Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which has recently reopened its embassy in Damascus, assisted the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad in assassinating leaders of opposition commanders, Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak reported. The Gulf States, who backed opposition fighters during the early phase of the Syrian civil war, are said to have aided in the killing of 80 opposition fighters between 2012 and 2014.
Details of the collaboration between Saudi and UAE with the Syrian regime were revealed during an exclusive interview with Mahmoud Sulayman, a commander of the Mohammad Al-Fateh brigade (an opposition group that was formed in 2015 and has close ties with Istanbul). He said that the locations of many opposition commanders who were killed during bombing raids carried out by the Syrian regime were shared with Al-Assad by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.
Revealing details of the way in which opposition commanders were located, Sulayman said that the “the passwords of the UAE-made ‘Thuraya’ and the British-made ‘Inmarsat’ satellite phones, which were given to group commanders by the UAE and Saudi Arabia, were shared with Damascus, thus this information led to the killings of dozens of opposition commanders.”
Amongst those killed by the Syrian regime and its allies include prominent opposition leaders including Zahran Alloush, commander of Jaish Al-Islam, Hassan Aboud and Khalid Al-Suri of Ahrar Al-Sham and Abdel Qadwr Saleh of Liwa Tawhid. These groups are known to have fought deadly battles against Al-Qaeda in Syria.
The revelations were made as Gulf countries take steps to normalise relations with a bitter rival in the region. The UAE was one of the first Arab countries to reopen its embassy in Damascus, marking a diplomatic boost for President Bashar Al-Assad. Following the opening, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash branded the Syrian opposition as “terror elements”.
Details of an elaborate plan to hide Al-Assad’s fortune in the UAE were revealed in the report. According to Yeni Safak at the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Al-Assad laundered $20 million to Abu Dhabi. Accounts were opened under the names of three Syrian businessmen and were held under Emirati protection. Al-Assad’s mother Anisa and sister Bushra fled to the UAE in 2012, and a portion of this money was transferred to them.