Saudi Arabia to Supply Syrian Rebels with Anti-Aircraft Missiles
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Frustrated by the deadlock of the second round of Geneva 2 talks, Saudi Arabia has reportedly offered to supply the rebels with anti-aircraft missiles.
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Russian-made antitank guided missiles and Chinese man-portable air-defense systems are up for grabs, already waiting in warehouses in Jordan and Turkey.
An Arab diplomat and several opposition figures with knowledge of the Saudi efforts have told WSJ that these supplies are likely to tip the battlefield scales, as the rebels will become capable of taking on the government’s air power and destroying heavy armored vehicles.
“New stuff is arriving imminently,” a Western diplomat with knowledge of the planned weapons deliveries told the American publication.
Leaders of the Syrian opposition said they don't yet know the total amount of military aid that will be shipped. The new weapons are expected to reach southern Syria from Jordan while the opposition in the north will get arms from Turkey, the Western diplomat said.
Raising fears that civilian aircraft may eventually become targets, last June several media outlets suggested that Saudi Arabia had already begun supplying anti-aircraft launchers and missiles to militants in Syria. But so far Saudi Arabia, as well as the US, has been officially opposed to arming the rebels with big guns and antiaircraft missiles as they could fall into extremist hands.
According to the WSJ report, rebel commanders struck a deal on the new armaments shipment during a meeting with US and Saudi intelligence agents in Jordan on January 30. During that meeting, rebels allegedly claimed that their new military gains would help force official Damascus consider President Assad’s ouster and bring forward a political solution to the conflict.
The Wall Street Journal also reports that their rebel sources claimed the US government is paying their salaries to fight the Assad forces. The Southern Front brigades allegedly received $3 million in cash in salaries during the two meetings in Jordan, one held on January 30 and the other late last year.
Meanwhile, congressional aides told the WSJ about scheduled meetings with Syrian opposition leaders next week. The Syrian delegation will allegedly seek extra armaments in order to battle al-Qaeda and al-Nusra elements.