialists overthrown by the West. Your theory that the strings in Libya are not visible yet, because the government is weak and confused, is not convincing.

          The Libyan opposition and Qatar have a working relationship and both share the goals of installing an Islamic regime in Syria. Does that mean that Qatar is pulling strings, when they have common interests?

          To say that all international relationships is of a master-slave type is wrong. Even when Saddam came to power with some CIA help, he never was a puppet of the US. He was assisted in the war against Iran, but then smashed in the war against Kuwait.

          Supplying weapons may give you influence, but there is agency, and we cannot deny agency and independent action. It is the narrative of leftwing post-colonialism that all decisions are made in the Middle East with direction from the CIA.

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          • Catmari June 23, 08:18

            OK. Let me explain. Here is what I said about ‘pulling strings’: “What do the dates they [weapons] make it into Syria and the intervals in between say about who is pulling the strings both inside and outside Syria and what strings are being pulled?”

            What I mean is that I think every actor involved in arming the anti-Assad fighters**, whether by providing them funds to buy weapons, sending arms directly, facilitating arms shipments, or just purposefully not preventing others from doing any of the above, has a stake in the outcome and is trying to influence this outcome. Some of these actors are governments with long term strategic and geopolitical agendas; others – both governmental and nongovernmental – have ideological or sectarian motives. Some are big powers, some are wealthy individuals, with militant groups and charitable associations in between.

            Much attention has been paid at EA to videos from which one can extrapolate information on the types of arms getting in, from where and when. This evidence gathering is obviously essential, and for weapons enthusiasts and war watchers it’s THE story. But for me it’s only one side of the story. I’m equally, if not more interested in learning about the actors and agendas behind the weapons, why certain groups fighting Assad are getting what from whom or nothing at all, and why certain actors are leaning on others to have control over what kind of arms are sent and how fast. The “bigger picture”, en fin.

            The only reason I posted that ‘request’, if you will, is because I think the current EA staff is capable of coming up with some pretty good insights without having to indulge in pure speculation.

            **(excepting arms dealers/sellers looking purely for financial gain)

            Reply to this comment
  4. Mc June 22, 08:22

    What I’ve been reading in the Arabic language press is that 250 Konkurs just arrived following Obama’s announcement and that a total of 1000 are expected. You are right though that they’ve been making their way to the front in onesies and twosies for some time, some undoubtedly from SAA stores and others from diverse sources.

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  5. SyrianrnFufugees are Welcomed In My U.S.home. June 22, 05:29

    Long time lurker of the “old” EA. I can honestly say i learned a lot about from checking in daily. Big props to most of the commentors: Catmarie, Kevin, RT, The multiple Rezas for the laughs and although I don’t always agree with him PAK. Sry if I forget anyone.

    What I mainly came here to say is, good job on the new site.Love the new format It’s almost completely grew on me. Joanna Paraszczuk was and excellent addition to the team, Scott has a foo-man-chu and thanks for keeping up the good work.

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  6. Mc June 21, 20:58

    Yes, of course, but the claim is not that this weapon has never appeared but that it is now being supplied from outside in relative abundance.

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