Powerful U.S. ally Saudi Arabia has been a driving force behind the scenes, pushing for the U.S. to act militarily in Syria.
The Saudis already have been secretly helping to fuel the insurgency to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the two years that the uprising has been going on. And it was reportedly the Saudi security services that alerted the U.S. to the first claim last February of a sarin gas attack by Assad’s regime.
And WND reported in October 2012 that Saudi Arabia was working with Qatar and Turkey to send weapons to the Syrian rebels.
Further, WND reported at the time that murdered U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens served as a key contact with the Saudis to coordinate the recruitment by Saudi Arabia of Islamic fighters from North Africa and Libya. The jihadists were sent to Syria via Turkey to attack Assad’s forces, according to informed Middle Eastern security officials.
In a hearing last week, Secretary of State John Kerry said Arab countries have offered to pay for any U.S. military intervention in Syria.
Now the Wall Street Journal has detailed a massive Saudi lobbying effort to push the U.S. to act in Syria.
The Journal fingered Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, as leading a campaign to convince Congress and the White House to expand the U.S. role in Syria.
The newspaper reported an original Saudi goal was to secure U.S. support to train the Syrian rebels at camps in Jordan.
The Saudis were apparently successful.
WND was first to report in February 2012 the U.S., Turkey and Jordan were running a training base for the Syrian rebels in the Jordanian town of Safawi in the country’s northern desert region, according to knowledgeable Egyptian and Arab security officials.
In May, The New York Times confirmed the CIA was training the rebels in Jordan under a covert program that also included a U.S. campaign to send weapons to the rebels via Arab and Turkish points.
Now the Journal is reporting the Saudis pushed for the Jordanian training camps and sent AK-47s and ammunition, according to Arab officials.
The Journal reported that in September and October 2012 the Saudis approached Croatia to procure more weapons.
The choice of Croatia may be instructive. It has been confirmed that on the night of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, U.S. Special Forces were stationed just a few hours away from Benghazi on a training exercise in Croatia.
The Journal reported that in April, “the Saudi king sent a strongly worded message to Mr. Obama: America’s credibility was on the line if it let Mr. Assad and Iran prevail.”
The king “warned of dire consequences of abdicating U.S. leadership and creating a vacuum, said U.S. officials briefed on the message,” reported the Journal.
Is this what Syria war really about?
Is the reported willingness of Arab Gulf states to fund a U.S. military campaign in Syria really about major oil and gas interests that run through the country?
The potential for trillions of dollars of energy revenue in deals that snake through Syrian territory may be a motivating factor for the U.S., Russia, Turkey and Arab states in the current Syria crisis.
Syria is a key energy transit route to Europe. A number of countries appear to be seeking dominance of the energy market that runs through Syria.
Beside the prospect of its own gas field, Syria is also one of the most strategic locations for natural gas pipelines to flow to Europe.
Qatar, home to the world’s largest gas field along with Iran, has proposed a gas pipeline from the Gulf to Turkey that would traverse Syria to the Mediterranean, with the gas then being shipped to Europe.
However, Assad in 2009 refused to go along with the plan, instead inking deals with Russia and Iran.
Syria is the site of the proposed construction of a massive underground gas pipeline that, if completed, could drastically undercut the strategic energy power of U.S. ally Qatar and also would cut Turkey out of the pipeline flow.
Dubbed the “Islamic pipeline,” the project may ultimately favor Russia and Iran against Western energy interests.
Set to open in 2016, Iran, Iraq and Syria signed a deal in 2010 to construct the 3,480-mile natural gas pipeline connecting Iran’s South Pars field to European customers.
Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Javad Oji announced the pipeline would ultimately have the capacity to pump 3.9 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. He told Iran’s official Mehr News Agency the route would “pass through Iran, Iraq, Syria, the southern Lebanon territories and also through the Mediterranean basin,” with a refinery and infrastructure to be built in Damascus.
A key portion of the Islamic pipeline is concentrated on the Syrian ports, which would export directly to Europe out of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Russia has reportedly built up its naval presence along the major Syrian ports of Latakia and Tartus.
The Islamic pipeline is viewed as a major threat to Turkey, which has long desired to become the main bridge for natural gas and oil between the East and the West.
Turkey, however, is a key player in the Nabucco natural gas pipeline, which is being constructed to transit natural gas to Europe from the Central Asia and Caspian regions. The pipeline is set to traverse Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, ending in Austria. Turkey has been a key supporter of the rebels fighting Assad’s regime, while Qatar has reportedly been supplied arms and training to the rebels.
If Assad can be deposed, Turkey and Qatar would like the Nabucco pipeline to run through Syria.
Perhaps in a bid to wean Russia off of the Islamic pipeline, Saudi Arabia last month presented a plan to Moscow in which Russia would reject Syria’s president in return for a huge arms deal and a pledge to boost Russian influence in the Arab world.
Agence France-Presse reported President Vladimir Putin refused the plan in a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan.
Bandar reportedly proposed that Saudi Arabia buy $15 billion of weapons from Russia and invest “considerably in the country,” according to AFP.
Demonstrating that oil interests are clearly at play, AFP reported: “The Saudi prince also reassured Putin that ‘whatever regime comes after’ Assad, it will be ‘completely’ in the Saudis’ hands and will not sign any agreement allowing any Gulf country to transport its gas across Syria to Europe and compete with Russian gas exports.”
With additional research by Joshua Klein.