Saudis funding Sunni army in Syria to thwart Iran and topple Assad

Free Syrian Army fighters cover their ears as they fire a rocket towards forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad in Deraa countryside May 11, 2015. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Faqir

A newly assertive Saudi Arabia is pushing arms and millions of dollars into a Sunni fighting force in Syria to defeat President Bashar al-Assad and curb Iranian influence in the region, having given up on the US ever doing so.

The Saudi monarchy has put aside long-standing differences with Sunni regional powers in Qatar and Turkey to boost the military potency of a new coalition of rebel groups, known as Jaish al-Fateh (the Army of Conquest).

Rebel commanders have reported an influx of new weaponry, particularly TOW and Konkurs anti-tank missiles, as well as funding directed at hardline Islamist groups such as Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam, which operate under the Jaish al-Fateh umbrella.

The move comes amid increasing Saudi exasperation with US President Barack Obama over his insistence that defeating Islamic State is his first priority, not defeating the Syrian dictator and the Iranian-funded proxy Hezbollah.

The Saudi government opposes the US nuclear deal with Iran, and is hugely concerned at Tehran’s interference in the Syrian civil war under the guise of its powerful Hezbollah militia, along with its sponsoring of Houthi rebels in Yemen…