Millions of dollars worth of CIA- and Saudi Arabian-supplied weapons destined for Syrian rebels, including “Kalashnikov assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades,” have been stolen by Jordanian intelligence officials and sold on the black market, found a joint investigation by the New York Times (NYT) and Al Jazeera, citing unnamed U.S. and Jordanian officials.
The weapons had been shipped into Jordan by the CIA and Saudi Arabia as part of an effort that started in 2013 to train and directly arm U.S.-backed opposition forces fighting troops loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Some of the stolen arms ended up in the hands of criminals.
NYT and Al Jazeera point out that theft and resale of the weapons have resulted in a plethora of new weapons being available on the black arms market, adding that the theft “ended only months ago after complaints by the American and Saudi governments.”
“Investigators do not know what became of most of them, but a disparate collection of groups, including criminal networks and rural Jordanian tribes, use the arms bazaars to build their arsenals,” note the news outlets. “Weapons smugglers also buy weapons in the arms bazaars to ship outside the country.”
The Times and Al Jazeera learned that the theft operation was run by logistics officers from Jordan’s intelligence service who had “direct access to the weapons once they reached Jordan.”
Officers from the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) “regularly siphoned truckloads of the weapons from the stocks, before delivering the rest of the weapons to designated drop-off points,” notes the report.
The news agencies also learned that the FBI believes that some of the stolen arms were used in the November 2015 attack that killed two Americans, two Jordanians, and one South African at a police training facility in the Jordanian capital of Amman.
NYT and Al Jazeera report that the corrupt Jordanian officers generated healthy profits from the weapons sales, which they used to buy expensive SUVs and iPhones, among other luxury items.
Mohammad H. al-Momani, Jordan’s minister of state for media affairs, has vehemently denied the allegations that Jordanian intelligence officers were implicated in a scheme to steal the weapons.
“Weapons of our security institutions are concretely tracked, with the highest discipline,” he told the Times and Al Jazeera, adding that the GID is “a world-class, reputable institution known for its professional conduct and high degree of cooperation among security agencies.”
CIA and FBI official have reportedly refused to comment on the stolen weapons.
Although the State Department declined to address the allegations directly, a spokesman noted that the U.S. relationship with Jordan remains strong.
“The United States deeply values the long history of cooperation and friendship with Jordan,” John Kirby, a State Department spokesman, told the news outlets. “We are committed to the security of Jordan and to partnering closely with Jordan to meet common security challenges.”
The existence of the CIA program to train and directly arm rebels to to fight Assad troops is supposed to be classified. It began in 2013 and it is run by the CIA and several Arab intelligence services, including Saudi Arabia’s.
Thousands of fighters have reportedly been trained under the program, which is separate from the failed one that the Pentagon established to fight Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) jihadists.