In Sea Change, Saudis Arming Syrian Opposition
Plus, opposition agrees to attend international summit
By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
Posted Feb 26, 2013 7:37 AM CST
A Syrian girl, Bushra al-Hassan, 4, injured from a government airstrike, cries at Jabal al-Zaweya village of Sarjeh, in Idlib, Syria, Monday Feb. 25, 2013.   (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

(Newser) – A big shift in the Syrian conflict: Saudi Arabia is arming the opposition. It's a decidedly more activist approach than had previously been taken by regional and Western powers, the New York Times reports, and it signals an attempt to counter the weapons Iran is sending to Bashar al-Assad's forces. Saudi Arabia bought the weapons from Croatia, officials say, and they started arriving in December, leading to some minor tactical gains for the rebels over the winter. It's not clear whether the US played any role in the shipments. The weapons have been funneled to nationalist and secular groups, in an attempt to keep them out of the hands of terrorists.

Recent concerns about jihadist groups and their role in the opposition also sparked the weapons transfer; those groups are often better-equipped and more influential than the nationalist and secular groups, so this is an attempt to even the playing field—as well as to speed up the opposition's successes. The Syrian opposition has agreed to attend an international summit in Rome, which it had previously threatened to boycott, after US Secretary of State John Kerry and his UK counterpart guaranteed increased aid, the BBC reports. Meanwhile, lives continue to be lost: Last week, Human Rights Watch says, four missiles fired by the Syrian military into residential areas killed 141 in Aleppo, half of them children, the AP reports.

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Feb 26, 2013 9:56 AM CST
And that is how the Saudis armed the terrorists of the future. The weapons that the US provided to Libya ended up arming the new terrorists in Mali. The weapons that the Saudis provide to Syrian rebels will arm those terrorist organizations. JUST LET THEM FIGHT IT OUT WITH THEIR OWN GUNS!
Feb 26, 2013 8:28 AM CST
Why don't you let the Israelis decide who gets the guns ? The USA and Europe never seem to get it right. Bad enough those rebels / freedom fighters / insurgents/ jihadists / christians / sunnis / shiites / hamas/ the muslem brotherhood / the taliban / al qaeda / people that like french toast versus soft boiled eggs and god knows who else are fighting amoungst each other, lets at least make sure when the smoke clears the right group comes out on top.
Feb 26, 2013 8:22 AM CST
While i do enjoy seeing them help out a neighbor & keeping Iran in counter balance. They will be supplying the jihadist groups that are supported within the Kingdom (Not saying that all the Saudi Royals ally with such, But their are quit afew that share the beliefs & have ties to certain groups).