Saudis bankroll new rebel force to fight own war on Assad

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Oct. 8 (UPI) — Saudi Arabia, exasperated with U.S. vacillation related to Syria’s chemical arsenal and now its effort to reconcile with Iran, Riyadh’s foremost adversary, is forging a new alliance of Islamist rebels in Syria under a pro-Saudi warlord to supersede the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army.

Riyadh also wants to foment an Iraq-style “Sunni Awakening” to unite Syria’s majority sect to topple the minority Damascus regime of President Bashar Assad.

Middle East analyst Michael Weiss, writing in the Beirut Web portal Now Lebanon, observed Riyadh has “taken substantive measures to circumvent Washington altogether on Syria by activating a cadre of new clients in the form of a hard-line Salafist rebels who are now united under the umbrella of the army of Islam. Continue reading

Russia Docks Warships in Syria as NATO Arms Turkey

Russian warships docked at a naval base in Syria, according to reports on Wednesday, further separating Moscow from Western actions in the war-torn country.

The two ships made a rare call at the port in Tartus, Russia’s only remaining international military base since the Soviet Union collapsed, according to AFP and Interfax reports. Russian authorities claim the stop was only to load fuel and water and make “minor repairs.” This is the second time the Russian Navy has raised eyebrows in recent weeks, following reports that it docked warships off the coast of Gaza in late November, during the height of the fighting there with Israel. Continue reading