TEL AVIV, Israel – Egyptian security officials tell WND that Turkey has been arming al-Qaida organizations as part of its aid to opposition targeting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Turkey is a member of NATO. It has been coordinating its arming of many Syrian opposition groups with the U.S. and several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and Jordan, the security officials said.

The officials did not have specific information that the U.S. was aware of or involved in the direct arming of the al-Qaida groups.

Al-Qaida’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, last month released a video calling on Muslims to support Syrian rebels to oust Assad’s “pernicious, cancerous regime.”

In an interview published last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned that al-Qaida is moving from his country to Syria to aid the opposition there.

“Al-Qaida has started migrating from Iraq to Syria, and maybe it will migrate from Syria to another country, to Libya or to Egypt or to any region where the regime is unstable and out of control,” al-Maliki said in an interview with Saudi daily Okaz.

“Yesterday, Syria was considering itself outside the circle of the terrorism problem, and today, it is in the heart of the terrorism problem,” al-Maliki said.

The Egyptian security officials told WND that Turkey has been arming al-Qaida and its affiliated group, Jihadiya Salafia, as part of efforts to support the so-called rebels in Syria.

Today, the Syrian military reportedly launched an aggressive counter-offensive, bombing the city of Rastan from the air as it called for more “clean-up operations” in the city of Homs.

WND reported two weeks ago NATO countries are strongly considering the possibility of an international deployment to Syria if the Syrian opposition does not make major advances in the next few weeks, according to informed Middle Eastern diplomatic and security officials.

Egyptian security officials also outlined what they said was large-scale international backing for the rebels attacking the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad – including arms and training not only from Turkey but from the U.S., Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Several knowledgeable Egyptian and Arab security officials claimed 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.

The security officials also claimed Saudi Arabia was sending weapons to the rebels via surrogates, including through Druze and Christian leaders in Lebanon such as Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, Saudi-Lebanese billionaire Saad Hariri, who recently served as Lebanon’s prime minister, and senior Lebanese opposition leader Samir Farid Geagea.

While Turkey, the U.S. and Arab countries may be arming the opposition, Russia has been directly aiding Assad’s forces on the ground, according to informed Middle Eastern diplomatic and security officials.

In one recent incident, when opposition forces successfully destroyed a Russian-provided tank in the rebel stronghold of Homs using an anti-tank missile, the officials said that Russian technicians took fragments of the missile to study the components in a Russian lab to determine the exact missile used.

WND previously reported Russian military experts have been inside Syria helping Assad’s regime face down the months-long insurgency.

NATO war in Syria in March?

Meanwhile, according to the Middle Eastern diplomatic and security officials speaking to WND, the international community is considering launching NATO air strikes on Assad’s forces as soon as this month if the opposition does not make major strides toward ending Assad’s regime.

The NATO members, however, have been satisfied with the momentum of the opposition in the last two weeks, which saw a number of defectors from the Syrian military join the rebels, a move that also precipitated the downfall of Muammar Gadhafi’s regime before the NATO campaign in Libya.

Similar to Gadhafi, Assad’s regime has been accused of major human rights violations, including crimes against humanity, in clamping down on a violent insurgency targeting his rule.

Mass demonstrations were held in recent weeks in Syrian insurgent strongholds calling for the international NATO coalition in Libya to deploy in Syria.

Last month, 50 foreign ministers from Western and Arab nations got together in Tunis to demand that Syria allow aid to be delivered to civilians in the absence of any international force to resolve the conflict.

Damascus officials claimed to WND that NATO troops are currently training in Turkey for a Turkish-led NATO invasion of Syria.

Any deployment would most likely come under the banner of the same “Responsibility to Protect” global doctrine used to justify the U.S.-NATO air strikes in Libya. Responsibility to Protect, or Responsibility to Act, as cited by President Obama, is a set of principles, now backed by the United Nations, based on the idea that sovereignty is not a privilege but a responsibility that can be revoked if a country is accused of “war crimes,” “genocide,” “crimes against humanity” or “ethnic cleansing.”

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