Saudi Arabian support to Syrian Opposition in the Syrian Civil War
The Financial Times reported in May 2013 that Saudi Arabia was becoming a larger provider of arms to the various groups. Since the summer of 2013, Saudi Arabia has emerged as the main group to finance and arm the rebels. Saudi Arabia has financed a large purchase of infantry weapons, such as Yugoslav-made recoilless guns and the M79 Osa, an anti-tank weapon, from Croatia via shipments shuttled through Jordan. The weapons began reaching rebels in December 2012 which allowed rebels' small tactical gains against the Syrian army. This shipment was said to be to counter shipments of weapons from Iran to aid the Syrian government.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have received criticism for increasing their backing for Syrian rebels associated with the Army of Conquest, which includes the al-Nusra front, an al-Qaeda affiliated group.
In December 2012, a new wave of weapons from foreign supporters were transferred to rebel forces via the Jordanian border in the country's south. The arms included M79 Osa anti-tank weapons and M-60 recoilless rifles purchased by Saudi Arabia from Croatia. Previously, most of the weapons were delivered via the Turkish border in the north. The goal for the change in routes was to strengthen moderate rebels and to support their push towards Damascus.
Bandar bin Sultan
In August 2013 the Wall Street Journal reported that Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan had been appointed to lead Saudi Arabia's efforts to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and that the US Central Intelligence Agency considered this a sign of how serious Saudi Arabia was about this aim. Bandar was described as "jetting from covert command centers near the Syrian front lines to the Élysée Palace in Paris and the Kremlin in Moscow, seeking to undermine the Assad regime." After tensions with Qatar over supplying rebel groups, Saudi Arabia switched its efforts from Turkey to Jordan in 2012, using its financial leverage over Jordan to develop training facilities there, overseen by Bandar's half-brother Salman bin Sultan. In late 2012 Saudi intelligence also began efforts to convince the US that the Assad government was using chemical weapons. The Saudi government also would be sending prisoners sentenced to death to fight in Syria.
Former head of MI6, Richard Dearlove revealed he was told Bandar's genocidal intentions, claiming the Prince had told him "The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally 'God help the Shia'. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them." Dearlove has expressed his view that "Saudi Arabia is involved in the Isis-led Sunni rebellion".
November 2015 escalation
Following the Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War, Saudi Arabia heavily increased its support and supply of arms such as anti-tank weapons in order to assist rebels in countering major new government offensives backed by Russian air support.
- Roula Khalaf and Abigail Fielding Smith (16 May 2013). "Qatar bankrolls Syrian revolt with cash and arms". Financial Times. Retrieved 3 June 2013. (subscription required)
- Saudi edges Qatar to control Syrian rebel support retrieved 6 June 2013
- Chivers, C. J.; Schmitt, Eric (26 February 2013). "In Shift, Saudis Are Said to Arm Rebels in Syria". New York Times. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
- Kim Sengupta (12 May 2015). "Turkey and Saudi Arabia alarm the West by backing Islamist extremists the Americans had bombed in Syria". The Independent.
- Sly, Liz; DeYoung, Karen (23 February 2013). "In Syria, new influx of weapons to rebels tilts the battle against Assad". Washington Post.
- Chivers, C. J.; Schmitt, Eric (25 February 2013). "Saudis Step Up Help for Rebels in Syria With Croatian Arms". The New York Times.
- ADAM ENTOUS, NOUR MALAS and MARGARET COKER, Wall Street Journal, 25 August 2013, A Veteran Saudi Power Player Works To Build Support to Topple Assad
- Cooke, Shamus (21 January 2013). "Report: Saudis sent death-row inmates to fight Syria". USA tODAY. Retrieved 12 September 2013.
- Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country : A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, The Independent, 14-07-15
- Saudi support to rebels slows Assad attacks: pro-Damascus sources, Reuters, 06-11-15