TEHRAN (FNA)- Moscow is monitoring how the situation unfolds regarding the possible deployment of Saudi military forces to Syria, Kremlin spokesman Dmity Peskov said Friday.
Earlier in the day, the Guardian newspaper reported that Saudi Arabia could send thousands of ground forces to Syria, most likely in coordination with Turkey, in order to allegedly take part in the fight against ISIL, Sputnik reported.
"Naturally, we are carefully monitoring the situation,” Peskov said.
He added that the Kremlin currently does not have any facts confirming the validity of the reports on the Saudi plans.
Moscow has been conducting air strikes against ISIL and Nusra Front targets in Syria since September 30, at Damascus' request.
Riyadh has been a nominal member of the US-led coalition that has been launching airstrikes against Daesh in Syria since September 2014, without the permission of Damascus or the United Nations. In December 2015, Saudi Arabia started its own Muslim 34-nation coalition to allegedly fight Islamic extremism.
Daesh or ISIL/ISIS is a Wahhabi group mentored by Saudi Arabia and has been blacklisted as a terrorist group everywhere in the world, including the United States and Russia, but Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has offered to send ground troops to the Syrian battlefield to ostensibly fight against Daesh, but Riyadh will in fact assist terrorist groups in the war-torn Arab country, Akil Mahfoud, chief of the foreign relations department at the Syrian Ministry of Higher Education, told RIA Novosti.
The oil kingdom "will provide extensive support to al-Nusra Front, Ahrar ash-Sham and the like under the guise of fighting Daesh," he said. "Any intervention in Syria will undoubtedly be carried out to change the course of the war in the country. It will hinder the success of the Syrian Arab Army. And those, who will come, will not be against Daesh regardless of what Turkey and Saudi Arabia claim."
The political scientist maintains that Riyadh has contemplated sending its army to Syria because Damascus-led forces, assisted by Russian warplanes and Hezbollah fighters, have lately been on an offensive, while terrorist groups are losing. The SAA has recently scored major victories in the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia and Daraa.
Palestinian refugee camp, near the port-city of Sidon, southern
"Among other things [the Saudis] don't like that the United States and Russia see eye to eye on several issues. [Riyadh] needs a Turkish or Saudi adventure in Syria to upset the power balance on the battlefield and in politics," Mahfoud added.
On Thursday, Riyadh announced that it was "ready to participate" in a ground campaign in Syria if the US-led coalition choses to launch it. The Saudis are rumored to be willing to deploy special operations forces. The move will apparently be carried out in coordination with Turkey.
The head of the State Duma committee, Pavel Krasheninnikov, says Riyadh has to get official permission from the Syrian government before any military operation in the Arab country. But unlike Russia, the United States has welcomed the Saudi offer to send ground troops to Syria. US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter says the offer will be discussed with his Saudi counterpart in Brussels next week. Saudi Arabia has announced it's ready to join the so-called US-led coalition against Daesh. Damascus accuses Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar of funding and arming anti-Syria terrorist groups including Daesh.
On Thursday we brought you the latest from Syria, where Hezbollah and the IRGC have encircled Aleppo and cut off rebel supply lines to Turkey.
It was months in the making, but it now appears that the city - Syria’s second largest - will soon be retaken by forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad. As we’ve explained in the past, that would effectively restore the President’s grip on power as he would effectively control most of the country’s urban centers - even if that “control” is tenuous.
Eastern Syria is of course a different story entirely, as ISIS is dug in at Raqqa, the group’s self-styled capital. If the rebels lose Aleppo, it will represent a huge blow to the effort to topple Assad’s government. Saudi Arabia and Turkey know this, which is presumably why Erdogan was busy criticizing the Russian airstrikes that have facilitated the Hezbollah advance yesterday and why Riyadh now says it’s prepared to send in ground troops (to “fight ISIS”).
Now, as the Russian air campaign continues unabated and Shiite fighters advance on the city, civilians are fleeing what they anticipate will be a bloody battle.
"The Russian (air) cover continues night and day, there were more than 250 air strikes on this area in one day," Hassan Haj Ali, head of Liwa Suqour al-Jabal, a group that fights under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army, said.
“Tens of thousands of Syrians fled an intensifying Russian assault around Aleppo on Friday, and aid workers said they feared the city which once held two million people could soon fall under a full government siege,” Reuters writes. “The last 24 hours saw government troops and their Lebanese and Iranian allies fully encircle the countryside north of Aleppo and cut off the main supply route linking the city - Syria's largest before the war - to Turkey [who says] the aim is to starve the population into submission.”
Now obviously that’s ridiculous. The “aim” is to keep the rebels (some of whom are ISIS fighters) from obtaining guns and TOWs from Turkey where the government in Ankara is desperate to salvage whatever’s left of the effort to oust Assad.
In any event, the fighting looks set to create a new wave of refugees bound first for Turkey and ultimately for a beleaguered Western Europe.
“Video footage showed thousands of people, mostly women, children and the elderly, massing at the Bab al-Salam border crossing,” Reuters continues. “Men carried luggage on top of their heads, and the elderly and those unable to walk were brought in wheelchairs.”
Here are the visuals: