[Marxism] Finally puts to rest all the bullshit about the West and the FSA
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Oct 6 20:23:45 MDT 2012
NY Times October 6, 2012
Citing U.S. Fears, Arab Allies Limit Syrian Rebel Aid
By ROBERT F. WORTH
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — For months, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been
funneling money and small arms to Syria’s rebels but have refused to
provide heavier weapons, like shoulder-fired missiles, that could allow
opposition fighters to bring down government aircraft, take out armored
vehicles and turn the war’s tide.
While they have publicly called for arming the rebels, they have held
back, officials in both countries said, in part because they have been
discouraged by the United States, which fears the heavier weapons could
end up in the hands of terrorists.
As a result, the rebels have just enough weapons to maintain a
stalemate, the war grinds on and more jihadist militants join the fray
“You can give the rebels AKs, but you can’t stop the Syrian regime’s
military with AKs,” said Khalid al-Attiyah, a state minister for foreign
affairs in Qatar. Providing the rebels with heavier weapons “has to
happen,” he added. “But first we need the backing of the United States,
and preferably the U.N.”
Saudi officials here said the United States was not barring them from
providing shoulder-fired missiles, but warning about the risks. The
Saudis and Qataris said they hoped to convince their allies that those
risks could be overcome. “We are looking at ways to put in place
practices to prevent this type of weapon from falling into the wrong
hands,” one Arab official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity
in line with diplomatic protocol.
American support for such weapons transfers is unlikely to materialize
any time soon. The Obama administration has made clear that it has no
desire to deepen its efforts, mostly providing logistical support for
Administration officials would not comment on what they are telling
their Persian Gulf allies about arming the rebels. “We are doing what we
feel is appropriate to help the unarmed opposition to be more effective
and working closely with the opposition to prepare for a transition,”
the State Department said in response to a question on the subject.
Backing from the United Nations Security Council, where any intervention
is blocked by the firm vetoes of Russia and China, seems even less
likely. Nor is the call for an Arab-led military action in Syria, voiced
two weeks ago by the emir of Qatar at the United Nations General
Assembly, expected to bear fruit.
Many Saudi and Qatari officials now fear that the fighting in Syria is
awakening deep sectarian animosities and, barring such intervention,
could turn into an uncontrollable popular jihad with consequences far
more threatening to Arab governments than the Afghan war of the 1980s.
“If the killing continues, the youth will not listen to wise voices,”
said Salman al-Awda, one of this country’s most prominent clerics, in an
interview at his office here. “They will find someone who will encourage
them, and they will go.”
Already, there are signs of an uptick in the number of young men
crossing illegally into Syria from Saudi Arabia and other Muslim
countries, and of private fund-raising efforts across the gulf to help
the rebels acquire heavier weapons. The fighting has also spilled into
Turkey, which shelled Syria for four days last week after a Syrian shell
killed five Turkish civilians.
Saudi Arabia has long had an antagonistic relationship with the
government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and sees itself as the
protector of Syria’s Sunni majority in a country governed by Mr. Assad’s
Alawite minority. But the prospect of an increasingly sectarian civil
war in Syria is deeply troubling to many here, where the Afghan jihad
spawned a generation of battle-tested zealots who returned home and
waged a bloody insurgency that was brought under control only recently.
“The government really doesn’t want to repeat the experience we had with
the guys who went to Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Mshari al-Zaydi, a
Saudi columnist and an expert on jihadi movements. “The damage from Al
Qaeda was worse in Saudi Arabia than it was in the U.S.A.”
In May, a group of conservative Saudi clerics, including some who had
called for volunteers to fight in Iraq, announced a fund-raising drive
on Facebook to support the Syrian rebels. Days later, they posted
messages saying the government had barred them from sending donations.
Some clerics criticized the government’s restriction, including Mr.
Awda, who sent an apparent warning on Twitter: “The donations to Syria
cannot be limited to this route or that route, and those who want to
provide support will find a way.”
The Saudi government must also manage the rising popular demand for
greater action to defend the rebels against the Syrian government,
widely seen here as a proxy for Saudi Arabia’s arch-nemesis, Iran.
Behind these political fault lines lies a deep sectarian hostility:
Saudis are increasingly angry about the mistreatment of their fellow
Sunni Muslims in Syria by an Alawite regime they see as heretical.
“There is deep anger,” said Abdelaziz al-Gasim, a prominent lawyer in
Riyadh with a reformist reputation. “People want the government to do
more.” The calls for greater involvement are a rare point of accord
between Saudi liberals and conservatives, he added, though they are more
visible on the free zone of Twitter than in traditional media.
Already, regional Islamist funding networks are being built up, Mr.
Gasim said. “These are private channels with people in Kuwait and Qatar,
and you cannot control them — there are deep business relationships in
the gulf,” he said. “And the majority of them are within the Islamic
movement, because the more nationalist or secular movements in Syria
have no relationship with Saudi society.”
To some extent, the Saudi and Qatari governments have themselves to
blame, because the major pan-Arab satellite TV stations they control —
Al Arabia and Al Jazeera, respectively — have done more than any other
outlets to stoke anger against Syria’s government and urge sympathy with
the rebels. Both stations have been accused of being little more than
rebel mouthpieces, and they have played on sectarian fears and hatreds.
In one recent and much-repeated teaser on Al Arabia for a news segment
about Syria, a man with an anguished face clutches a wounded child and
shouts into the camera: “Our children are dying because of Iranian fatwas!”
The Saudi government has not officially acknowledged providing arms to
the rebels, and the public face of its aid has been charitable support,
including a much publicized donation campaign for Syrian refugees during
the holy month of Ramadan in July and August. The government is also
paying the salaries of many defected Syrian officers, and financing
medical assistance to Syrian refugees.
But at the Turkish border town of Antakya late last month, Syrian rebels
spoke openly of the Saudi and Qatari intermediaries who dole out weapons
on behalf of their governments. The chief Saudi supplier is said to be a
Lebanese figure named Okab Saqr, who belongs to the political coalition
of Saudi Arabia’s chief ally in Lebanon, Saad Hariri.
“The amounts are not that much,” said Maysara, 40, a lean rebel
commander from the northern town of Saraqib, who withheld his last name
for safety reasons. “They deliver weapons once every few weeks.” In one
recent shipment, he said, a 200-man fighting brigade received six
Russian-made AS Val assault rifles, and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
Maysara added that Mr. Saqr seemed to struggle with supply issues; he
once saw Mr. Saqr asking rebels for the name and contacts of a weapons
dealer from the former Yugoslavia that he was hoping to meet. The
logistics of acquiring and distributing weapons in such a chaotic
environment are daunting, and the rebels are anxious about infiltration
by the Syrian government’s notorious intelligence agents.
The Saudi government appears to be trying to finance more secular rebel
groups, Maysara said, while the Qataris appear to be closer to the
Muslim Brotherhood. But these distinctions are slippery, in part because
rebel groups adapt their identities to gain money and weapons. One
group, in an almost comical bid for support, named itself the Rafik
Hariri brigade, after the former Lebanese prime minister and Saudi ally
who is believed to have been assassinated by the Syrians, and whose son
Saad is influential in doling out Saudi support to the rebels.
Mr. Awda, the Saudi cleric, said reports of the chaotic situation at the
Turkey-Syria border had become a staple of popular complaint in Saudi
“People are repeating rumors that people inside Syria receive almost
nothing of what is being given,” he said, “and that those who are
arranging it do not have the experience to deal with this.” Those
reports, he added, augment the desire of many Saudis to take matters
into their own hands and set up new channels to the rebels.
Michael R. Gordon contributed reporting from Washington.
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