The latest remarks of Turkey and Saudi Arabia on sending troops to execute ground operations in Syria have raised eyebrows around the globe.
Ankara and Riyadh could consider sending ground troops to Syria against the Islamic State (IS) militant group “if the necessary time comes for a ground operation,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying Saturday.
The statement, in an unclad bid to enhance the two nations’s sway in their war-torn neighbor, came after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed earlier last week the possibility of U.S. sending ground forces to Syria if the current peace efforts end up fruitless.
COVERED COUNTERMEASURES AGAINST SYRIA AND RUSSIA
Since Russia’s military involvement in Syria last September, the nation’s government troops has won remarkable advantage in fighting against the rebels, arousing mounting concerns in Turkey and Saudi Arabia that have long backed Syrian rebels to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
Firstly, out of fear that the warfare change would erode the rebel’s stakes in the current Syria peace talks, Ankara and Riyadh elaborated on the possibility of launching ground operations in their shared neighbor, in a bid of what they said was to strike the IS but analysts claimed was to press the Syrian government to make a substantive concession at the negotiating table.
Secondly, besides the common hostility with Syria, Ankara and Riyadh have also piled up grievances with the two supporters of Damascus, namely Moscow and Tehran. Their accumulated rancor were displayed while Turkey shot down a Russian warplane last November, and the Sunnite-controlled Saudi Arabia severed its diplomatic relationship with the Shiite Iran out of religious grudges.
It is thus safe to say that the common interests and similar standpoints on Syria issue brought Turkey and Saudi Arabia together in their bid to pressure the al-Assad administration, Russia and Iran.
Thirdly, the two nations’ threat for further military involvements in Syrian was a countermeasure against the United States, whose promotion of ceasefire agreement in Syria has undoubtedly poured cold water on those eying more of its military endorsement for the Syrian rebels, said Tang Zhichao, head of Middle East research of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Bekir Gunay, director of the Institute of Eurasia with Istanbul University, also said that Ankara’s divergence with Washington was further exposed on the legitimacy of the Syrian Kurdish militants, as the U.S., taking the militants as anti-IS effective, refused to echo Ankara and blacklist them as terrorists.
“Turkey’s red line of securing national sovereignty integrity was touched upon since Washington supported the Syrian Kurds that have devoured a large amount of lands and established administrative districts in Northern Syrian area near Turkey’s border,” Gunay noted, referring to Turkey’s enduring worry for a possible spill-over effect in the Turkish Kurds that might lead to an independent Kurdish country.
RUSSIA’S SEVERE RESPONSES TO TURKEY-SAUDI GROUND ACTIONS
Turkey’s recent shelling of the Syrian governments and Kurdish forces and its threat of the joint ground operation with Saudi Arabia in Syria have met with bitter opposition in Moscow.
“Don’t try to frighten anyone,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told Euronews TV station Sunday, referring to the U.S.-led ground operation in Syria. The move will lead to “a full-fledged, long war,” Medvedev said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also accused Turkey’s shelling of being nothing less than “invasion,” threatening to submit the case to the UN Security Council.
To echo the accusations, Russia last week dispatched “the Zelyony Dol,” a patrol ship armed with Kalibr cruise missiles, to the Mediterranean. Reports said that it was bound for Syria and may take part in Russia’s campaign to support the Syrian army.
Russian media said with the participation of the Zelyony Dol, the nation’s warships in Mediterranean have amounted to 20, all of which have carried high-precision long-range missiles that could cover the depths of all the military actions of the Syrian government troops.
Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem also said last week that any foreign troops entering Syria without the consent of the government “will be sent home in wooden coffins.”
To the disappointment of Turkey and Saudi Arabia, the U.S. has not voiced any explicit support for their troop-sending plan. On the contrary, Washington has required Ankara to stop the bombing of the Syrian Kurdish forces.
CONSTRAINTS OF TURKEY-SAUDI GROUND OPERATION
Experts predicted that without the support of the U.S. and NATO, the odds were slim for Turkey and Saudi Arabia to engage in separate ground offensives in Syria.
Li Wei, analyst from the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said that Saudi Arabia was still involved in its military operation in Yemen, which would hold its offensive strength back by the elbow.
Meanwhile, Turkey has been sandwiched between the Kurdish forces and a hostile Russia in consequence of its shooting down a Russian fighter.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a news conference in Riyadh Sunday that any move to deploy Saudi special forces into Syria would depend on a decision by the U.S.-led coalition.
The kingdom is willing to contribute ground forces to the coalition, but “the timing of this mission is not up to us,” al-Jubeir added.
As for Turkey, Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz has denied the possibility to send troops to the neighboring country of Syria.
However, Turkish shelling of the positions of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units in northern Syria has escalated the tension in the region.
Russia’s daily Mezavisimaya Gazata said Monday that it is hard to tell whether the shelling will result in a full-scale conflict between Turkey and Syria.
Analysts warned that it is highly likely that Russia will launch a head-on confrontation with Turkey and Saudi Arabia if the two nations decide to send ground troops into Syria. The toe-to-toe rivalry would undoubtedly push the current Syria predicament to the inconceivable exacerbation. Enditem