Gulf Arabs 'stepping up' arms supplies to Syrian rebels
By Frank Gardner BBC security correspondent
8 October 2015 From the section Middle East
Saudi Arabia is responding to the recent Russian air strikes on Syrian rebels by stepping up its supplies of lethal weaponry to three different rebel groups, a Saudi government official has told the BBC.
The well-placed official, who asked not to be named, said supplies of modern, high-powered weaponry including guided anti-tank weapons would be increased to the Arab- and western-backed rebel groups fighting the forces of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian, Iranian and Lebanese allies.
He said those groups being supplied did not include either Islamic State (IS) or al-Nusra Front, both of which are proscribed terrorist organisations. Instead, he said the weapons would go to three rebel alliances - Jaish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest), the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Southern Front.
The official added that Qatar and Turkey have been instrumental in maintaining Saudi support for Sunni rebels fighting both Assad's forces and, at times, the extremists of IS. Russia brands as terrorists all rebels opposing its ally, President Assad, including those trained by the US.
The Saudi official did not rule out supplying surface-to-air missiles to the rebels, a move resisted by many in the West for fear that they would fall into the hands of IS and end up being used to shoot down warplanes of the US-led Coalition or even civilian airliners.
'A new jihad'
Separately, a senior Gulf Arab official has voiced his fears that Russia's military intervention in Syria will trigger a new jihad, or 'holy war' and a repeat of Russia's disastrous experience in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
The Sunni Arabs of the region, he said, will not accept this, nor any arrangement that 'allowed Iran to dominate Syria', adding that IS and other extremist groups were the symptoms, not the cause, of Syria's misfortunes, which he blamed squarely on President Assad.
'Grozny-style' approachSource : http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-34479929
Most of the Gulf Arab states and Turkey have been saying for some time that Syria's conflict can only end when President Assad is driven from power. They now realise that Russia has no intention of letting that happen and is prepared to commit blood and treasure to defend him and his family stronghold along Syria's Mediterranean coast.
The senior Gulf official said he now feared what he called a "Grozny-style" scorched-earth approach by Russia towards Syria, laying waste to whole areas that opposed the government.
Coupled with the prospect of new and more powerful weapons flowing to the rebels, the indications are that Syria's war is about to get a whole lot worse.
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