Saudi Arabia extended its first offer to send troops into Syria to fight ISIS on Thursday.
“The kingdom is ready to participate in any ground operations that the coalition (against ISIS) may agree to carry out in Syria,” Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri, a military spokesman for Saudi Arabia told an interviewer from al-Arabia news.
The efforts would most likely be coordinated with Turkey since both countries have a shared interest in removing Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. Although Saudi Arabia has launched air strikes against ISIS in the past, it has never offered use of its ground troops prior to Thursday’s announcement.
Saudi Arabia aims to fight back against its reputation of being a breeding ground for terrorism and also hopes to seek revenge against ISIS, who has targeted the Saudis recently.
The decision most likely came about due to frustrations with the ground forces in Syria, with Saudi analyst Mohammed Alyahya saying, “Increasingly, it seems that none of the forces on the ground in Syria (besides rebel groups) is willing to fight ISIS. The Assad regime, Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah are preoccupied with fighting Bashar al-Assad’s opposition with one ostensible goal: to keep Bashar al-Assad in power; irrespective of the cost in innocent Syrian lives.”
The rest of the world is not taking the Saudi offer seriously, with many countries mocking the country’s claim that they will enter Syria on the ground.
Syria’s Foreign Minister, Walid Mou’allem, stated he would send the Saudi army home in “wooden boxes,” while the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard forces said that the Saudi army would be “wiped out”.
Ash Carter from the U.S. Department of Defense, on the other hand, said of the Saudi offer, “That kind of news is very welcome.” Carter plans on meeting with the Saudis in Brussels later this week to discuss the upcoming invasion of Syria.
The move into Syria, slated for March, could complicate matters on the ground according to Stephen Kinzer, a senior fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs. Kinzer says, “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,” he continued, “The Saudis know what their goal is. They want to overthrow Assad. Period.”
Despite these different viewpoints, only time will tell how the Saudi’s offer will play out and what success they will or will not have on the ground in Syria.