Thursday, February 11, 2016


"Saudi Arabia is discussing plans to deploy ground troops with regional allies, including Turkey, for a safe zone in Syria, in a last-ditch effort to keep alive a rebellion at risk of collapse as a Russian-backed offensive by Syrian regime forces encroaches on the northern province of Aleppo. Although western officials have dismissed the plans as lacking credibility, they are a sign of the desperation that many of Syria’s opposition backers feel towards what looks like an increasingly bleak outcome in the war. Two people familiar with Saudi plans told the Financial Times that high-ranking Gulf officials are in Riyadh meeting Turkish officials to discuss options for deploying ground troops to head a coalition of fighters inside Syria.... President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, bolstered by Iranian-funded Shia militias, advanced last week into opposition-held territory in Aleppo’s northern countryside under the cover of Russian air strikes. The violence prompted thousands of civilians to flee, exacerbating the already vast humanitarian crisis.... The plans appear to be led by Riyadh’s defence minister and deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, whose involvement makes some diplomats reluctant to rule out an attempted intervention. “I see all kinds of red flags. But there is a new level of unpredictability and erratic behaviour in the new Saudi government,” said one western diplomat. “With Mohammed bin Salman, you just don’t know.' "
Mehul Srivastava, Erika Solomon, Simeon Kerr and Geoff Dyer, "Saudis make plans to deploy ground troops in Syria". The Financial Times. 9 February 2016 in
"Saudi Arabia has offered for the first time to send ground troops to Syria to fight Islamic State, its defence ministry said on Thursday. “The kingdom is ready to participate in any ground operations that the coalition (against Isis) may agree to carry out in Syria,” said military spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri during an interview with al-Arabiya TV news. Saudi sources told the Guardian that thousands of special forces could be deployed, probably in coordination with Turkey.... Asiri suggested that recent progress against Houthi rebels in the war in Yemen was allowing Saudi Arabia to free up forces for deployment in Syria. A decision could be taken at a Nato summit in Brussels next week. “There is frustration with the current efforts put in place to fight Daesh,” said the Saudi analyst Mohammed Alyahya. “Increasingly, it seems that none of the forces on the ground in Syria (besides rebel groups) is willing to fight Isis. The Assad regime, Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah are preoccupied with fighting Bashar al-Assad’s opposition with one ostensible goal: to keep Bashar al-Assad in power, irrespective of the cost in innocent Syrian lives'".
Ian Black, "Saudi Arabia offers to send ground troops to Syria to fight Isis ". The Guardian. 4 February 2016 in
One does not have to be especially anti-Saudi (by the bye: is there anyone who can be characterized as 'pro-Saudi'?) to view the news stories which are coming out of the region with some degree of skepticism. Why so? Simply put, the Saudi army with or without its Gulf allies has never prove to be erste-klasse soldiers. Nor has Saudi Arabia ever provided the world with any examples of its military being able to fight abroad successfully against a fully equipped and trained opponent as they would find in Syria (Assad's forces, Hezbollah and Persian forces). Certainly the performance of the Saudi-lead force in Yemen in the recent past, with its overwhelming reliance on air-power, can hardily said to provide an example of an outstanding military performance. Something to keep in mind, especially in light of the dominance that the Russian air force currently exercises in most parts of Syria. With the recent gains by Assad forces in Aleppo, heavily backed by Russian air support and Persia / Hezbollah ground forces, the diplomatic noise that it coming out of Riyadh is I would submit more for domestic and internal Saudi Arabian consumption than anything else. Which is not to gainsay the fact that the current regime in Saudi Arabia is more inclined, once again for primat der Innenpolitik to be seen as more of an active player in the diplomatic and military chessboard in the Near & Middle East. Time will of course tell.


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