SAUDI Arabia appears to be preparing for a massive ground invasion of Syria, with possibly the support of the airforce of NATO member Turkey – putting Syrian President Assad on the defensive, warning both countries not to enter Syrian territory.
In recent days a number of key military initiatives have taken place both in Saudi Arabia and in Turkey which correspond with recent threats made by both countries to reverse the tide of the Syrian war, following a number of key battles won by Russian and Assad regime forces.
A contingent group of supporting countries have sent soldiers to Saudi Arabia, while both air forces of the Arab kingdom and those of Turkey have engaged in a number of manoeuvres in the air, taking off and landing at an air base in the south of the Turkey close to the Syrian border.
In recent weeks a number of tough statements have been made by Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister alluding to a ground attack.
Similar war cries have come from Turkey’s President as both countries have a lot to both gain in ousting Syria’s President Assad who in recent weeks has teased them with press statements about his longevity in the country since the war tipped in his favour with Russia helping his own regime army.
Over the weekend though, his reaction to the build up reached fever pitch. Assad warned on Saturday that that the Syrian regime will deal with [Turkish and Saudi soldiers] like "terrorists," a term he uses to refer to insurgents fighting against him.
Speaking to a Spanish newspaper in an interview, Assad spoke about the possibility of both Turkey and Saudi Arabia sending ground troops into Syria: "We're going to deal with them like we deal with the terrorists.
We're going to defend our country. This is aggression."
Yet events are changing on the ground fast. Just today news reports also indicated that a batch of anti-aircraft rockets – US made ‘SAMS’ – were delivered to opposition groups fighting Assad and Russian forces inside Syria.
Saudi Arabia started large-scale military exercises close to the Iraqi border. The military training known under name of "Northern Thunder" is expected to go on all this week and involves more than 2,500 warplanes, 20,000 tanks and 450 helicopters.
According to reports, Riyadh has billed the manoeuvre as "the largest and most important" drill ever staged in the region with allies of Saudi Arabia providing their own soldiers, from neighbouring Arab countries but also countries such as Pakistan, Chad and Sudan which make up the 350,000 ground force.
EPAThe US and Russia have just agreed to a ceasefire in Syria
We're going to deal with them like we deal with the terrorists. We're going to defend our country
The exercises would involve ground, naval and air forces personnel.
Termed "The Northern Thunder", the drill will continue for another week.
The aim of the exercise is to send the message that Saudi Arabia and its allies "stand united in confronting all challenges and preserving peace and stability in the region".
Neither the US nor any Western nation is part of the event but recent press reports have hinted that Riyadh is hoping that the US will send their own troops – at least special forces - to join it.
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