Saudi Arabia held a fundraising campaign over the past five days, raising $72.33 million said to help support the Syrian people, although it would seem most of it is going to aid the Syrian rebels.
The fundraising efforts are in addition to the money, communications gear, and weapons the Saudi government has been funneling into Syria for the opposition fighters, with the help of the CIA. They resemble similar efforts in the 1980s, proceeds of which went to the Afghan mujihadeen fighting the Soviets.
Like the Afghan mujihadeen, Syria’s rebel fighters have a large contingent of Sunni extremists, some of whom are tied to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. The type of blowback from that proxy war in Afghanistan is likely to recur down the line from this Syria theater.
The Saudis are the major oil-producing state in the Middle East with the closest ties to Washington. They have vied for regional hegemony in the Middle East for decades, and they view the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, which is Allawite (a Shia sect), as a threat to that hegemony. Assad’s Shiite ally Iran is also an indirect target of the regime change the Saudis and their Western counterparts are aiming for in Syria.
UN rights chief Navi Pillay last month condemned the continued flow of weapons from foreign powers to both sides in the Syrian conflict. “The ongoing provision of arms to the Syrian government and to its opponents feeds additional violence,” she said. “Any further militarization of the conflict must be avoided at all costs.”
A recent study out of Brandeis University concluded “the distillation of historical experience with civil war and insurgency, along with a sober reckoning of conditions on the ground in Syria, make clear” that arming the rebels is “likely to amplify the harm that it seeks to eliminate by prolonging a hurting stalemate.”
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