After nearly two years, the so-called Islamic State group declared a caliphate — and killed thousands of people in the meantime — Saudi Arabia announced its preparedness for its first ever ground offensive against ISIS in Syria.
But like all other counter-terrorism plans by the Gulf kingdom, the latest one also lacks vision.
While Riyadh has carried out air strikes in Syria since the U.S.-led campaign began in September 2014, this is the first time the Saudis made a pledge to send ground troops.
"Today, the Saudi kingdom announced its readiness to participate with ground troops with the U.S.-led coalition against ISIL, because we now have the experience in Yemen," Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri said, according to Al Jazeera.
"We know that air strikes cannot be enough and that a ground operation is needed. We need to combine both to achieve better results on the ground," he added.
Here are some basic problems with the strategy: First of all, it appears the Saudi decision to send troops to Syria more or less depends on the U.S.-coalition’s decision to do so. And if that's correct then there is little to no chance of it happening at all since President Barack Obama has made it clear — on more than one occasion — that there will be no ground troops or combat mission in Syria.
Secondly, if Saudi Arabia is considering a ground intervention based on what it has “achieved” in Yemen, then it should not send its troops to Syria at all. The reason is pretty simple. The Saudi military campaign in Yemen yielded disastrous results — primarily because the operation was baseless to begin with.
Saudi Arabia has caused more than 2,800 civilian casualties in Yemen in almost a year. What’s worse, despite international outrage and criticism from the United Nations to stop committing suspected war crimes, Riyadh has no foreseeable plans for a ceasefire.
It could be worse in Syria, where Saudi forces will not only come across ISIS but several other combatant groups, some of which are also supported by Iran.
The Syrian civil war is a proxy war of sorts and with a ground invasion by a country like Saudi Arabia — which has an incredibly checkered past when it comes to ground invasions — it’ll only get bloodier.
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