Last updated: 12 June, 2014

Syrian media blames “Saudi terrorism” for jihadist gains in Iraq

Syrian state media on Thursday accused Saudi Arabia and the West of complicity with the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant that has captured swathes of Iraqi territory.

Echoing claims often made by the regime and its supporters, state media said Saudi and other allies of the Syrian opposition were funding and arming jihadist groups like ISIL.

“Terrorism is spreading in front of the eyes of the western world… and alongside it are the fingers of Saudi Arabia, providing money and arms,” the Al-Thawra daily wrote.

“In the events in Iraq and the escalating terrorist campaign, no Western country is unaware of the role Saudi is playing in supporting terrorism and funding and arming different fronts and battles, both inside and outside Iraq and Syria,”

The editorial also accused Qatar and Turkey of playing similar roles backing extremists “according to US demands or Israeli desires.”

“The emergence of these organisations is not the result of a vacuum but rather long and clear support for terrorism… which the Gulf has dedicated its finances to expanding,” it said.

Such actions were taken “with Western knowledge and in most cases clear and explicit orders,” the newspaper continued.

Syria’s government deems all those seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad “terrorists” and has drawn no distinction between jihadists like ISIL and other rebel groups, despite ongoing fighting between the armed opposition in rebel territory.

It accuses Gulf nations including Saudi and Qatar of working with the West and arch-enemy Israel to fund “terrorists” seeking to overthrow the regime.

The newspaper’s comments came after ISIL, a former Al-Qaeda affiliate in Iraq that has expanded into Syria and cut ties with its onetime sponsor, seized the Iraqi towns of Mosul and Tikrit.

Its shock advance has prompted sharp concern, and comes despite the group’s ongoing battles against the regime and other rebel groups in Syria.

Some in Syria’s armed opposition welcomed ISIL to the battle when it first emerged there in 2013.

But its brutal tactics and abuses against civilians and rival rebels prompted a backlash that escalated into full-fledged battle between ISIL and a coalition of moderate and Islamist rebels backed by Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

Though it grew from Al-Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate, the group’s leader has disavowed ISIL and urged it to return to Iraq.