The Anti-Assad Fighters’ Short Supply of Weapons.
Weapons prices often point to strong social indicators in regions in conflict. Naturally they can tell much of supply and demand, which in turn can tell much of the direction of a fight. And this can lead to interesting lines of questioning for researchers and interviewers in the field. This afternoon in Antakya, the Idlib Revolutionary Command Council, a supervisory assembly of fighters seeking to overthrow the Syrian government, came together for a hastily called meeting. The rebel commanders’ mood, and their discussion surrounding arms and arms distribution and availability (and thus, by extension, prices) provided a fresh view.
The meeting began after Friday Prayer in the city in Turkey’s Hatay border province that serves as a logistics and organizational center for the Free Syrian Army, as the amalgamation of fighting groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad calls itself. Dozens of commanders had left Syria briefly to gather together and complain that they were not receiving their fair share of funding from abroad for the war. Considering that a used PK-series machine gun now costs several thousand dollars here, and a new Kalashnikov can cost $2,000, arms demand is clearly soaring. People are anxious for guns. The tension in the discussions of funding reflected these facts.
A report of the meeting today is now live on the NYT, here. But there was only so much space in that article for covering the arms price details. So we plan a fuller post soon on the At War blog, providing much more.
For now, as you wonder how intensely Syria’s anti-Assad fighters want arms, consider Captain Bilal. His urge to buy more weapons was such that to satisfy it he changed the direction of one of the most fundamental relationships of his life.
One young commander, who called himself Captain Bilal and had a partly healed bullet wound to his lower right leg, said he needed weapons so badly a few months ago that he asked his fiancée to return the jewelry he had given her.
“She said ‘No,’ ” he said. “So I broke up with her and took it back and bought the weapons I needed.”
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPH
A Syrian anti-Assad fighter fires at a Syrian military helicopter, while his companion flinches at the sound of a rifle shot. I like this frame for two reasons. The first is that the type of rifle in the frame will be part of the At War post. The second is that this photograph was made by Austin Tice, formerly a U.S. Marine infantry officer. We’ll be talking more about Austin soon.
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