President Barack Obama meets with Saudi King Abdullah at Rawdat Khuraim, Saudi Arabia, Friday, March 28, 2014. Rawdat Khuraim is a green oasis located 62 miles northwest of the capital city of Riyadh and King Abdullah’s private desert encampment is located within Rawdat Khuraim. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
After U.S. President Barack Obama’s arrival in Saudi Arabia for meetings with King Abdullah, he has considered allowing shipments of new air defense systems to Syrian rebels, a U.S. official says. Saudi Arabia would likely welcome the Obama administration’s possible shift, as it has been urging the White House to allow the man-portable air-defense systems, known as “manpads,” into Syria.
So far, the U.S. has provided Syrian rebels with small weapons and ammunition, as well as humanitarian aid. The U.S. has been grappling for ways to boost the rebels, who have lost ground in recent months, allowing Syrian President Bashar Assad to regain a tighter grip on the war-torn nation. The actual manpad shipments could come from the Saudis, who have so far held off sending in the equipment because of U.S. opposition.
The president is not expected to announce a final decision on the matter during his overnight trip to the Gulf kingdom. U.S. and Saudi intelligence officials have been discussing the possibility of injecting manpads into the crisis for some time, including during a meeting in Washington earlier this year.
This report compiled with information from The Associated Press.