Reuters: Saudi Weapons Allowing Rebels to Slow Syrian Regime Offensive

Missiles supplied by Saudi Arabia are playing a key role in efforts by Syrian rebels to halt months of advances by the Bashar al-Assad regime. The West, fearing that the opposition has become increasingly controlled by Islamist elements, has been reluctant to send advanced weapons to the rebels. The Saudis have taken what Reuters repeatedly describes as a more “hands-on” approach:

Middle Eastern security, rebel and diplomatic sources cite the hands-on role of Prince Salman bin Sultan, a nephew of Saudi King Abdullah and senior security official. Salman heads an operations room in Amman with allies, regularly meeting and instructing top Syrian operatives… Even before the first shipment of Konkurs, Salman’s pressure on Amman secured the supply of rocket launchers and other lethal equipment, they said, a step up from previous supplies from Jordan which rebels complained consisted mainly of surplus ammunition and rudimentary AK-47 rifles.

A hands-on Saudi approach over the arms supplies contrasts with an ambiguous role Jordan played over the last year that lost it support among rebels who held it partly responsible for the reversal of rebel gains, several rebel sources said.

Anti-government activists also declared yesterday that rebels had downed a Syrian warplane. If the claim is substantiated – and if opposition forces can consistently repeat such attacks – it may mark a critical inflection point in the conflict. The ability to degrade the regime’s air assets has been described as a critical prerequisite to defeating Assad’s forces.

Meanwhile rebel groups described renewed fighting between anti-government forces and Hezbollah soldiers backing the Syrian regime. Opposition groups also claimed today that they captured an Iranian soldier, uploading video to YouTube as proof of the claim.

[Photo: One half 3544 / Wiki Commons]