Saudi Arabia’s king has condemned a brutal crackdown on protests in Syria, recalling the country’s ambassador to Damascus and calling on the Syrian government to implement political reforms.”What is happening in Syria is not acceptable for Saudi Arabia,” King Abdullah said in a written statement on Monday.”Syria should think wisely before it’s too late and issue and enact reforms that are not merely promises but actual reforms,” he said. “Either it chooses wisdom on its own or it will be pulled down into the depths of turmoil and loss.”The Saudi monarch’s comments came a day after the Gulf Co-operation Council urged Syria to “end the bloodshed” and the Arab League, which had been silent since the uprising began, said it was “alarmed” by the situation and called for the immediate halt of all violence.
The US envoy to Damascus, Robert Ford, who returned to Syria on Thursday, also said in a US television interview on Sunday that Washington would “try to ratchet up the pressure” on Assad’s regime.Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs in Washington, told Al Jazeera the decision to recall the Saudi ambassador was “a watershed moment” and “foretaste of things to come”.”Saudi Arabia has been supporting elements in the Syrian uprising since the beginning, but now this role has been made public, it was secret until recently, now the Saudis are basically increasing the heat on the Syrian regime and this will result in an increase in clashes and protests inside Syria,” he said.”The Syrian regime is really scared of losing Saudi Arabia as a friendly nation.”
However, Ahmed said Saudi Arabia was “not in a position to give such advice to Syria in terms of reform”.”Saudi Arabia itself lacks these reforms and has invaded Bahrain to stop a revolution and so it does not have that legitimacy. However, Saudi believes this is the right moment to publicly intervene and give the uprising a huge boost because they now see the success of this uprising to be real, especially after the Turkish position, the GCC and Arab League statements, all of which were preludes to the Saudi position,” he said.
Joseph Keshishian, an expert on Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, said Riyadh’s decision to step up pressure on the Syrian regime was sparked in part by the growing power struggle in the region between Saudi Arabia and Iran.”The greater picture is the struggle that exists right now between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Obviously Iran is providing a great deal of assistance to the Syrian government,” he told Al Jazeera.”The Saudis are reacting to the incursions that the Iranian government seems to be perpetually engaged in throughout the heartland of the Arab world.”
He also said the Saudi condemnation was made in reaction to mounting public frustration in the Gulf kingdom over the Syrian government’s efforts to crush peaceful protests.”The Saudi government is essentially starting to realise that unless they take the leadership position against the Syrian government within the GCC, the public will turn against them.”The Saudis are very aware and conscious of public opinion inside the country.” – aljazeera