An aide to Saudi Arabia’s defense minister said on Monday, meanwhile, that defense ministers from the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State had discussed the possibility of a Syrian ground incursion two weeks ago in Brussels.
“It was discussed at the political level but it wasn’t discussed as a military mission,” Saudi Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri told Reuters. “Once this is organized, and decided how many troops and how they will go and where they will go, we will participate in that.”
When this meeting took place in Brussels earlier this month, it got next to no attention from the U.S. media, but it did get some attention in the international media. The following is an excerpt from an article about this meeting which appeared in the Guardian…
The US defence secretary has refused to rule out Saudi Arabia sending ground troops into Syria, but added that it was just one option and there were other ways the Saudis could contribute to the fight against Islamic State.
Ash Carter was speaking on the eve of a meeting of defence ministers from 49 countries at Nato headquarters to discuss how to step up efforts against Isis in Syria and Iraq.
He said the meeting was important “because we do need to accelerate the campaign and we have a very clear operational picture of how to do it. Now we just need the resources and the forces to fall in behind it.”
It is certainly extremely unusual for so many defense ministers to gather in one place like that. Needless to say, they weren’t just getting together for tea and cookies.
A few days after this meeting, Saudi Arabia announced the largest military exercise in the history of the Middle East. This exercise has been dubbed “Northern Thunder”, and military units from 20 different nations are participating.
The Syrians, the Iranians and the Russians are concerned that this looks very much like an “invasion force”, but the Saudis are denying this even though we know now that this is precisely what the “coalition partners” have been discussing.
And most Americans don’t realize this, but the U.S. already has a limited number of troops on the ground inside Syria right now, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is saying that up to 30,000 U.S. troops may be needed to create a “safe zone” in northern Syria.
In addition, fighters from Turkey continue to pour over the border, and mercenaries from Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region have been funneling into Syria for years.
So how in the world did we get to this point?
Well, back in 2011 the “Arab Spring” was overthrowing governments all over the Middle East. At that time, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies in conjunction with the U.S. government decided that it would be a wonderful opportunity to overthrow President Assad of Syria too. This move was spearheaded by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and it was hoped that by removing Assad the balance of power in the Middle East would be fundamentally transformed.
You see, President Assad is Alawite (a form of Shia Islam), and his government is allied with Iran. Syria is part of the “Shiite crescent” that stretches across the Middle East, but 74 percent of the population of Syria is actually Sunni. So the goal was to get rid of Assad, transform Syria into a full-blown Sunni nation, and cut off Iran from their Hezbollah allies in Lebanon.
The U.S. government, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies began organizing huge protests against Assad in Syria, and those protests rapidly became violent. The freedom fighters were armed, and civil war broke out.
And at first the plan was working. ISIS and other radical Sunni groups took large amounts of territory, including the largest city in all of Syria (Aleppo). It looked like they were going to be able to eventually conquer all of Syria and take down Assad. In the aftermath, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies would have come in and helped set up an appropriately submissive Sunni puppet government.
But now the tide of the war has completely turned. President Assad has enlisted the help of Iran, Hezbollah and Shiite militias from Iraq. But most important of all, the Russians came to his aid, and Russian air power is absolutely decimating the Sunni jihadists that are trying to overthrow Assad. With the help of his allies, Assad has been rapidly reconquering Syria, and this has Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies in a panic.
If the war ended today, things would be far worse for Saudi Arabia and Turkey than if they had never even attempted to overthrow Assad in the first place. The Iranians would have far more influence in Syria than they did before, Hezbollah now has a major presence in Syria, and Russian aircraft would likely be permanently stationed at air bases inside the country. And of course Saudi Arabia and Turkey would have to deal with a neighboring government that now hates their guts because Assad knows that they have been trying to overthrow him for the past five years.
Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies have invested massive amounts of money and resources in this attempt to overthrow Assad. Now that their Sunni militias are being routed, either they have to walk away or they have to go in and do the job themselves.
Unfortunately, as I wrote about earlier today, Saudi Arabia and Turkey still appear to be quite determined to get rid of Assad.
So we should not expect this current “ceasefire” to last for long. In the coming days we should expect the western powers to accuse Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and the Syrian government of repeatedly violating the ceasefire, and these “violations” will be used as justification for whatever “the coalition” has planned next.
Sadly, whatever they have planned next could be the spark that plunges our planet into World War III.