‘Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar Al-Assad should be given anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to ‘level the playing field’ in their war and ensure that ‘extremist’ groups do not dominate the opposition’, a senior member of the Saudi Arabian royal family has urged.
Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former chief of Saudi intelligence and the brother of the kingdom’s current foreign minister, said he was no longer in government and did not need to be diplomatic, but ‘assumed’ weapons were being sent to the rebels. He said it would be a ‘terrible mistake if they were not’.
King Abdullah of Saoudi Arabia became the first to call openly for armed support for the anti-Assad opposition after the uprising began in March 2011. Along with Qatar, Turkey and the UAE, the Saudis are believed to be the ‘rebels” principal suppliers and financiers.
In recent weeks alarm bells have been ringing about the growing presence of jihadi elements in the so called Syrian armed opposition. The US, Britain and other western governments are privately urging caution in choosing what types of armaments are delivered, and to whom.
‘What is needed are sophisticated, high-level weapons that can bring down planes, can take out tanks at a distance,’ Prince Turki al-Faisal says. ‘This is not getting through. You have to level the playing field. Most of the weapons the rebels have come from captured Syrian stocks and defectors bringing their weapons.’
The Saudi prince said foreign governments should have enough information on the rebel units to ensure that ‘weapons only reached specific groups’. ‘Levelling the plain militarily should go hand in hand with a diplomatic initiative,’ he suggested. ‘You can select the good guys and give them these means and build their credibility,’ he said. ‘Now they don’t have the means, and the extremists have the means and are getting the prestige.’
Earlier this week Turki insisted that the Arab world did not have the capability to handle the crisis alone, clearly implying that western governments should get more closely involved. ‘It doesn’t have the air force, the navy, the army, the intelligence-gathering machinery to go and surgically stop this fighting,’ he said.
Foto 1: Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia who called for Syrian ‘rebels’ to be given anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to ‘level the playing field’.
Foto 2: victims of the terror-attack in Syria on February 21th, 2013
Early 1980: Osama Bin Laden, with Saudi Backing, Supports Afghan Rebels
Osama bin Laden begins providing financial, organizational, and engineering aid for the mujaheddin in Afghanistan, with the advice and support of the Saudi royal family. [New Yorker, 11/5/2001] Some, including Richard Clarke, counterterrorism “tsar” during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, believe he was handpicked for the job by Prince Turki al-Faisal, head of Saudi Arabia’s Secret Service. [New Yorker, 11/5/2001; Sunday Times (London), 8/25/2002] The Pakistani ISI want a Saudi prince as a public demonstration of the commitment of the Saudi royal family and as a way to ensure royal funds for the anti-Soviet forces. The agency fails to get royalty, but bin Laden, with his family’s influential ties, is good enough for the ISI. [Miami Herald, 9/24/2001] (Clarke will argue later that the Saudis and other Muslim governments used the Afghan war in an attempt to get rid of their own misfits and troublemakers.) This multinational force later coalesces into al-Qaeda.