U.S. allies in Middle East ramping up support for rebel forces in Syria

The Washington Post reports: U.S. allies in the Middle East have ramped up their support for rebels fighting against Syrian forces in recent months, potentially widening a gulf over strategy between the Obama administration and its regional partners.

The partners have grown increasingly impatient with the administration’s slow march toward training and equipping a viable Syrian opposition force, and its insistence that those fighters focus on the Islamic State, according to officials in the region. To facilitate their primary goal of removing President Bashar al-Assad from power, the allies have moved ahead with their own plans.

The delivery of additional weapons and financial aid from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar have facilitated recent advances against government forces in northwest Syria by the Army of Conquest, a newly formed umbrella of diverse rebel groups, including al-Qaeda’s affiliate and other Islamist groups, along with “moderate” fighters.

Regional officials insist that the aid, including U.S.-made TOW missiles, is not going to the Islamists. Instead, they said, it is enabling moderates to enhance their stature among opposition fighters after years of being outgunned and out-financed by more militant groups.

The initiative comes amid a growing sense in the region that the United States is preoccupied with its nuclear negotiations with Iran and the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq. In the meantime, regional officials and experts said, the Obama administration has failed to come up with a comprehensive strategy that addresses the more immediate concerns of its allies. [Continue reading…]

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