'Saudis to boost military support for Syrian rebels, independent of US'

Washington Post reports Saudis leading push for parallel operation to aid rebels amid disillusionment with US.

November 3, 2013 04:52
1 minute read.
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah (R) and his brother Prince Salman.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and Prince Salman 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf allies are moving to independently provide military support to Syrian rebels amid what they see as a failure of US leadership in the region, The Washington Post reported on Saturday, citing senior Gulf officials.

According to the report, the officials said that they have given up on the US as coordinator of efforts to arm and train Syrian rebels after Washington decided not to launch air strikes after the use of chemical weapons by Syria, as well as the US decision to engage in diplomacy with Iran over its nuclear program.

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"The Saudis plan to expand training facilities they operate in Jordan and increase the firepower of arms sent to rebel groups that are fighting extremist elements among them even as they battle the Syrian government," the paper reported.

The Gulf officials told the Post that discussions were underway between several governments in the region about a "parallel operation" independent of US efforts to help the opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The report came as US Secretary of State John Kerry was scheduled to arrive Sunday in Saudi Arabia as part of efforts to repair frayed relations with Riyadh.

The visit to Riyadh by the top US diplomat follows a spate of unusually public complaints from leading members of the Saudi ruling family that reflect the kingdom's frustration with the United States over its perceived inaction on Syria, its diplomatic engagement with Iran and its coldness toward the military government in Egypt.

In a move interpreted as driven by frustration at the Obama administration's Middle East policy, Saudi Arabia turned down its seat on the United Nations Security Council last month.

Days later, Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief told European diplomats the kingdom would limit dealings with the United States in protest of Washington's perceived inaction over Syria and its potential thaw with Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan told the envoys Washington had failed to act effectively on the Syria crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran and had not backed Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.

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