Arabs Ask U.S. to Lead on Syria



WASHINGTON—The U.S.’s closest Arab allies are jointly pressing President Barack Obama to take the lead in bridging the Middle East’s divisions over Syria, traveling to Washington to personally drive home their fears that some of the region’s other leaders are strengthening radicals and prolonging President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

The coordinated message was delivered to Mr. Obama during separate White House meetings in recent weeks with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, the United Arab Emirates’ Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, according to senior U.S. and Arab officials familiar with the discussions.

The three royals’ message to Mr. Obama was a not-so-subtle slap at Qatar and Turkey—both of which, officials in these Arab countries believe, are funneling funds and possibly weapons to groups promoting political Islam and in particular to those aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood.

They are also concerned that aid from Qatar has bolstered the Al-Nusra Front, a powerful Syrian militia fighting Mr. Assad’s forces, which the U.S. has designated as a terrorist organization.

“We need someone to manage the players” in the region, said a senior Arab official involved in the discussions. “The U.S. and the president are the only ones who can put Qatar in its place.”

Qatari officials, who have publicly denied supporting the Al-Nusra Front, declined to comment Thursday. A Turkish official denied Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government was favoring Islamist parties in Syria or anywhere else in the region. “We just support the rights of the Syrian people,” the official said.

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