Saudi officials are preparing to pay the salaries of the Free Syria Army as a means of encouraging mass defections from the military and increasing pressure on the Assad regime, the Guardian has learned
The move, which has been discussed between Riyadh and senior officials in the US and Arab world, is believed to be gaining momentum as a recent flush of weapons sent to rebel forces by Saudi Arabia and Qatar starts to make an impact on battlefields in Syria.
The plan centres on paying the FSA in either US dollars or euros, meaning their salaries would be restored to their pre-revolution levels, or possibly increased.
fficials from Washington to London and Brussels have warned of grave risks to the region which may follow the fall of Damascus
Intelligence officials say a power vacuum would provide an attractive environment for militants who espouse a global jihad world view. "The next three to six months are crucial in Syria," one official said. "The ingredients are right for them [jihadists] to turn up and start acting decisively. That would not be a good outcome.".
Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar were all allies of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad until several months into the uprising, which now poses a serious threat to his family's 42-year rule over the country. All three states have become increasingly hostile as the revolt has continued, with Saudi Arabia in February describing the suggestion to arm rebel groups as an "excellent idea" and Qatar having offered exile to Assad and his family.
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