Saturday, March 17, 2012

Is Saudi Arabia arming the Syrian rebels?

The Jerusalem Post, borrowing from the Agence France-Presse, is reporting that Saudi Arabia has shipped weapons to Jordan which are destined for the Free Syrian Army, the group trying to overthrow the Ba'athist regime in Damascus.

Saudi Arabia is arming Syrian rebels locked in a year-long rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad, a senior Arab diplomat told AFP Saturday.

Calling the shipments an effort to stop the bloodshed in Syria, the diplomat clarified that "Saudi military equipment is on its way to Jordan to arm the the Free Syrian Army," according to the report.

I speculated in my column last month that this could happen and it could be a game-changer in Syria:

A wildcard in this might be Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Neither will use violence to overthrow the Ba’athist regime. But those regional powers could start arming and training the rebel forces, if we don’t stop them.

Another development reported in the Jersusalem Post story is that the Iraqi government has promised to no longer permit Iranian planes to fly over Iraq en route to Syria, where they are delivering weapons to Mr. al-Assad. I would guess that it's hard to deny all airspace or other routes for Iran to unload its weaponry, but it sounds like this could make it a little tougher for the Iranians:

Also Saturday, an Iraqi government spokesman said his country would not permit Iran to ferry arms to Syria through or over its territory, AFP reported. Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the Iranian ambassador was told "Iraq will not permit the use of its air space or its territory for the transit of any arms cargo to Syria," according to the report.

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