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Saudi Arabia plans to pitch Obama for regime change in Syria

Saudi Arabia has recently taken steps to discourage its nationals from joining jihadist forces in Syria, as it plans an appeal to US President Barack Obama to become more engaged in Saudi-backed efforts to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
People arrive for a meeting between the King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rawdat al-Khuraim January 5, 2014.  REUTERS/Pool/Brendan Smialowski    (SAUDI ARABIA - Tags: POLITICS) - RTX172YX

Saudi Arabia is belatedly taking steps to discourage Saudi citizens from traveling to Syria to join al-Qaeda in the war against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. King Abdullah this month issued a royal decree banning travel abroad to join jihadist movements, and imposing jail terms of up to 20 years for violating the decree.

Estimates of the number of Saudis fighting in Syria range as high as 2,500. Some are hardened veterans of earlier jihads in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq. A few are compatriots of Osama bin Laden. Others traveled to Syria from the kingdom, despite individual travel bans imposed for dissident activities at home. Some traveled directly through major Saudi airports, leading many observers to conclude they were encouraged by the authorities to leave the kingdom and go fight Assad. For over two years, the Saudi government seemed to turn a blind eye to travel by its citizens — even political dissidents — to Syria.

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