Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has said that any decision for the deployment of special forces to Syria would follow the will of the US-led coalition allegedly hitting hideouts of the Takfiri Daesh militants.
“The Kingdom’s readiness to provide special forces to any ground operations in Syria is linked to a decision to have a ground component to this coalition against Daesh in Syria – this US-led coalition – so the timing is not up to us,” al-Jubeir told a news conference in Riyadh, adding, “With regards to timing of the mission or size of troops, this has yet to be worked out.”
The top Saudi diplomat, however, refrained from elaborating further on the issue.
On February 12, al-Jubeir told the CNN that Riyadh is ready to deploy special forces to Syria if the US-led coalition decides to send ground troops. The so-called coalition has been conducting combat sorties against purported positions of Daesh in Syria since September 2014.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has dispatched warplanes to the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey, claiming that the move was in line with the so-called fight against Daesh terrorists in Syria.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said Ankara and Riyadh could launch a ground operation in Syria “if there is a strategy.”
Saudi Arabia and Turkey are widely believed to be among major sponsors of terrorist groups operating against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The idea of Riyadh’s possible participation in ground operations in Syria was first raised on February 4 by Ahmed Asiri, a spokesman for the Saudi Defense Ministry.
Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) also followed in Saudi Arabia’s footsteps and hinted their preparedness for similar deployments.
Although swiftly welcomed by allies like the United States, the proposal was met with huge criticism from Syria and Damascus’ allies.
Damascus has issued warnings against any such move with Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem saying that any “ground intervention on Syrian territory without government authorization would amount to an aggression that must be resisted.” He has also warned that potential aggressors would return home in a “wooden coffin.”
The development come as Syrian troops, backed by Russian air raids, have been making gains against foreign-backed militants.
The Syrian president has said the government forces will retake the whole country from terrorists. Assad on Friday warned that the involvement of regional countries in the conflict meant that the process to liberate Syria would take a long time.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has also warned against the deployment of ground troops to Syria, describing the envisioned move as a “dangerous escalation.”
Russia and Iran have also warned against the deployment of foreign ground forces in Syria.
“Syria is a big country… which has been fighting terrorists for five years. Any presence there without coordination with that country’s government will only lead to a defeat and a fiasco,” Commander of Iran’s Khatam al-Anbiya Air Defense Base Brigadier General Farzad Esmaili said on Sunday.
For nearly five years, Syria has been grappling with a foreign-backed militancy. According to a new report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict in Syria has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people, injured 1.9 million others, and displaced nearly half of the country’s pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders since March 2011.