RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — The United States and Saudi Arabia on Monday presented a united front to Iran and Syria. They warned Syrian President Bashar Assad that they will boost support to rebels fighting to oust him unless he steps down and put Iran's leadership on notice that time is running out for a diplomatic resolution to concerns about its nuclear program.
After a series of meetings in the Riyadh, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters at a joint news conference that Assad must understand that recent scud missile attacks on regime foes in the city of Aleppo would not be tolerated by the international community and that he had lost all claim to be Syria's legitimate leader.
Saud, whose country along with other Gulf states is widely believed to be supplying weapons to the Syrian rebels, said Saudi Arabia could not ignore the brutality Assad is inflicting on his people, even after two years of escalating violence that has claimed 70,000 lives. He said that history had never seen a government use strategic missiles against its own people. "This cannot go on," he said. "He has lost all authority."
In his discussions with Kerry, Saud said he had "stressed the importance of enabling the Syrian people to exercise its legitimate right to defend itself against the regime's killing machine." Saud also decried the fact that the Assad continued to get weapons from "third parties," a veiled reference to Russia and Iran, which have backed the regime through the conflict.
"Saudi Arabia will do everything within its capacity, and we do believe that what is happening in Syria is a slaughter, a slaughter of innocents" he said. "We can't bring ourselves to remain quiet. Morally we have a duty." The Obama administration has resisted appeals from the Syrian opposition to provide it with weapons and ammunitions over fears that they could fall into the hands of Islamist extremists who have gained support among Assad opponents. But Kerry sidestepped a question about whether the arms reportedly being supplied to the rebels by Saudi Arabia and others were a concern. Instead, he criticized Iran, Hezbollah and Russia by name for giving weaponry to the Assad regime.