15 November 2013
Saudi Arabia is planning to build a new national army for the Syrian opposition, aiming to create a force trained outside of Syria that is capable of defeating the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, and countering the growth of jihadist rebel groups affiliated with al-Qaeda.
According to Saudi insiders, training involving some 5,000 rebels had already been under way in Jordan for several months with the aid of Pakistani, French, and US instructors, although Jordanian sources suggest a much lower number. Saudi Arabia reportedly plans to build a rebel army of 40,000–50,000 at a cost of ‘several billion dollars’. A high-level Saudi delegation visited Paris in October to negotiate contracts for arming and equipping both the Free Syrian Army and the new national army.
According to Yezid Sayigh, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center, competition for external funding is a powerful driver of organisational dynamics within Syria’s armed rebellion. Not all of that support comes from government sources however, private donors in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates also sponsor rebel groups of their choice.
Source: Carnegie Middle East Center | Unifying Syria’s Rebels: Saudi Arabia Joins the Fray
28 February 2013
The New York Times reports that Saudi Arabia financed a large purchase of infantry weapons from Croatia, which were secretly moved through Jordan to antigovernment fighters in Syria, according to United States (US) and Western officials familiar with the purchases. It is suggested by a Croatian newspaper that the US were possibly the intermediary.
The weapons supposedly included ammunition and ‘thousands of rifles and hundreds of machine guns’. Swiss-made hand grenades (that were provided to the United Arab Emirates) and Ukrainian-made rifle cartridges (that were purchased by Saudi Arabia) have also been found in the possession of rebels in Syria.
Source: The New York Times | Saudis Step Up Help for Rebels in Syria With Croatian Arms
26 February 2013
While the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has signed defence contracts worth $1.4 billion Dollar, including one for unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) from the United States (US) firm General Atomics, the US blocked attempts by the UAE to buy armed drones.
Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks indicate that the UAE and Saudi Arabia are among several countries, asking US officials to buy armed drones but which have been rebuffed. The US says that it is committed to an international agreement designed to limit the spread of long-range precision weaponry, which restricts drone exports.
Source: Aljazeera | UAE signs $1.4bn in defence contracts