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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    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.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora