CNN’s Arabic division in Dubai reports Saudi Arabia is planning to invade Syria and has mobilized 150,000 troops in the kingdom.
Two sources cited by CNN say “trainees” preparing for the effort are from Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Morocco, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Turkey. Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei will also participate.
The invasion scheduled for March will be led by the Saudis and Turks and will originate in Turkey, according to CNN.
Last week the US Defense boss Ash Carter said he welcomed a Saudi offer to participate in ground operations. “That kind of news is very welcome,” he told reporters while on a visit to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
Carter will meet in Brussels this week with the Saudis. The Saudis confirmed they will also be in Brussels to discuss details of the invasion.
Last week Saudi Brig. Gen. Ahmad Asiri told the United States his country is willing to send troops into Syria. On Friday Saudi officials announced the formation of the Sunni coalition and said military exercises will be held in preparation for an invasion.
Iran mocked the Saudi plan. “They claim they will send troops (to Syria), but I don’t think they will dare do so,” Maj. Gen. Ali Jafari told reporters in Tehran, according to Iran’s semiofficial Fars news agency. “They have a classic army and history tells us such armies stand no chance in fighting irregular resistance forces.”
Middle East experts believe the move by Saudi Arabia is not about defeating the Islamic State but confronting Iran.
Iranian security and intelligence services are advising and assisting Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in his fight against US and Gulf Emirate proxies. In addition to sending the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Quds Force to fight on the ground in Syria, Lebanese Hezbollah has taken on a direct combat role. Iraqi Shi‘a brigades are also involved in the fighting.
“Saudi Arabia’s strategic goals in Syria are very different from ours. And any new introduction of foreign ground troops into Syria would be greatly complicating efforts to focus attention on ISIS as the threat,” Stephen Kinzer, a senior fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs, told US News & World Report. “The Saudis know what their goal is. They want to overthrow Assad. Period.”
“I would consider any introduction of foreign ground troops [into Syria] to be destabilizing. You’re pushing Saudi Arabian power closer and closer to Iran,” Kinzer added. “That kind of ground deployment would certainly undermine the already weak efforts toward peaceful resolution of this conflict.”
Last week UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura postponed Syria peace talks brokered by the internationalist organization. The State Department has blamed Russia “in part” for the failure of the talks.
The proxy forces have refused to participate in talks unless the al-Assad government stops attempting to regain territory overtaken by al-Nusra, IS and other jihadist groups.
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