The news that the “Saudis Agree to Provide Syrian Rebels With Mobile Antiaircraft Missiles,” as reported by the Wall Street Journal (article copied below), will change the battle field in Syria.
The newly formed “Southern Front” led by Bashar al-Zoubi, will be the main recipient. The WSJ says Zoubi has a direct line to Western and Arab intelligence agencies in a military operations room in Amman. He will be the primary recipient of these new, more lethal weapons. He went to Geneva for the talks with the Assad regime.
Zoubi was included in my “Syria’s Top Five Insurgent Leaders.” He was #5. That ranking will now likely change. Here is what I wrote about him on Oct. 1, 2013:
5: Bashar Al-Zoubi, the Commander of Liwa al-Yarmouk in the south of Syria around Deraa. The Supreme Military Command (the US backed leadership of the Free Syrian Army) has named him the commander of the Southern Front. He is the only member of this top-five who has not expressed a wish to see an Islamist Syria.
Michael Weiss wrote this of Zoubi in Aug. 2013
Zoubi (aka Abu Fadi) is a wealthy businessman who made his fortune in the tourism industry and hails from a clan in Syria that numbers as many as 160,000. (The al-Zoubis are, in fact, transnational, with some residing in Syria and others residing in Jordan, which makes them particularly well-placed as interlocutors between Amman and the opposition in Deraa and Damascus. In a sense, they strongly resemble the Jarba clan, which has retained prominence in both Syria and Saudi Arabia, and whose most recognizable member is the current, Saudi-backed head of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad Jarba.)
Abu Fadi told me in a Skype interview that he’s got 4-5,000 men under his direct command in the al-Horan region. In total, 30-40,000 troops subscribe to the SMC, albeit without anything like a top-down command-and-control structure. The SMC is effectively a political and coordination apparatus.
I asked Abu Fadi why the south was relatively free of al-Qaeda in comparison with the north. “The only reason folks starting fighting with Jabhat al-Nusra,” he said, “was the lack of any real support to the FSA, weapons and ammunition being delivered to us.” Mostly, the FSA has been successful from Damascus to Deraa because of its integration with local tribes and communities.