Reuters reports: Turkey has set up a secret base with allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar to direct vital military and communications aid to Syria’s rebels from a city near the border, Gulf sources have told Reuters.
News of the clandestine Middle East-run “nerve centre” working to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad underlines the extent to which Western powers – who played a key role in unseating Muammar Gaddafi in Libya – have avoided military involvement so far in Syria.
“It’s the Turks who are militarily controlling it. Turkey is the main co-ordinator/facilitator. Think of a triangle, with Turkey at the top and Saudi Arabia and Qatar at the bottom,” said a Doha-based source.
“The Americans are very hands-off on this. U.S. intel(ligence) are working through middlemen. Middlemen are controlling access to weapons and routes.”
The centre in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 100 km (60 miles) from the Syrian border, was set up after Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Saud visited Turkey and requested it, a source in the Gulf said. The Turks liked the idea of having the base in Adana so that they could supervise its operations, he added.
A Saudi foreign ministry official was not immediately available to comment on the operation.
Adana is home to Incirlik, a large Turkish/U.S. air force base which Washington has used in the past for reconnaissance and military logistics operations. It was not clear from the sources whether the anti-Syrian “nerve centre” was located inside Incirlik base or in the city of Adana.
Qatar, the tiny gas-rich Gulf state which played a leading part in supplying weapons to Libyan rebels, has a key role in directing operations at the Adana base, the sources said. Qatari military intelligence and state security officials are involved.
“Three governments are supplying weapons: Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia,” said a Doha-based source.
Ankara has officially denied supplying weapons.
“All weaponry is Russian. The obvious reason is that these guys (the Syrian rebels) are trained to use Russian weapons, also because the Americans don’t want their hands on it. All weapons are from the black market. The other way they get weapons is to steal them from the Syrian army. They raid weapons stores.”
The source added: “The Turks have been desperate to improve their weak surveillance, and have been begging Washington for drones and surveillance.” The pleas appear to have failed. “So they have hired some private guys come do the job.”
President Barack Obama has so far preferred to use diplomatic means to try to oust Assad, although Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signaled this week that Washington plans to step up help to the rebels.
Reuters has established that Obama’s aides have drafted a resolution which would authorize greater covert assistance to the rebels but still stop short of arming them.
The White House’s wariness is shared by other Western powers. It reflects concerns about what might follow Assad in Syria and about the substantial presence of anti-Western Islamists and jihadi fighters among the rebels. [Continue reading…]