Turkey is asking allies including the United States to take part in a joint ground operation in Syria, as a Moscow-backed government advance nears its borders, raising the possibility of direct confrontation between the NATO member and Russia.
We don’t have to wonder if Turkey wants an invasion of Syria anymore.
They are now coming out and openly saying it.
Just consider what Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Reuters…
“Some countries like us, Saudi Arabia and some other Western European countries have said that a ground operation is necessary,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Reuters in an interview.
However, this kind of action could not be left to regional powers alone. “To expect this only from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar is neither right nor realistic. If such an operation is to take place, it has to be carried out jointly, like the (coalition) air strikes,” he said.
Obviously Turkey would like the United States to take the lead role. A full-blown ground invasion of Syria is a very risky thing, and it could easily spark World War 3.
So even though Turkey is chomping at the bit, they are hesitant to go it alone because they realize what the consequences could be.
The Saudis also seem hesitant to go ahead without the United States. This is what Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters during a news conference in Riyadh…
“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.”
But without a doubt, preparations for war continue.
As I reported the other day, troops from 20 different nations are gathering in northern Saudi Arabia for the largest military exercise in the history of the Middle East. This military exercise has been dubbed “Northern Thunder”, and some international news sources have reported that it will involve 350,000 soldiers, 20,000 tanks, 2,450 warplanes and 460 military helicopters. Other reports put the number of troops closer to 150,000.
But in any event, that is a very large gathering of military forces, and many have speculated that this could constitute the main invasion force.
Of course there are two major problems. The path from Saudi Arabia to Syria is blocked by Iraq and Jordan.
In recent days Iraq has deployed troops to its border with Saudi Arabia in order to keep an eye on these “military exercises”…
Iraq has deployed “large” military forces at the border with Saudi Arabia to oversee the ongoing military training conducted by the kingdom, member of the parliamentary security and defense committee Adnan al-Asadi told the Iraqi news agency INA.
The large-scale military exercises started on Tuesday, with the participation of ground forces from Egypt, Sudan, Jordan and several other Arab states, the members of the Riyadh’s antiterrorist coalition.
So it appears that the path through Iraq is blocked.
But what about Jordan?
After all, they are participating in “Northern Thunder”, so passing through Jordanian territory would seem to make the most sense.
Unfortunately for the Saudis, the Jordanians are not inclined to participate in any invasion unless the Americans and the British lead the way…
A Jordanian official confirmed that the country will not participate in any Turkish- or Arab-led Syrian invasion unless mandated by the United Nations, led by western forces and coordinated with Russia.
“Jordan is not going to send ground forces into Syria unless these troops are led by Americans and British,” the Jordanian official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We have very long borders with Iraq and Syria which are more than 550 kilometers. Any ground troops including Jordanian forces should be sent after a UN approval and after full coordination with Russia.”
For now, it appears that if there is going to be a ground invasion of Syria, that it is most likely to come from the north. According to Russia Insider, the Saudis and the Turks have established a join operations center, and both the Saudis and the UAE have sent military aircraft to Turkey…
According to reports (not in English, but we will try to dig up a proper translation as soon as possible), Saudi Arabia has created an operations room with Turkey, in preparation for a joint assault on Syria. The report also claims that military planes from the United Arab Emirates are now stationed at Incirlik airbase in Turkey — the same base where Saudi jets were recently deployed.
The report, which hasn’t been independently verified, is consistent with the Saudis’ openess about a possible invasion, as well as Turkey’s warning that escalation is imminent. And it’s not all talk. Turkey has already begun attacking.
Turkey has indeed already started attacking. They have been shelling Syria for four days in a row, and nobody is making them stop.
But a full-blown ground invasion is another thing altogether.
So will Turkey and Saudi Arabia go ahead, or will they chicken out because the U.S. does not want to be involved?
We will just have to wait and see what happens over the next few weeks…