Saudi Arabia is delivering military equipment to Syrian rebels in an effort to tilt the balance of the civil war in their favor, a top Arab diplomat told the Agence France-Presse agency.
“Saudi military equipment is on its way to Jordan to arm the Free Syrian Army,” the diplomat told AFP. He added, “This is a Saudi initiative to stop the massacres in Syria.”
The Saudi foreign minister last month said arming the Syrian opposition would be an “excellent idea” but Western powers hesitated.
The American military chief of staff, General Martin Dempsey, said in February that was “premature to take a decision to arm the opposition movement in Syria because,” as he put it, “I would challenge anyone to clearly identify for me the opposition movement in Syria at this point.”
The foreign minister of France agreed when he warned on Wednesday that sending weapons into Syria could lead to “a catastrophe even larger than the one that exists today.”
“The Syrian people are deeply divided and if we give arms to a certain faction of the Syrian opposition, we would make a civil war among Christians, Alawites, Sunnis and Shiites,” Alain Juppé told French radio.
Paris has for months called for international intervention in Syria to erect “humanitarian corridors” or buffer zones for aid organizations and civilians. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan embraced that proposal last week. His country has allowed Syrian opposition movements to organize on its soil while tens of thousands of refugees have poured into Turkey to escape the violence.
The uprising in Syria increasingly appears to break down along sectarian lines with the majority Sunni population, concentrated in the south and oil rich east of the country fighting to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power while religious minorities and the urban middle class in the coastal provinces are wary of regime change, fearing an Islamist takeover that would inhibit their economic and political freedoms.
However, Western allies in the region, including Saudi Arabia, would like to see a Sunni-majority government in order to weaken the Iranian axis and act as a counterweight to Nouri al-Maliki’s Iraq which is closer to Tehran than Saddam Hussein’s country was.
Jordan’s king Abdullah II met with Saudi monarch King Abdullah in Riyadh last week to discuss the crisis in Syria. However, Jordan has denied the news that its territory could be used to smuggle arms into neighboring Syria.