A secret Turkish-Saudi cooperation pact has been behind many of the recent rebel victories in Syria, the AP reports:
The Turkish-Saudi agreement has led to a new joint command center in the northeastern Syrian province of Idlib. There, a coalition of groups — including Nusra and other Islamist brigades such as Ahrar al-Sham that Washington views as extremist — are progressively eroding Assad’s front. The rebel coalition also includes more moderate elements of the Free Syrian Army that have received U.S. support in the past.
At the end of March, the alliance — calling itself “Conquest Army” — took the city of Idlib, followed by the strategic town of Jisr al-Shughour and then a government military base.
Al Nusra is, of course, the Syrian branch of al Qaeda. The AP reports that Turkish sources say that “mutual frustration with what they consider American indecision” drove the Turks and the Saudis together on this, and that U.S. officials for their part have expressed concern.
Given the preexisting differences between the Turkish government and the Saudis, this is unlikely to be a long-lasting alliance. But in the short term, it will certainly result in strengthening some rebel groups in Syria that the U.S. worries about. By not moving forcefully early on, the U.S. has left the field open to others—whose ideas about what groups should get money, weapons and training may make Washington nervous.