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

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora