Classified analysis of the Syrian civil war by U.S. officials found weapons caches sent by countries such as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states are going to hardline Islamic terror groups fighting alongside rebel forces in the country.
“The opposition groups that are receiving the most of the lethal aid are exactly the ones we don’t want to have it,” a U.S. official familiar with the classified findings told The New York Times on Monday.
The administration's concern is those weapons could end up being used against American targets across the globe by the radical Islamic factions fighting shoulder to shoulder with ant-Assad forces.
That said, the administration has provided intelligence support to anti-government forces, including vetting which rebel factions receive weapons from Mideast states.
But GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney has criticized the Obama White House for shying away from arming Syria's rebels, ramping up those attacks in the run-up to the November election.
Dov Zakheim, foreign policy adviser to the Romney camp, told reporters last Thursday that if the White House "seems to know the good guys" when filtering intelligence to rebel forces, it should be able to safely move U.S. arms to those forces under the same criteria.
Further, Zakheim claimed hat U.S.-supplied intelligence falling into al Qaeda hands could be just as dangerous as the terror group getting ahold of American weapons.
If compromised by al Qaeda cells, that information would give the terror group critical insight into U.S. intelligence operations in the region, he said.
While the U.S. analysis of weapons supplies to Syria did not touch on the risks of intelligence sharing, it did note the arms shipments could embolden al Qaeda-affiliated terror cells looking to gain a foothold in the country.
Disparate groups of al Qaeda militants operating in Syria are now coordinating themselves into functional terror cells, using the current unrest in the country to establish a new faction within its borders, according to recent reports.
Defense Department officials have repeatedly stated that al Qaeda operatives have not infiltrated the ranks of the Free Syria Army (FSA), the largest opposition force battling against Assad's troops.
However, those individual al Qaeda units have begun to join forces and coordinate attacks against government troops in Syria, The Associated Press reported in August.
The majority of those units are linked to al Qaeda's Iraqi faction, the Pentagon confirmed in May. Syria was a common thoroughfare for al Qaeda insurgents heading to Iraq during the bloodiest days of the war.
Despite the findings in the classified Syria review, lack of American firepower is already starting to push a number of rebel units in Syria to strike deals with al Qaeda militants in the country.
"We don't want al Qaeda here, but if nobody else helps us, we will make an alliance with them," Abu Ammar, a rebel commander stationed in Aleppo, told Reuters in August.
"And you can bet if al Qaeda comes here ... the city will become their base within three months," Ammar said at the time.