The Wall Street Journal reports: Saudi Arabia has pressed Jordan to open its border with Syria to allow weapons to reach rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, officials from both countries say, a move that could buoy Syria’s opposition and harden the conflict in the country and region.
In a March 12 meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah asked his Jordanian counterpart to permit weapons shipments into Syria in exchange for economic assistance to Jordan, these officials say. Jordan hasn’t agreed, they said.
Such an agreement could escalate prospects for a broader regional conflict. Syria’s fighting has already added to the rancor between Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies, who support the country’s largely Sunni opposition, and Shiite Iran, whose government backs Mr. Assad.
The Saudi request adds to sentiment that Arab leaders have hit the wall in their efforts to resolve Syria’s impasse diplomatically. Top officials from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab nations were notably absent from Thursday’s Arab League summit in Baghdad, where leaders called on Damascus to adopt a United Nations plan to stop fighting and begin political dialogue. The plan doesn’t call for Mr. Assad to step aside, as the Arab nations had sought. Mr. Assad said Thursday he would support the U.N. plan, but only once foreign countries stopped aiding rebels.
Many Middle East officials view Saudi Arabia’s arming of Afghan jihadis in the 1980s, through official and unofficial channels, as a prime contributor to the Afghan civil war and the rise of violent Islamic jihad. That has led to worries in many countries over the prospect of Saudi Arabia arming Syrian rebels now.