"...Prince Salman Bin Sultan, a senior Saudi security official, was now running relations with the Syrian rebels, backed by his elder brother, intelligence chief Prince Bandar Bin Sultan....Describing the shift in military supervision, several sources from the political and military leadership of the Syrian opposition and a Saudi source said that anyone, whether a state or among wealthy Arabs who have been making private donations to the rebel cause, would now need the Saudi princes’ approval over what is supplied to whom if they wish to send arms into Syria.
Qatari help was still expected. But a division between a Qatari sphere of influence on the northern border with Turkey and a Saudi sphere on the southern, Jordanian border was over...
Qatar and Saudi Arabia are close allies in many respects ... But their interests diverge, particularly over Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups viewed with suspicion by Western powers and in Riyadh. As in Syria, Qatar has delivered extensive financial and other support to Islamists who have risen to prominence in Egypt and Libya as a result of the Arab Spring pro-democracy protests of 2011....
Two events finally prompted Saudi Arabia and the United States to lose patience with Qatar’s Syrian role - one on the battlefield and another among the political opposition in exile.
In mid-April, Al Assad’s troops broke a six-month rebel blockade of the Wadi Al Deif military base on Syria’s key north-south highway, after a rebel brigade that was seen as close to Qatar broke ranks - exposing fellow fighters to a government counterattack that led to the deaths of 68 of their number.
A rebel commander, based near Damascus and familiar with the unit which buckled, said its failure had been due to its leaders having preferred using their local power to get rich rather than fighting Al Assad - a common accusation among the fractious rebels:
“Qatar’s bet ... failed especially in the Wadi Al Deif battle. The regime managed to break through them after they became the new local warlords, caring for money and power, not the cause,” the senior commander told Reuters. That battlefield collapse infuriated Qatar’s allies in the anti-Al Assad alliance.
“The straw that broke the camel’s back was the failure to take over Wadi Al Deif camp,” the commander said.
In diplomatic struggles, Western nations were angered by the appointment by the opposition in mid-March of Gassan Hitto as the exiles’ prime minister. He was seen by Western diplomats as Qatar’s Islamist candidate and Hitto’s rejection of talks with Al Assad’s government was seen as a block to negotiating a peace.
For one Western diplomat familiar with deliberations in the Friends of Syria alliance that backs the rebels, choosing Hitto was “the final straw” (Not to be confused with the 'straw thar broke the camel's back, above!) in galvanising the Western powers behind the move to rein in Qatar by promoting Saudi leadership.
“They wanted to clip the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood,” the Syrian commander from the north said.
For Saudi Arabia and its Western allies, concerned that the fall of Al Assad might mean a hostile, Islamist state, Qatar’s flaw was an enthusiasm for winning the war - as it helped Libyan rebels do in 2011 - without ensuring how any peace might look.
A Syrian rebel military source who has been close to Saudi officials expressed it thus: “Qatar tried to carve out a role for itself. But it did so without wisdom: they had no clear plan or a view of what would happen later. They just want to win.” ..."
Saturday, June 8, 2013
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 6:10 PM