As the United States maintains that there are no plans to intervene in Syria, two Arab nations, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are planning to arm the Syrian opposition, which has recently begun to organize its military arm more formally. The Washington Post reports:
Arab plans to arm Syria’s opposition fighters are threatening to overtake the cautious approach advocated by the United States and other countries, which fear that sending weapons to the region could fuel a civil war and lead to a regional conflagration.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar indicated this week that they are prepared to help Syrian opposition military forces. Kuwait’s parliament passed a nonbinding resolution Thursday calling for the government to provide weapons to the rebels and break ties with Damascus. . . .
The Obama administration has continued to insist publicly that economic and diplomatic pressure is the best way to push Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to capitulate.
“It’s not clear to us that arming people right now will either save lives or lead to the demise of Assad’s regime,” Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey D. Feltman said at a Senate hearing on the crisis Thursday. . . .
Beyond sympathy for the Syrian people, the Saudis see Assad’s early downfall as a major blow against Iran, his only remaining supporter in the region. Qatar, which played a leading role in arming the Libyan opposition to Moammar Gaddafi, is seeking to further expand its role as a major foreign-policy player.
Qatar, a tiny but spectacularly wealthy country, was notable in its role in overthrowing Qaddafi not just for supporting the NATO mission, but actually inserting hundreds of special-forces troops to lead the assault on Tripoli.
This news comes as the rebels in Homs, the site of the fiercest fighting so far, appear to have been overwhelmed by a ground assault and forced to withdraw.