"... With the tacit approval from the House of Saud and financial support from wealthy Saudi elites, the young men take up arms in what Saudi clerics have called a "jihad," or "holy war," against the Assad regime.Based on a month of reporting in the region and in Washington, more than a dozen sources have confirmed that wealthy Saudis, as well as the government, are arming some Syrian rebel groups. Saudi and Syrian sources confirm that hundreds of Saudis are joining the rebels, but the government denies any sponsoring role.
The Saudis are part of an inflow of Sunni fighters from Libya, Tunisia and Jordan, according to Aaron Zelin, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
"Most of the foreigners are fighting with al-Nusra or Ahrar al-Sham," both extremist groups, Zelin said..
In one documented case, a Saudi judge encouraged young anti-government protesters to fight in Syria rather than face punishment at home. Mohammed al-Talq, 22, was arrested and found guilty of participating in a demonstration in the north-central Saudi city of Buraidah.
After giving 19 young men suspended sentences, the judge called the defendants into his private chambers and gave them a long lecture about the need to fight Shiite Muslims in Syria, according to Mohammed's father, Abdurrahman al-Talq.
"You should save all your energy and fight against the real enemy, the Shia, and not fight inside Saudi Arabia," said the father, quoting the judge. "The judge gave them a reason to go to Syria..."