News / Middle East

    Saudis Shun Diplomacy in Syria Crisis

    Saudis Shun Diplomacy in Syria Crisisi
    X
    September 13, 2013 5:14 PM
    Saudi Arabia has backed Syria's rebels in a civil war that has dragged in much of the region, but with little transparency in the kingdom, its precise role remains unclear. The Saudi kingdom is backing the mainly Sunni rebels fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. VOA's Elizabeth Arrott has more from our Middle East bureau in Cairo.
    Saudis Shun Diplomacy in Syria Crisis
    Elizabeth Arrott
    Saudi Arabia has backed Syria's rebels in a civil war that has directly affected much of the region, but with little transparency in the kingdom, its precise role remains unclear.
     
    While many across the Middle East welcome the diplomatic push for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons, Riyadh, one of the strongest supporters of U.S. military intervention against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is not happy about the switch from strikes to talks.
     
    "[The Saudis] estimate that the deal over chemical weapons is, one, not feasible, but, two, makes it even harder to intervene and brings Bashar al-Assad back into the bargaining game, which is their biggest problem," says Emile Hokayem, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. "They've spent the past two and half years trying to delegitimize Assad, and that deal turns Assad into a partner."
     
    According to Hokayem, Saudi leaders had wanted an even bigger military campaign against Assad than the limited strikes outlined by the U.S.
     
    It's a dynamic that has played out throughout the conflict: Saudis giving money and weapons to the full spectrum of Syria's rebels, with the U.S. apparently taking a more cautious approach.
     
    Riyadh's logic is partially sectarian, with the kingdom's Sunni leaders arming the mainly Sunni rebels: An offensive against Assad, of the Shi'ite-offshoot Alawite sect, could tip the balance of power in a stalemate that has neighboring countries lined up largely along religious lines.
     
    But political scientist Christian Donath, of the American University in Cairo, thinks current U.S. plans would fail to do that.
     
    "I don't know whether the U.S. strikes are going to have any kind of effect, specifically on the sectarian tension, or whether it essentially will just serve to weaken to some extent the Assad regime's military capacity," he says.
     
    Saudi animosity is not aimed exclusively at Syria's government, but also at Assad's biggest regional backer, Iran, a Shi'ite-led Saudi rival. Syria also receives additional help from Shi'ite Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon.
     
    But political analyst Hokayem says it's not all about religion.
     
    "The regime of Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah have allowed Iran to become a primary power in the Eastern Mediterranean," he says. "And there's a sense that if you win in Syria, you win the entire Levant because Syria is the big power there."
     
    But other analysts say there may be no winning a regional struggle for dominance.
     
    "Saudi Arabia is rich in oil, but their military capability, their soft power and their model is weak," says Mustafa Labbad, director of the Al Sharq Center for Regional and Strategic Studies. "So everyone is ambitious but no single country can play a regional role as it is described in international relations and strategy."
     
    But that hasn't kept Saudi Arabia, or its rivals, from trying.

    You May Like

    Video Russia's Expat Community Shrinking

    Russia's troubled economy, tensions with West have led hundreds of thousands of foreigners to leave for better opportunities

    Accelerating the Push Against Islamic State: What Will Work?

    Experts stress need to step up military action, address root causes of Muslims' disaffection, counter IS social media messages in a massive way

    Experts: N. Korean Abductions Sought to Halt Brain Drain

    Pyongyang abducted about 3,800 South Koreans and more than a dozen Japanese nationals in late 1970s

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: shankhan from: Milwaukee
    September 23, 2013 12:26 PM
    Yes we should build bridge with Iran and end years of dispute
    May God Bless Obama May God Bless America

    War is not good for nobody let the Entire World live in peace

    by: Anonymous
    September 15, 2013 10:30 PM
    Saudi Arabia also is hoping for a military attack on Iran. They also support the Salafis and those similar to Taliban. Is it to hard to understand what the Saudis are really after and you wonder why US has such a close ties with them

    by: Ramnarayan from: Florida, USA
    September 14, 2013 5:18 AM
    So Saudis dont like diplomacy and peace. Who cares? The world should tell them to go take a hike. It is time they learn that oil and money does not make them a big power. We, the Americans, at least many average Joes still remember Sep 11. If only tne world powers have the guts to tell the Saudi King that to be recognized as a member of international community, they MUST start acting like one. Look at the freedom ( non existent) the average Saudis have. The kings and sheiks are still living in the middle ages.
    In Response

    by: Ramnarayan from: Florida, USA
    September 14, 2013 6:31 PM
    As a matter of fact, I AM an American. Don't be so hasty in drawing conclusions!
    In Response

    by: Sam It from: Earth
    September 14, 2013 2:26 PM
    ooops, Ramanarayan started thinking that he is american, he said "WE Americans".

    by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
    September 13, 2013 11:22 PM
    All parties intervening in the Syrian civil war has their vested interests. Russia want to make money by selling arms to Assad and retain their naval base in Syria. China wants oil and other contracts from Assad and wag its tail for all dictators. US want to be the policeman in the Middle East with democratic ideals. Saudi Arabia and Qatar want to suppress the Alawite regime of Assad. Turkey want to remove Assad who sent millions of refugees into Turkey. Iran want to support Assad for Shite and Alawite domination in Syria. Israel want Assad be removed before he strike against Israel with chemical weapons. The Hezbollah of Lebanon want to support their master Assad. Al Qaida and other Sunni terrorists want the removal of Alawite Assad. The Free Syrian Army want to remove the dictator Assad. Christians in Syria supports Assad who was tolerant of Christians. The Al Qaida and other Sunni terrorists want to exterminate the Christians in Syria. Iraqi Shite government want to help Alawaite Assad and forms a transit country for the supply of weapons from Iran to Assad and the Iranian soldiers in Syria. Removing Assad will not solve all the problems in Syria, similar to what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq. But removal of the dictatorship of Assad is the first step to try democracy in Syria.

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    September 13, 2013 2:30 PM
    Times there are when half truths, otherwise called diplomacy, can be thrown to the wind. Saudi Arabia recognizes this as an opportunity to break the Iranian stranglehold on the region, especially holding on an Arab soil, even if its target is the Resistance. But who cares?, Saudi seems to wonder. Over time the Saudis have put their trust in the US to come to their aid at a time like this. So the diplomatic failure may likely have more than just the Saudi undiplomatic sarcasm to a larger dissatisfaction, disaffection and distrust in its alliance with the US.

    At the moment it seems very unlikely, but If and when it happens, the pressure will be multiplied for other US allies in the region, particularly Israel. However that may be, the very fact that the US is playing down Syria's counter red-line in demanding that USA first drop its threat of a strike before it will go forward with the chemical weapons disarmament is worrisome. It is a sign that the US is prepared to abandon the whole region to the joint Russia-Iran-Hezbollah-and-Syria power bloc. With the abundance of oil discoveries in the US soil, does this seem the US is about to downgrade its relations with the Arabian kingdom?

    by: tajman from: west
    September 13, 2013 1:55 PM
    I dont like saudis or their government. they are living in middle ages and are fanatics
    In Response

    by: Ramnarayan from: Florida, USA
    September 14, 2013 11:11 AM
    It ks about time the west and the US make the Saudi realize that they must join the rest of the civilized world. If thant means, US comes out of the oil relience on Saudi Arabia, we the Americans would be better off. If and when the oil is out of the equation ( assuming it will ever happen), perhaps the entire middle east would begin to look like most of the rest of the world.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.