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Saudi Arabia Intervening in the Syrian Civil War Would Risk Russian Wrath
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The suggestion by Saudi Arabia that it send ground troops to Syria might mean the limited deployment of Saudi special forces alongside their US counterpart or a more ambitious intervention, probably in combination with the Turkish army.

The suggestion by Saudi Arabia that it send ground troops to Syria might mean the limited deployment of Saudi special forces alongside their US counterpart or a more ambitious intervention, probably in combination with the Turkish army.

It might also be a desperate last throw of the dice to rescue a bankrupt policy as it becomes clear that a five-year effort by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and the Gulf monarchies to overthrow Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad, has failed. The Syrian army is advancing on all fronts, backed by Russian air strikes, and has cut off opposition forces in Aleppo.

Saudi policy has become more aggressive and proactive over the past year as it has come under the control of the deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is seen as the power behind the Saudi throne. But much remains unclear about any proposed action by Saudi ground troops in the Syrian civil war, though the US has welcomed the idea of extra help from Saudi Arabia and anybody else who wants to join the fight against Isis.

If Saudi Arabia becomes involved in any more ambitious venture in Syria it is likely to be in association with Turkey; but Turkey’s policy towards sending its army across the border is ambivalent because to do so would be highly risky.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is appalled by the prospect that the war in Syria may conclude with Mr Assad still in power and the de facto Syrian Kurdish state of Rojava controlling half of the 550-mile long Syrian-Turkish border. Turkey particularly wants to prevent the Syrian Kurdish militia force, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), advancing west of the Euphrates and linking up with the Kurdish enclave of Afrin. This would cut the supply lines of Isis and the non-Isis opposition from Turkey to Aleppo.

Any move across the border into Syria by Turkey and allies such as Saudi Arabia has become more complicated, and potentially more costly, since the Russian military intervention on 30 September last year and the shooting down of a Russian bomber by a Turkish F-16 fighter on 24 November. A cross-border move might now provoke the use of Russian aircraft and anti-aircraft missile systems against the Turks and anybody else involved.


Armed intervention by the Sunni states could be presented as the creation of “a safe zone” for the tens of thousands of displaced people in the area, though it certainly would not be safe as it would be in the centre of a battle zone. There is the danger that any Saudi-Turkish ground assault would be in association with local opposition fighters grouped under the umbrella organisation Jaish al-Fatah; this is supported by Turkey and Saudi Arabia and is led by the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch, and by the ideologically similar Ahrar al-Sham.

If Saudi Arabia does intervene in this part of Syria it will become yet one more combatant in the most complex and dangerous battlefield in the world.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria 
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  1. Kiza says:

    Even for the extremely low British standards of journalism, this article is just amazingly empty. Financial cuts at MI6, Cocky?

    • Replies: @Brad Smith
  2. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    There is nothing remotely complicated about this situation as stated above. The simple fact is that the Sunni governments of the region want to replace the Shiaa governments and also get a pipeline going from Quatar to Europe through Syria and Turkey.

    Toward that end, paid Muslim killers from some 100 countries have flooded into Syria to accomplish that task. Where the hell is the complication?

    • Replies: @Jeff Davis
  3. @Kiza

    Actually he takes it for granted that the readers have at least a decent handle on what has been going on. I suppose that could be a mistake and he should assume we are all half wits.

    • Agree: Richard S
  4. @Anonymous

    Exactly. But let’s not forget Oded Yinon — foment discord along sectarian fault lines — facilitated by the US/UK under neocon control. Cui bono? Israel bono.

    Cliche? “Beating a dead horse”? Same old same old? Scapegoating the Jews yet again? Cue the familiar shriek of “Anti-Semitism”?

    Not at all. This is the world plagued by Zionism.

  5. Renoman says:

    The Saudi’s can’t even pick their nose and the Turks? Well no one believes a thing they say say. It’s all over but the crying.

  6. BillB says:

    Keep in mind that little Saudi Arabia has a military budget significantly higher than all of Russia.

    • Replies: @braciole
  7. If the US kept aloof and said to the Turks and Saudis, ok boys–do what you want to do, they wouldn’t unless the US provide backup protection. Forget about the sabre rattling that the Turks and Saudi are doing. What about the US? Are we really that nuts? We are the ones who hold the trump card whether WW III starts or not. The Russians have given us and our allies every opportunity to back off. But we are still hinged to a neo-con vision of the world. If we seriously start rocking and rolling with Russia on the battle field, those neo-cons will never get their “New American Century”.

  8. sund says:

    so many of the comments read like russian intelligence plants. work on your western colloquialisms guys. no one says “rocking and rolling” any more.

    • Replies: @5371
  9. 5371 says:

    No-one ever thought to accuse us of that before! You must be a very brilliant young man.

  10. blu says:

    The Saudis have to try to rescue the Saudi and Israeli special forces trapped in Aleppo embedded with the Jihadis of the Magic ISIS Army which is wherever and whenever the Israelis need it there

    Couldn’t have happened to nicer guys

  11. braciole says:

    That budget is spent on weapons to bribe certain western states (US, UK, France) to support the Saudi royal family. The Saudis barely know how to use those weapons at a day-to-day level let alone know how to use them at a tactical level as is demonstrated in Yemen where a few tribesman with a “defence budget” that is a minuscule fraction of the Saudi budget are holding the supposed might of the Saudi military at bay. If the Saudis ever went up against the Russians, they would be dog food in pretty short order.

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