Saudi Arabia & Syria 

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Saudi Arabia and Syria

Opening statement:

Saudi Arabia is an ancient powerful country with a high standard of living, and a strong monarchy. Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of all of Islam, and is the home of two of the  holiest sites in the Islamic world. About 3 million Muslims participate in the sacred pilgrimage, known as the Hajj, which takes place at these sites. We, Saudi Arabia, support the Syrian rebels because we want to see a government that satisfies the majority of the people. Syria is a predominantly Sunni population and it makes sense that they should have a government with similar views. Assad and his government are cruelly oppressing the Sunni people from their rights. He is watching out only for himself and those who share the name Assad. We see ourselves as the protector of the Sunni majority in Syria,  and our people are driven to help and support the Syrian rebels. For these reasons we believe Assad should peacefully step down, before force is necessary.

Saudi Arabia's government is very different than Syria's government

-Saudi Arabia:
Gov: Monarchy
-Religion: Muslim (Sunni: 85%, Shi’a 15%)

-Gov. Authoritarian regime, Baath party, Dictator with election (Leader is a Shi’a in a Sunni majority)
-Religion: muslim (Sunni: 74%, Shia: 15% (including leader))


Saudi Arabia has a good diplomacy with the West including the US


  • Syrian Relations: Saudi Arabia (trade) U.A.E, Turkey, Iraq, Iran (closest ally), (not good relations with West)


  • Saudi Arabia Relations: U.S. (good relations with West), Turkey, Qatar


  • Syria’s violence against its own people made the Arab League and the organization of the Islamic cooperation suspender membership. Saudi Arabia believes that the new government is put in place Syria can join the Arab League again.


  • These disagreements were put to rest when president Obama began a broad 10 year program to sell $60 billion in arms to the Saudis. (NYT Barnard January 11, 2013)


Saudi Arabia and Syria both have huge Sunni majorities but Syria has Shia leader

1. What is the state of relations between your government and the government of Syria?

  • -Saudi Arabia opposes Syria’s Pres. Assad and his government (Frontline: The Battle for Syria)
  • -Saudi Arabia wants to see a Sunni led government in Syria.
  • -wants the government to match the country’s majority (Sunni)
  • Syria was a trading partner of Saudi Arabia in the past
  • Their government is plagued by problems inside their borders and with their neighbors. The Saudis have been dealing with Iran over that nation's nuclear program. Saudi Arabia and Iran have a history of not getting along. (NYT Sanger October 14, 2012)


  • Saudi Arabia and Syria used to be members of the Arab League but Syria got thrown out. (NYT Chivers October 14, 2012)


  • Relations between Syria and Saudi Arabia have become diplomatically strained because of Saudi Arabia's support for the rebels. Saudi Arabia supports the removal of Bashar al-Assad from power. (NYT Sanger October 14, 2012)

Saudi Arabia wants to keep their monarchy form of government and good relations with its neighbors including the US

  • The Saudis are afraid that the people they rule over will want a democracy inside Saudi Arabia instead of being ruled by a royal family. (NYT Chivers October 14, 2012)
  • Saudi Arabia is attempting to increase their power and control and the Middle East by ensuring that monarchies stay in power in neighboring countries. (NYT Chivers October 14, 2012)
  • If Saudi Arabia wants to keep their people happy under the monarchy they will have to spend a lot of money to enrich the lives of their citizens and make them feel like a democracy would only put them further down.(NYT Sanger October 14, 2012)
  •  In May 2012 Saudi Arabia formed the Gulf Cooperation Council with many of its neighboring countries including Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Saudis have used this Council to try and band together countries against the Democratic trend. (NYT Barnard January 11, 2013)
  • Saudi Arabia has vast oil supplies that the United States depends upon heavily. In January 2011 there was unrest in Tunisia and Egypt as both countries found their leaders gone. King Abdullah spent some of his reserves to the tune of $130 billion to insulate the royal family from growing unrest in Saudi Arabia. (NYT Sanger October 14, 2012)
  • Also putting pressure on the monarchy of Saudi Arabia is the Arab spring, an alliance of moderate Arab states that are willing to work with the US and promote peace with Israel.
  • Saudi officials were unhappy with President Obama’s handling of the new regime in Egypt and the United States was angry in March 2011 when the Saudis sent 1000 troops to Bahrain to put down protest by the Shiites. (NYT Sanger October 14, 2012)
  • Saudi Arabia is helping neighboring countries that also have monarchies put down uprisings. For example Saudi troops came into Bahrain last year to help the monarchy quell an uprising by the country's Shiite majority. They want to do this by adding Morocco and Jordanian kingdoms. Saudi Arabia is attempting to add Egypt to their group as well. (NYT Chivers October 14, 2012)

2. What are the main factors affecting relations with Syria (trade, religion including Sunni-Shia divide, proximity as in shared border, type of government, history, current conflict with within Syria, etc.)?

- Saudi Arabia and Syria Don’t share a border but violence and Syria is leading to a civil war which may bring outside involvement from the UN and the United States which Saudi Arabia does not want.(Frontline)

-Saudi Arabia is supporting the Syrian Rebels because the new government the rebels will form more closely resembles what Saudi Arabia would like to see in the Middle East(Frontline)  

-Saudi Arabia sees itself as the protector of Syria’s Sunni majority in a country governed by Mr. Assad’s Alawite minority (Citing U.S Fears: Arab Allies Limit Syrian Rebel Aid)

-Syria is not treating its people well
The UN announced in 2005 that 30% of the Syrian population lives in poverty and 11.4% live below the subsistence level. (BBC World review 2013).


3. What recommendations do we (our country) have regarding what we think should happen in the Syrian civil war?

-Since we support rebels, we think Assad needs to go (time for a new leader) Leader should coincide with majority


-Many believe that Saudis are secretly providing money to extremist groups to try to stop changes happening in the Arab world. (NYT Barnard January 11, 2013

-many in Saudi Arabia want to take a stronger stand [give more money and heavier arms to Syrian rebels (U.S. has discouraged this because it fears the heavier weapons could end up in the hands of terrorists))

-Saudi Arabia will not go out on their own and take direct military action at this time (feels without the help of the UN and the US, direct military action would be unwise at this time)
Saudi Arabia would like to establish a new government in Syria that will appeal to Saudis interests without plunging the region into violent turmoil. Saudi Arabia has closed its embassy in Syria (NYT Barnard January 11, 2013)

What should happen to Assad?
-It is time for Assad to step down (he should be kicked out of office and a new government should form)


-If Assad does not peacefully step down he should be driven out by force if necessary


-“You can give the rebels AKs, but you can’t stop the Syrian regime’s military with AKs,” said Khalid al-Attiyah, a state minister for foreign affairs in Qatar. Providing the rebels with heavier weapons “has to happen,” he added. “But first we need the backing of the United States, and preferably the U.N.”

What should the future government of Syria look like?

  • Saudi Arabia feels that the future government of Syria should be Sunni led


  • Saudi Arabia is all about business and a stable self-supporting government in Syria would stabilize much of the Middle East


  • -Stable self supporting government that satisfies the majority of their people

 -Should Assad go?

·         Yes it is time for Assad to step down.

·         We in Saudi Arabia have been funneling money and small arms to Syria's rebels because we feel it is time for new leader in Syria.

·         Saudi Arabia sees itself as the protector of Syria's Sunni majority in a country governed by Mr. Assads Alawite minority.

·         Assad has not taking care of his people and hundreds of thousands go hungry. 30% of the population is living in extreme poverty (BBC world View 2013)

·         Syria is using helicopters and warplanes to kill rebels and unarmed civilians - over 30,000 people have died in Syria

·         300,000 refugees

·         Syria’s conflict has affected almost countries in the region (especially Turkey, Lebanon,  Iraq, and Jordan)

·         Iranian military is assisting Assad’s military

·         S.A. doesn’t want weapons to fall into the hands of terrorists (al-qaeda attacks were worse in S.A. than the US)

·         ”If the killing continues, the youth will not listen to wise voices. They will find someone who will encourage them, and they will go.” Salman al-Awda, prominent cleric

-What kind of pressure is appropriate?

·         So far Saudi Arabia has given money and small arms but many are calling for a larger effort to overthrow the Syrian government.

·         Saudi Arabia is also paying the salaries of many affected Syrian officers and financing medical assistance to Syrian refugees.

·         Saudi Arabia is sending weapons including Kalashnikov (AK- 47 semi- automatic rifle and modification, Ammunition,)

·         Supporting which groups: Rebels [Islamic Jihadists, Rafik Hariri Brigade,Liwaa al-Islam(major funding,most powerful),  ]-“The opposition groups that are receiving the most of the lethal aid are exactly the ones we don’t want to have it,” said one American official familiar with the outlines of those findings, commenting on an operation that in American eyes has increasingly gone awry.
(article: Rebel Arms Flow Said to Benefit Jihadists, NYT)

·         U.S is worried that when Saudi and others ship big guns in al-Qaeda (who are also supporting weapons) will acquire weapons

-What should regional powers do?

Many in Saudi Arabia want to take a stronger stance and give more money and heavier arms to Syria. Saudi Arabia has been discouraged by the United States which fears heavier weapons could end up in the hands of terrorists.


Saudi Arabia will wait for the United States and the United Nations to get involved.

-Should support be given to groups?

Saudi Arabia is doing what we can to help the rebels to defeat Assad. The Syrian government has tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets. The UN has warned of rising tensions and has urged those supplying weapons on both sides to stop doing so. Although Saudi Arabia is deeply concerned we need the support of the UN and the United States.

-Should you take direct military action?

Saudi Arabia feels without the help of the UN and the United States direct military action is unwise at this time. Saudi Arabia would support the United States and the UN in their efforts. Saudi Arabia will not go out on their own and take direct military action at this time.

-Safe zones?

·         Yes, safe zones could be a definite help for the rebels and civilians. Safe zones will allow refugees to find help and support, rebels will be able to better organize, the wounded could get medical treatment, and civilians could live without the fear of get shot at or bombed from above.

·          Many countries including NATO, UN, and ourselves support the idea of a safe zone. Saudi Arabia feels that safe zones are a good idea but we need the United States and the UN to support us in helping provide this for Syria.

·         The Syrian dictator has refused to loosen his ruthless hold on power and he has shown an unwillingness to and internal bloodshed. If the United States used air power to impose a safe zone in northern Syria they could add a partial no-fly zone and create a protected space for the civilians to find refuge and humanitarian aid.

·          Saudi Arabia could provide critical training, equipment, and humanitarian aid in the safe zones.

·         Saudi Arabia has provided money to Jordan and Turkey for the care of Syrian refugees


Arab Spring View
Even though we ourselves have had an uprising on our hands, or government changed for the greater good of our people.

Defense Concerning our Arab Spring


·         We are not proud of that part of our past, but every nation has a flaw. Having a small population spread over all of Arabia, we had overlooked our minority, Shiite.


·         We heard their demands, and even though violence did occur, our government and King Abdullah have been compromising and granting requests.


·         We have seen that our people were unhappy and tried to change for them, instead of utilizing violence for all that oppose us.


·         We in Saudi Arabia are modern and understand a good solid economy and strong Islamic roots will prepare our people for the future no matter their religious affiliations.


 We have even granted women the right to vote in the next election

"I don't believe that liberal democracy will be put in place tomorrow but we have to start somewhere. Equality, the rule of law - the country is ready for this. We have to start the process" ~Dr Tawfik Alsaif, dissident campaigner


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