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Definitely a collectors item. Please use zoom when viewing photos for more details. See all the pictures for details of this item. Be aware that the device you use may affect the quality of the pictures. See similar items. Grumman A-6 Intruder. In view of the continuing quarrel between Syria and Saudi Arabia, the latter drew up a policy aimed at undermining the Assad regime at home. Riyadh employed its influence among opposition elements in Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere. As a result, for the first time in many decades the Lebanese government granted entry to opponents of the Assad regime, including those who had called for and led the armed uprising against his father.

The idea was that Riyadh, backed by Washington, would support democratic groups in Syria in the hope of effecting regime change there. Chaired by former vice president Khaddam, it included the Muslim Brotherhood as well as 15 other opposition groups. With the approval of the Bush administration, the Saudi royal house provided funds and logistical support to the NSF, trying to get Syria to relax its stand on the two most important issues for the kingdom: Lebanon and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The troubled relations surfaced publicly on several occasions, as when Foreign Minister Muallem and his Saudi counterpart Faisal squabbled at Arab and international forums. In December , Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Shara fanned the flames when he accused Saudi Arabia of turning the debate between the countries into a personal matter. In November, when Emile Lahoud's term as president of Lebanon expired, no successor was elected.

Pursuing a compromise, Riyadh tried to promote the election of a new president, but Damascus rejected the idea and supported Hezbollah. The lack of agreement about the Lebanese issue led King Abdullah to boycott the Arab summit held in Damascus in March Despite the rift, the pendulum soon swung back in the other direction, and the two countries moved toward rapprochement in mid-February The Arab media reported a visit by Prince Abd al-Aziz bin Abdullah, the king's son, to Damascus in pursuit of reconciliation.

This paved the way for reciprocal visits by senior officials of the two countries, from both the political and military echelons, and the exchange of positive messages between the capitals. First, the Iranian threat, that is, Iran's push for regional hegemony in general, and its nuclear program in particular. Against the background of worsening relations between Shiite Iran and the Sunni Gulf states alongside the support of other Arab countries , Riyadh sought to forge "a joint Arab strategy" in order to deal together with the "Iranian challenge. And indeed, at the Arab foreign ministers' summit in Cairo, Foreign Minister Faisal said, "In order to cement Arab reconciliation, we need a common vision for issues that concern Arab security and deal with the Iranian challenge," including its nuclear program.

Second, it was essential to set the Lebanese house in order.


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On May 21, , the political crisis that had lasted for 18 months was resolved by the Doha Agreement. The crisis had reached its climax on May 6, when a mini civil war erupted between the supporters of Syria and Hezbollah and their opponents. About 80 persons were killed in a week of fighting.

The agreement restored the peace and included the election of Michel Suleiman as president. Thus after six months with no executive and a year and a half when Parliament was paralyzed, Lebanese political life returned to some semblance of normalcy. Thus, it was a Saudi interest to guarantee stability in Lebanon and coordinate positions and views with Syria. Although the latter had withdrawn its forces from Lebanon in , its influence over events there had not waned. On the contrary, in the wake of the Doha Agreement, the March 14 Camp recognized that Damascus could be a restraining influence on Hezbollah, and its relations with Syria thawed.

Although the pro-Saudi camp had come out on top and Saad Hariri, supported by Riyadh, formed the new government, the opposing camp, which included Hezbollah, held on to its strength. The Saudis understood that ties with Assad would guarantee stability and rein in Hezbollah. This was clear in Foreign Minister Faisal's statement that Riyadh was interested in developing new and "healthy" ties with Damascus and that "divergences on Arab issues are behind us, buried. Third, as we have seen, the Palestinian issue played a role in relations between Saudi Arabia and Syria.

After more than a year of an internal Palestinian feud, the representative of Fatah, Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, and representatives of Hamas, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and chairman of the Hamas political bureau Khaled Mashaal, were invited to Mecca on February 6, On February 8, after three days of discussions mediated by King Abdullah, the two sides signed a reconciliation agreement that called for the establishment of a unity government.

Although the agreement did not endure for long, it demonstrated the Saudi hegemony over the Palestinian issue. As Riyadh saw things, Damascus was continuing to sabotage its efforts to reconcile the two Palestinian factions and promote the Arab peace initiative. For its part, Syria accused Saudi Arabia of actions that served American interests in the Middle East and of rapprochement with Israel. Syria and Iran supported Hamas during the fighting, whereas Saudi Arabia and Egypt blamed Hamas for instigating the strife.

As was the case in the Lebanese crisis, the factionalism highlighted the Muslim cold war between Shiites and Sunnis or between the moderate Arab camp — Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan — and the radical Islamic axis led by Iran, whose other members were Hezbollah, Syria, Hamas and Qatar. But at the end of the fighting between Israel and Hamas, in February , the Saudi interest in reconciling the factions, to make it possible to rebuild the Gaza Strip as quickly as possible, returned to the fore. Because the Hamas political office was located in Damascus, cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Syria was of cardinal importance for the attempt to bridge the gaps and moderate intra-Palestinian rivalries.

Fourth, after the years of isolation the Bush administration had imposed on Damascus, including serious enmity between the two countries, Assad tried a new tack. Having survived the confrontation with the Americans, he sought closer ties with neighboring Turkey and an improvement in his country's regional standing. A new page was opened in relations between the two countries when Barack Obama entered the White House, promoted reconciliation with the Muslim world and appointed Robert Ford as U.


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When Riyadh and Damascus restored relations, Saudi Arabia returned to its efforts to amplify its influence in the region. At his meeting with Assad, King Abdullah asked the Syrian president to exert pressure on his allies in Lebanon with regard to power sharing in the government and on the Hamas political bureau to agree to steps towards Palestinian reconciliation. Both requests targeted the same goal: bolstering the pro-Saudi forces in the region.

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Riyadh took immediate steps to remove the restrictions on trade with Damascus and establish joint economic ventures. The Saudis hoped these measures would enhance their presence throughout the Middle East, especially in Syria. To consolidate relations with Damascus, Riyadh was willing to sacrifice the March 14 Camp in Lebanon and called on it to be more flexible. The result was a new Lebanese government, one of whose main goals was to restore Syria's status in Lebanon, this time with Saudi approval.

But the events of March in Syria scrambled the deck and posed new challenges for Syria, for the relations between Riyadh and Damascus, and for Saudi interests in Syria.

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During the initial months of the protests and uprising against the Baath regime in Syria, the government in Riyadh, as well as the authorities in Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, supported Assad. There were several meetings between senior Syrian and Saudi officials in April and May , and the Saudis even provided million rials in assistance to Syria.

What is more, the Saudi media refrained from attacking Assad and his regime, even after the United States proclaimed the Syrian president illegitimate. As Riyadh sees things, the collapse of the Baath regime, despite its many defects, might open the door to something far worse and more dangerous.

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The Saudis' hope was that Assad would enact reforms, calm things down, and stem the spread of the protests against him. Second, given what was happening in Bahrain, where the Shiite protests were growing and Saudi Arabia had to send in troops to help manage the unrest in Manama, Riyadh needed Damascus as a broker with the Iranians in order to put a quick end to the crisis and keep it from developing into a full-fledged conflict. However, as the repression continued and the Syrian protests spread and became a revolt, the Saudi authorities increasingly showed their displeasure with Syria.

There was no call for Assad's resignation, however. Thus the Saudis continued to maneuver between contradictory interests: on the one hand, sharper criticism of Damascus; on the other, avoidance of further deterioration in relations. But Damascus's rejection of the idea, the tightening of its ties with Tehran, and continued violent repression of the protests, along with the failure of the Saudi efforts to defuse the situation, led Riyadh to take a different line on Assad. At this stage, the unfavorable tone of the street at home and the dramatic change in international opinion influenced Saudi Arabia's decision to ramp up the volume of its critical utterances about the situation in Syria.

The Gulf Cooperation Council 32 joined the condemnation; on August 6, it issued an extraordinary call for an "immediate end to violence To highlight Saudi Arabia's leading role in the steps being taken against Syria, Abdullah added: "Today, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stands before its historical responsibility towards her brothers, demanding introduction and activation of reforms that are not entwined with promises, but actually achieved, so that our brothers the citizens in Syria can feel them in their lives as dignity, glory and pride.

Once Riyadh had taken the decision to publicly denounce Assad, it also decided to accelerate the moves in this direction. At first, Damascus accepted the ideas for an end to the violence: the removal of its military and security forces from population centers, the immediate release of all political prisoners, dialogue between the regime and the opposition, and the dispatch of an Arab League observer force to Syria. When Saudi Arabia realized that Assad had violated the agreement twice and was making no effort to improve matters, it recalled its representatives from the observer force on January 22, The rest of the observers left Syria six days later.

Three weeks after that, on February 12, , addressing a special gathering of the Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, the Saudi foreign minister called on the Arab League "to take decisive measures to resolve the Syrian impasse … and … for more serious actions against Damascus. The Saudis did not stop at words alone but also took action. In May , Riyadh decided to pay salaries to the members of the Free Syrian Army in order to encourage defections from Assad's forces.

The month before, in April, representatives of the Syrian opposition had met with Saudi intelligence officers in Europe and Turkey to discuss the rebels' needs. Riyadh turned a blind eye to Syrian businessmen affiliated with the opposition who were raising funds in the Gulf to purchase arms and ammunition that were then smuggled into Syria by the pro-Saudi groups in Lebanon.

The royal house soon found itself more deeply involved in arming the rebels. Prince Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz, the king's son and deputy foreign minister, visited Ankara and asked to establish a center in the city of Adana, about kilometers from the Turkish-Syrian border, to facilitate the transfer of weapons and communications equipment to the rebels similar centers were established in Istanbul and in Jordan. Military equipment purchased with the Saudi funds was loaded onto dozens of transport planes, flown from the Croatian capital of Zagreb to Jordan and then smuggled into Syria.

A closer look reveals how Saudi support to the rebels falls into stages that parallel the deterioration of relations between Riyadh and Damascus. In the first stage, and early , Riyadh saw Assad's downfall as its main objective. With this in mind, it gave the bulk of its support to the Free Syrian Army, hoping the FSA could serve as the core of a stable government after the fall of the Baath. In this period, the Saudis supported only groups affiliated with the FSA and other secular organizations.

But the implementation of this policy was problematic; armed factions soon emerged that pretended to have an anti-jihadist ideology in order to win Saudi favor and money. In addition, in the jumble of coalitions in the war zone, groups that Riyadh did not want to bolster indirectly benefited from the arms assistance because they cooperated with those the Saudis did support.

The Saudis supported it because it accepted the authority of the Free Syrian Army and was ideologically opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, the Brigades cooperated with both the Brotherhood and organizations that supported the establishment of an Islamic state, such as Jabhat al-Nusra. The Saudis' unwillingness to support the Muslim Brotherhood and organizations with a similar ideology became the nub of the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the other Gulf state providing assistance to the Syrian rebels.


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  • Whereas the Saudis saw the Brotherhood as a radical and dangerous rising Islamic force, Qatar sought an alliance with the organization as a way for Doha to become a significant player in the Middle East — at Riyadh's expense.