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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs