News / Middle East

Saudi Arabia Offers Sophisticated Weapons to Syrian Rebels

Saudi Arabia Offers Sophisticated Weapons to Syrian Rebelsi
March 01, 2014 3:13 AM
Saudi Arabia reportedly is offering to provide Syrian rebels more sophisticated weapons, including shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles that can take down fighter planes and helicopter gunships. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Saudi Arabia Offers Sophisticated Weapons to Syrian Rebels
Meredith Buel
Saudi Arabia reportedly is offering to provide Syrian rebels more sophisticated weapons, including shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles that can take down fighter planes and helicopter gunships.

They could be a game changer in the Syrian civil war.

Known as MANPADS or man-portable air defense systems, the shoulder-fired missiles are a highly-effective weapon.

Now, Saudi Arabia is offering to supply moderate rebels with these weapons. That could tip the balance on the battlefield.

Senior Middle East analyst David Weinberg said, “They [Saudis] see Sunnis, their compatriots being slaughtered by Shi’ites whom they perceive as heretics, and they see a religious obligation to rise to the side of their compatriots who have been struggling on the battlefield.”

Potent missiles

American supplied shoulder-fired Stinger missiles helped the mujahedeen drive the Soviets from Afghanistan in the 1980s. U.S. officials, however, oppose arming Syrian rebels with such weapons. They are concerned the missiles could fall into the hands of extremists who might use them to fire at commercial airliners.

Because of U.S. opposition, the Saudis have not supplied MANPADS in the past.

Middle East expert David Schenker at the Washington Institute said, “It is just too dangerous. There is too much leakage. And there is already a huge surplus from Libya that is out there in the open market that is moving around the Middle East, that poses a tremendous threat to civilian aircraft.”

The rebels cannot compete with Syria’s Russian-made helicopters that have been dropping barrel bombs on the civilian population.

Russia's role

Failed peace negotiations have disappointed the Obama administration, which no longer believes Russia will play a constructive role.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, "Russia needs to be a part of the solution and not be contributing so many more weapons and so much more aid that they are in fact enabling [Syrian President Bashar al] Assad to double down."

Wealthy Persian Gulf states also are offering to supply moderate Syrian rebels with anti-tank guided missiles.

Some analysts say it is time to strengthen them.

“We’ve wasted a lot of time. And there has been a lot of suffering because the rebels have not been as successful as they could be. I think we have got to help change the dynamic on the ground,” said Schenker.

Reaching out to Riyadh

The Syrian war and disagreements over Iran’s nuclear program have strained relations between Riyadh and Washington.

Kerry has made two recent visits to reduce tensions.

“Relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia are quite poor right now," said Weinberg. "They are going through a rough patch. They are not going through a divorce.”

President Barack Obama is said to be rethinking U.S. strategy toward Syria.

No doubt arming the Syrian rebels will be on the agenda when Obama travels to Saudi Arabia in late March.

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Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
March 02, 2014 1:18 PM
Dropping barrel bombs from helicopters on civilian populated areas, killing innocent people, and destroying personal property is absolutely a terrorist act, and absolutely must be punished. War criminal can not be any clearer.

How does the population defend themselves against such agreession? They can't...

The international community has to disable assad and arrest him. The Syrian people would love to have assad then handed over to them, so they could prosecute him by Syrian law. But the international community on the other hand would prefer him to be tried publicly in the international criminal courts.

Meenwhile the scumbag is using his funds to drop more bombs, kill more people, and do absolutely nothing for Syrians he has displaced or destroyed their homes, or killed their parents.

bashar al assad is doing NOTHING for his victims, not even a "Ooops sorry, we didnt mean to kill your family when we dropped bombs in your neighbourhood"... The true tell tale signs of a criminal at large.
In Response

by: publius2 from: California
March 04, 2014 5:08 PM
Assad would have been gone long ago if it weren't for the real problem - his allies, Iran and Russia.

by: Anonymous
March 02, 2014 12:42 PM
Seeing that Syria is in the majority sunnis, should it not have been better if Saudi Arabia tried to seek a political solution to the crisis in there that can lead to early elections? Using the same strategy of causing trouble everywhere which the US has employed in the Middle East, Asia and Africa only goes to aggravate matters. I have always wondered why so-called civilized countries in Europe and America use and encourage mob action that has devastated countries like Egypt, Libya and Syria as the only way to change governments they disagree with. It only means one thing: the failure of their once touted diplomatic manipulations. It's like when witchcraft fails, it resorts to physical abuse. The use of miscreant mercenaries is proof of change of tactics by the secret services of so-called democracies and industrialized countries of USA and Europe.

Proper diplomacy should be engaged by emerging democracies and economies like Saudi Arabia in dealing with issues relating to change of governments. Europe and USA have so much blood on their hands that will eventually spell their doom, hence they have abandoned diplomacy for indirect use of force when there is enough hooligans at their disposal to use for such things going by the name of opposition. Therefore supplying arms that will be turned round to be used against you is not the best way to grow up in the region. Look at what those guns are doing to Americans everywhere in the world where they cannot move freely like every other person, because they are haunted by their past and hunted by the same people they armed. Sophisticated weapons to terrorist opposition is an avoidable mistake. Stop it and you have contributed your quota to non-proliferation of lethal weapons that end up in the hands of terrorists
In Response

by: Anonymous
March 03, 2014 5:22 AM
You are kidding right? There is absolutely no diplomacy with bashar al assad. There might be talks but they get nowhere, he thinks he is the owner of Syria and refuses to give it up to the people of Syria. Assad is known for spinning everyones wheels, while contineuing to kill anyone who opposes him.

by: Hatemi from: Iran
March 02, 2014 8:15 AM
the world should do something about this violation of human rights. Saudi Arabia is the biggest treacherous blasphemy liars in Middle east. Hey America, do not forget 9/11 was perpetrated by Saudis.!!!
In Response

by: Drew from: USA
March 28, 2014 10:33 PM
I have recently discovered their involvement as well as the civil rights abuses against individuals. They fund and house Al-Qaeda and other extremists groups. I am surprised that we have so many dealings with them and were so eager to rush in to offer aids to the rebels without learning more about them.

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