Saudi Arabia says the United States has welcomed Riyadh’s offer to contribute troops to a potential ground incursion by a US-led coalition in Syria.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the offer, made last Thursday, had been met with Washington’s approval and that Saudi forces would be playing a major role in any such operation.
“The United States government was very supportive and very positive about the kingdom’s readiness to provide special forces to the operation in Syria, should the international coalition make a decision to do so,” he told reporters.
“So the kingdom will be part of it,” he said. “That support came from the White House, it came from the [US] State Department, it was natural for [US] Secretary [of State John] Kerry to support such a decision.”
The 65-member coalition, of which Saudi Arabia is a member, has been conducting air raids inside Syria since September 2014. The airstrikes have no authorization from the Syrian government or the UN and have reportedly fallen short of uprooting the militants.
State Department spokesman John Kirby confirmed that the United States had welcomed the Saudi offer, but he would not comment on the nature or timing of any potential ground operation.
“We are talking about a ground element,” he said. “We have discussed the potential value of a special operations capability inside that element, which would be valuable.”
Washington itself has deployed special forces to eastern Syria in what it claims is an effort to shore up local militias against Daesh.
Reacting to a potential troop deployment by Riyadh and amid reports that Turkey too is contemplating sending troops to Syria, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said last Saturday, “Let no one think they can attack Syria or violate its sovereignty because I assure you any aggressor will return to their country in a wooden coffin, whether they be Saudis or Turks.”
Pavel Krasheninnikov, a Deputy of Russia’s State Duma, has also warned Saudi Arabia that any military ground operation in Syria without Damascus’ consent would amount to a declaration of war
Russia has been conducting airstrikes against Daesh, al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front and other terrorist targets at Damascus’ request since last September.
Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the second-in-command in Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), has also said that Saudi Arabia’s plan for the deployment sounded more like a “political joke.” Iran has been providing advisory support for Syria in the latter country’s effort to defend itself against terrorists.