Saudi-Qatar crisis puts Syria rebels in tricky position
BEYUTH: A diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia Qatar incorporates the Syrian rebels into a difficult position, analysts say, after rivalry between Gulf supporters had already weakened the opposition.
Both Sunni monarchies have demonstrators close in March 2011, when the war began with the brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.
They continued to support Sunni insurgents mainly when the symptoms turned into conflicts between the armed opposition and troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of the country’s Shia minority and supported by the Iranian Archipelago of Saudi Arabia.
But six years later, the rebellion was rife with rivalry between Riyadh and Doha, as well as weakened by Russian military intervention in support of Assad’s forces.
Moscow’s support for regime forces has led to a series of setbacks for the rebels, including their historic loss in December of the second city of Aleppo.
Saudi Arabia and its allies, including the UAE, have broken or severed diplomatic relations with Qatar on allegations the emirate is compatible with extremism last week, saying Doha has denied it.
“The current split puts the Syrian opposition in a very politically awkward position because nobody wants to take part in public parties and can not afford to alienate either side,” said Yezid Sayigh, a colleague of the Carnegie Middle East Center .
A rebel official at the eastern Ghouta opposition stronghold outside Damascus said he hoped the Doha-Riyadh crisis was only “a temporary storm.”
“Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates supported the Syrian people’s revolution and expressed their solidarity throughout the years of the tragedy,” the rebel official said.
In a sign of the embarrassment caused to the crisis, several rebel groups were approaching the AFP declined to comment, saying that it was a “sensitive” problem.
But Sayigh said the latest rash in relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia will have a limited impact on the Syrian conflict.
“It is likely that it will not have a significant financial or military impact since the United States and Turkey have intensified their support for factions that were previously close to Qatar or Saudi Arabia,” Sayigh said.
Riyadh “has drastically reduced funding for the summer of 2015,” after starting its intervention in Yemen “earlier this year, he said.
Six years after the war, the fractured rebel Syria controls about 10 percent. 100 from the war-torn country, with the support of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan and the United States.
Rebel Pro-Doha, including the powerful Ahrar al-Sham group, are present in the north.
In eastern Ghouta, there are opposition pro-Doha groups alongside the pro-Riyadh Jaish al-Islam rebel alliance.