US, Saudi Arabia smuggle satellite phones to Syrian rebels
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 26, 2011, 12:54 PM (GMT+02:00)
Iranian intelligence experts in Damascus have been disrupting the Syrian opposition movement's telephone and Internet links with the outside world and among fellow-protesters in the country. To bridge the communications gap, the US and Saudi Arabia have in the last two weeks smuggled thousands of satellite phones into Syria and put them in the hands of opposition leaders, debkafile reports.
The new phones will also overcome the latest Syrian steps, also on the advice of their Iranian advisers, to slow down the speed of the Internet to impede the transmission of images – most of all live video - of brutal attacks by Syrian security and military forces on protesters.
US and Saudi intelligence services are picking up the tab for the satellite phones and have given the providers a free hand to place no limits on their use.
This is the first time the Obama administration has stepped in with direct assistance for the Syrian opposition in its drive to unseat Syrian President Bashar Assad - in way, moreover, that challenges Iran's contribution to the regime's survival.
Monday, July 25, Washington also ramped up its criticism of the Assad regime: "The behavior of security forces, including such other barbaric shootings, wide scale arrests of young men and boys, brutal torture and other abuses of basic human rights, is reprehensible," said a State Department spokesman.
The Saudis have gone still further: On July 19, a new television station "Shabab Syria" (Syrian Youth), financed by Riyadh, went on the air and began broadcasting anti-Assad opposition's messages to all parts of the country.
In a statement to Iranian news media, the Syrian ambassador to Tehran Hamed Hassan denied that Saudi Arabia was supplying the Syrian opposition with arms. He insisted that relations between the two countries were good, but then added: "Certain people and groups in Saudi Arabia are providing the Syrian opposition financial and media assistance, or issuing fatwas which fan the flames of sedition in the country."