News / Middle East

Gulf Source Says Saudi Supplying Missiles to Syria Rebels

A fighter from the Sadik unit of Free Syrian Army's Tahrir al Sham brigade reacts as a missile fired by Syrian air force jet explodes near by during heavy fighting in Mleha suburb of Damascus, Jan. 22, 2013.
A fighter from the Sadik unit of Free Syrian Army's Tahrir al Sham brigade reacts as a missile fired by Syrian air force jet explodes near by during heavy fighting in Mleha suburb of Damascus, Jan. 22, 2013.
Reuters
— Saudi Arabia, a staunch opponent of President Bashar al-Assad since early in Syria's conflict, began supplying anti-aircraft missiles to rebels “on a small scale” about two months ago, a Gulf source said on Monday.

The shoulder-fired weapons were obtained mostly from suppliers in France and Belgium, the source told Reuters. France had paid for the transport of the weapons to the region.

The supplies were intended for General Salim Idriss,  leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), who was still the kingdom's main “point man” in the opposition, the source said.

The Gulf source said without elaborating that the kingdom had begun taking a more active role in the Syrian conflict in recent weeks due to the intensification of the conflict.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

King Abdullah returned to Saudi Arabia on Friday after cutting short a holiday in Morocco to deal with what state media described as “repercussions of the events that the region is currently witnessing.”

Diplomatic sources in the kingdom say Riyadh has grown increasingly concerned after the entry of Lebanese Shi'ite militia Hezbollah into the conflict and the subsequent rebel defeat in Qusair.

Speaking to Reuters on Friday, Idriss urged Western allies to supply anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles and to create a no-fly zone, saying if properly armed he could defeat Assad's army within six months.

Idriss said his forces urgently needed heavier weapons in the northern city of Aleppo, where Assad's government has said its troops are preparing a massive assault.

Diplomatic activity

Syria's civil war grew out of protests that swept across the Arab world in 2011, becoming by far the deadliest of those uprisings and the most difficult to resolve.

Just months ago, Western countries believed Assad's days were numbered. But momentum on the battlefield has turned in his favor, making the prospect of his swift removal and an end to the bloodshed appear remote without outside intervention.

The reported Saudi supplies began shortly before its main Western ally the United States announced it would likely send arms to Syrian rebels, a development long encouraged by Riyadh.

Top Saudi princes have been shuttling from one ally to another in recent weeks for meetings about Syria.

The epicenter of this activity was Paris, visited by Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in May, intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan and Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal this month.

Saudi Arabian National Guard Minister Prince Miteb bin Abdullah is there this week after meeting Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara. Crown Prince Salman met British Defense Secretary Phillip Hammond in Jeddah in early June.

Diplomatic sources in Riyadh said Saudi Arabia, France and Britain shared common ground on pushing Washington to take more decisive action against Assad.

Saudi Arabia has led Arab opposition to Assad since early in Syria's revolution. It was the first country to cut diplomatic ties with Damascus last year and took an early lead in funding and arming the rebels and helping them logistically.

However, its support has always been tempered by concerns of blowback from the more militant Islamist groups spearheading the battle against Assad, diplomatic sources in Riyadh say.

Riyadh has spent years combating domestic militants who waged a bombing campaign against Saudi and U.S. targets last decade, after they returned from fighting under the Islamist banner in Afghanistan and Iraq.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid