The US-led coalition that has allegedly been striking terrorists in Syria for the past two years has reportedly discussed the potential of adding a ground component to the campaign.
Saudi Arabian Defense Minister Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud and his counterparts from the 65-member coalition addressed the likelihood “two weeks ago in Brussels,” the Saudi minister’s advisor Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri said on Monday.
“It was discussed at the political level but it wasn’t discussed as a military mission,” he said. “Once this is organized, and decided how many troops and how they will go and where they will go, we will participate in that.”
The coalition has been conducting air raids inside Syria since September 2014. The airstrikes have no authorization from the Syrian government or the UN and have fallen severely short of uprooting Takfiri Daesh terrorists, their declared target.
Saudi Arabia has recently been jostling for involvement in a potential ground intervention in Syria. Earlier, Riyadh offered to contribute special forces to such a mission and was met, according to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, with Washington’s “very supportive and very positive” reaction.
Washington itself has deployed special forces to eastern Syria in what it claims is an effort to shore up local militias against Daesh.
Asseri also said Saudi Arabia was now ready for what he called striking Daesh from Turkey’s southern Incirlik air base, where four Saudi fighter jets arrived last week.
Turkey, another member of the US-led coalition, has also urged allies to launch ground operations in Syria, where, conspicuously, Kurdish groups whom Ankara considers adversaries are fighting Daesh.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said Ankara and Riyadh could launch a ground operation in Syria “if there is a strategy.”
Jabbing at the truce?
Both Riyadh and Ankara have, meanwhile, been warned against shaking up an agreement on a cessation of hostilities that came into effect in Syria last Saturday. The agreement has been planned by the United States and Russia, which has been hitting terrorist targets in Syria as part of a separate aerial campaign.
A day following the implementation of the truce, the Saudi foreign minister said Riyadh would consider an alternate plan if it became clear that Syria and Russia are not serious about the ceasefire. The Syrian Foreign Ministry responded by saying that the remarks are clearly aimed at derailing the truce.
A Russian military official, meanwhile, warned about military buildup by Turkey on its common border with Syria and its shelling of the Syrian territory.
Lieutenant General Sergei Kuralenko, the head of Russia’s coordination center at the Hmeimim air base in the western Syrian province of Latakia, said the concentration of the military forces in the border area was “obviously provocative steps that could lead to a breakdown of the ceasefire and the peace process in the Syrian Arab Republic.”