Saudi support to rebels slows Assad advance, say pro-Damascus sources

Reuters reports: Offensives by the Syrian army and its allies backed by Russian air strikes are going more slowly than expected due to increased Saudi support to rebels, senior sources close to the Syrian government said, as the insurgents pressed a counter attack on Friday.

Rebels captured the village of Atshan in Hama province, the second setback for the government and its allies in that area in as many days, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and rebels said. The nearby town of Morek fell to rebels on Thursday.

Backed by Russian air strikes, the Syrian army and allies including the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and Lebanon’s Hezbollah have launched several offensives in areas vital to President Bashar al-Assad’s control of western Syria.

But analysts say the government gains have been at best modest, one saying earlier this week the only breakthrough thus far was a minimal advance south of Aleppo.

U.S. officials have voiced a similar view, while rebels have said the Russian-backed attacks are failing and they expect more gains for their side.

In a frank assessment of the situation facing the government side, the two senior sources – neither of them Syrian – said the course of battle had been slowed by more military support to the rebels from Saudi Arabia, which is vying for influence with Iran across the Middle East and wants Assad gone from power.

They cited increased supplies of anti-tank TOW missiles to the rebels as a big factor. [Continue reading…]

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