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article imageSaudi Arabia prepares for war

By John McAuliffe     Feb 13, 2016 in Politics
The Syrian civil war rages on after five years of intense fighting and has absorbed a wide variety of factions into the conflict, including the Kurds, Islamic State, the Syrian army, the United States and its allies, and Russia.
Saudi Arabia is among one of the closest allies to the US, but its role in the Middle-East has thus far primarily been a destructive one. It is currently engaged in a bloody conflict in Yemen, in which civilians are a daily victim, yet despite the resemblances the Yemen conflict has to Syria, it does not draw as much criticism from the US-led international coalition, nor the media. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia has taken on the same role the US fulfills in Syria; they are the leader of a Sunni coalition of states carrying out air strikes. As a close ally to the US, it receives no criticism for civilian casualties or other acts of aggression from western leaders, essentially enjoying a carte blanche for the fulfillment of its military ambitions in the region. Saudi Arabia has now turned its sights onto Syria, shaking all hopes of peace.
Immediately after the UN suspended the latest round of Syrian peace talks in Geneva on 3 February, Saudi Arabia offered to compliment America's airstrike coalition with a ground invasion of Syria. The International Institute for Strategic Studies identifies Saudi military resources as sufficient for them to engage in a war in Syria as well as Yemen, numbering their active troops at 227,000. This proposal was met with intense hostility by other regional powers, namely Russia, Syria and Iran, concerned for their own national security against what appears to be a growing coalition of Sunni military power aided by the US coalition. The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafar, said "They claim they will send troops (to Syria) but I don't think they will dare do so."Though Syria is a secular state under Bashir Al Assad, it has traditionally been a close ally of Iran, a predominantly Shiite country, both of which are also allies of Russia. In addition to the US, Saudi Arabia is allied to Sunni militant group Al Qaeda, the primary ground force currently supported by Saudi air strikes in Yemen, and its active coalition members include the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait.
On 13 February, days before a proposed ceasefire is due to take effect in Syria, Saudi Arabia confirmed it has begun sending troops and aircraft to Turkey's Incirlik base for a possible joint intervention in Syria. Saudi's plan for involvement in Syria has been thinly veiled as an offer to join the war against the Sunni terrorist group Islamic State, however the Saudi regime has thus far expressed more hostility towards Assad, with their foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, stating "There will be no Bashir al-Assad in the future."
The prospect of direct military involvement in Syria by the Saudi regime caused widespread concern for those seeking a peaceful solution in the war torn country, but the US has welcomed the plan, even working alongside them to develop a tangible intervention. Saudi minister for defence and heir to the throne, Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, presented the country's intervention plans to US defence secretary Ashton Carter at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, who has shown enthusiasm and commitment to working on the plans further in coming weeks.
The inclusion of Saudi Arabia has raised concern of igniting a wider regional conflict involving the clash between two Islamic religious ideals, Sunni and Shiite, along side their mutual allies, the US and Russia respectively. The US and Russia are suffering a deterioration in relations elsewhere in the world, such as in eastern Europe, and have risked escalating the conflict in Ukraine. Their mutual commitment to their allies in the Middle-East threatens to make a lasting ceasefire in Syria impossible and risks broadening the conflict on religious grounds throughout the region.
The ceasefire agreed in last week's Munich talks are being criticised for not going far enough. Its success has been undermined even before its implementation, as it will not include the largest warring factions, IS, nor the al-Nusra Front, against which the US-led air campaign will continue, and the demands made at the talks were predominantly targeted at Russia rather than the warring parties in Syria. Furthermore, a large scale deployment of Saudi forces to the Syrian border will unsettle the Shiite militia groups fighting in support of the Syrian government and will undermine faith in a ceasefire agreement.
More about Syrian civil war, Saudi arabia, military intervention, Us military, US
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