Saudi Arabia increasing weapon supplies to Syrian rebels following Russian airstrikes – report

Free Syrian Army fighters. © Alaa Al-Faqir
Saudi Arabia has stepped up its weapon supplies to three different rebel groups in Syria following Russian airstrikes, a government official told the BBC. It comes after Moscow launched its Air Force anti-terror operation at the request of Assad’s government.

Rebel groups fighting the Syrian Army will receive an increase in modern, high-powered weaponry, including guided anti-tank weapons, a "well-placed" Saudi official told the BBC on condition of anonymity.

He said the recipients include Jaish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest), the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and the Southern Front. The official stressed that Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL) and the al-Nusra Front would not be receiving any weapons.

The official did not rule out the possibility of supplying surface-to-air missiles to the rebels, which many in the West fear would fall into the hands of ISIS militants and be used to shoot down warplanes of the US-led coalition or civilian aircraft.

Meanwhile, a separate Gulf Arab official has expressed fear that Russia's military intervention in Syria will prompt a new jihad, or holy war.

The official told journalists that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was warned by Arab diplomats during last week's UN General Assembly that Moscow's actions in Syria were creating “Frankenstein's monster,” which will draw in jihadists aiming to “liberate” Syria of Russians, Iranians, and Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon.

However, the official admitted that neither the West nor Gulf Arab states have a strategy for resolving the bloody conflict, which has been taking place for more than four years and has led to the deaths of over 250,000 people.

He went on to stress the need for stronger US leadership, adding that the worst scenario would be for the West to accept a compromise which allows Assad to remain in power. The official added that Sunni Arabs in the region will not accept such a deal.

The statements come after Russia launched its airstrike campaign in Syria on September 30, targeting military equipment, communication centers, vehicles, and arms and fuel depots belonging to ISIS terrorists. In just over a week, Russia made 120 combat sorties that hit 110 targets, the Defense Ministry said on Wednesday. 

The head of the Main Operation Directorate of the General Staff of Russia's Armed Forces, Andrey Kartapolov, said on Thursday that troops are using precision-guided munitions in the airstrikes, which have a “maximum deviation from the target of less than five meters.”

"All the targets are being thoroughly studied, using the data from space and radio-electronic intelligence, drone footages, the information received from radio intercepts. We are also using data from Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi intelligence, including undercover sources," Kartapolov said, adding that each bombing is carried out after a review of all available information and a “computer simulation of the future attack.”

Since the military campaign was launched, mainstream media has “launched a powerful anti-Russian campaign,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Tuesday. She added that the ministry is “open to contacts of military experts” and is ready to look into any potential concerns.

Meanwhile, the White House has called the Russian airstrikes "indiscriminate military operations against the Syrian opposition,” adding that the campaign will prolong Syria's conflict. Moscow offered on Tuesday to resume talks with Washington to avoid any misunderstandings concerning its airstrike operations, as well as ways to avoid conflicts between US and Russian warplanes over Syria.

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