"...Prince Bandar has been 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, according to Arab, American and European officials.Meanwhile, an influential protégé, current Saudi Ambassador to Washington Adel al-Jubeir, is leading a parallel campaign to coax Congress and a reluctant Obama administration to expand the U.S. role in Syria.
The conflict there has become a proxy war for Middle East factions, and Saudi Arabia's efforts in Syria are just one sign of its broader effort to expand its regional influence. The Saudis also have been outspoken supporters of the Egyptian military in its drive to squelch the Muslim Brotherhood, backing that up with big chunks of cash....
The CIA has put unspecified limits on its arming efforts. But the agency has been helping train rebels to better fight. Earlier this year it also began making salary payments to members of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, U.S. and Arab officials said. There are now more CIA personnel at the Jordan base than Saudi personnel, according to Arab diplomats.
Jordan denied any training or arming of Syrian rebels was taking place in the country, something Minister of State for Media Affairs Mohammad Momani said would be contrary to Jordan's national interest and policy "to remain neutral" on Syria.
"There are no military bases in Jordan for the Syrian opposition…There are no bases of any sort. This is inconsistent with the Jordanian position that calls for a political solution to the Syrian crisis," Mr. Momani said. He added that Jordanian King Abdullah has said firmly "Jordan will never be a base of training to anyone and will never be the launching base of any military action against Syria."...
Not everyone in the Obama administration is comfortable with the new U.S. partnership with the Saudis on Syria. Some officials said they fear it carries the same risk of spinning out of control as an earlier project in which Prince Bandar was involved—the 1980s CIA program of secretly financing the Contras in Nicaragua against a leftist government. The covert program led to criminal convictions for U.S. operatives and international rebukes.
"This has the potential to go badly," one former official said, citing the risk weapons will end up in the hands of violent anti-Western Islamists.
Many top U.S. intelligence analysts also think the Syrian rebels are hopelessly outgunned by Assad allies Iran and Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite group, according to congressional officials and diplomats.
Prince Bandar and Mr. Jubeir have told the U.S. they don't necessarily expect a victory by the Syrian rebels anytime soon, but they want to gradually tilt the battlefield in their favor, according to American officials who have met with them.
The Saudi plan is to steadily strengthen carefully selected groups of rebel fighters not in the radical Islamist camp, with the goal of someday seeing them in control in Damascus. Difficult as such an effort is proving to be, the Saudi thinking goes, not trying would risk a future in which Syria was dominated either by extremist Muslims from among the rebels or by Iran, Riyadh's arch rival in the quest for regional dominance.
In Jordan, officials said they couldn't yet tell whether the joint operation has reaped success in sifting moderate Syrian rebels from the extremists. Some said they couldn't rule out the possibility some Saudi funds and arms were being funneled to radicals on the side, simply to counter the influence of rival Islamists backed by Qatar. U.S. officials said they couldn't rule out that mistakes would be made....
The Saudi king also was uncomfortable at sharing control with Qatar, a Persian Gulf rival. At a meeting to coordinate arms shipments last summer, Prince Bandar took a swipe at Qatar, a tiny nation with one of the region's largest broadcasters.
Qatar is "nothing but 300 people…and a TV channel," the Saudi prince yelled into a phone, according to a person familiar with the exchange. "That doesn't make a country." Saudi officials declined to comment on the exchange.
It marked the start of a new, more aggressive drive by Prince Bandar, and a Saudi shift to operate out of Jordan instead of Turkey. In July 2012, the Saudi king—his uncle—doubled the prince's duties; already head of the national-security office, Prince Bandar took over the Saudi General Intelligence Agency as well....."
Monday, August 26, 2013
WSJ: Bandar & al Jubeir: 'We don't expect the Syrian rebels to win ...'
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 7:10 AM