Qatar ‘Playing With Fire’ as It Funds Syrian Islamists in Quest for Global Influence
Questions are increasingly being asked about weapons and money being supplied to Islamist rebel groups in Syria by sympathetic Arab states, because of growing fears that they are falling into the hands of jihadists and other extremists.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia are among a handful of countries whose support for the uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s regime has won plaudits from many in the region, where few dispute that the Syrian president has forfeited any right to power.
But signs that arms and cash may be filtering through to groups such as the al-Nusra Brigade, which has openly declared allegiance to al-Qaeda, are alarming Western observers.
As the West has hesitated over sending its own military assistance, non-sectarian elements of the rebel Free Syrian Army are being outflanked and out-gunned by better-funded and armed Islamist fighters, including foreign jihadists.
Qatar’s prime minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, said recently: “As there is no clear international opinion to end the crisis in Syria… we are supporting the opposition with whatever it needs, even if it takes up arms for self-defence.”
But by focusing support on Islamist groups, both Qatar and Saudi Arabia are seen by many to be playing with fire.
“The fear is that both the Saudis and the Qataris are competing for influence in Syria by pouring in support to rival groups of jihadist fighters, and that Syria is descending into the depths of hell as a result,”