Saudi Arabia will head into an unprecedented meeting in Brussels next week of defense ministers allied to defeat the Islamic State group with a new offer: to deploy ground troops to war-torn Syria, if the coalition agrees.
A spokesman for the Saudi military first confirmed the pledge to The Associated Press Thursday afternoon, declining to offer specifics on how many troops it would provide or what kind of mission they would conduct.
"We are determined to fight and defeat Daesh," said Saudi Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri, using the preferred name in the region for the terrorist network, also known as ISIS or ISIL. His remarks follow reports that Turkey is also considering a ground invasion into neighboring Syria.
Moscow has already positioned extra air defence systems into northern Syria in the wake of losing its jet last November. It has also introduced extra fighter jets and bombers, and slightly increased its ground troops.
It has also announced military exercises in the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. In both instances its forces were put on full combat readiness. Most reporting of the exercises say they are linked to the situation in Ukraine, and while this is plausible, it is also possible they are in fact linked to the Syrian/Turkey situation.
Taken as a whole, the picture appears to be one of Russia signalling to Turkey, and therefore to NATO, including the USA, that it is in the driving seat. It is saying that is pre-positioning the equipment necessary to escalate if necessary and thus warning others not to get involved.
For several months now eminent foreign policy analysts have been writing that Russia is looking for an exit strategy in Syria. The evidence suggests otherwise.
In an unprecedented step the NATO allies are sending their Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) to the Aegean area to help national and EU authorities stem the flow of illegal immigrants pouring out of Syria and other conflict areas: a first in civil-military operational collaboration between NATO and the European Union.
"Europe faces its biggest migration crisis since the Second World War and our alliance is responding to the changed security environment," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told journalists after the decision by allied defence ministers at their 11 February meeting in Brussels.
The move came in response to a 9 February request from Germany, Greece, and Turkey for help in stemming Europe's overwhelming illegal migrant flows and the human trafficking networks that facilitate them.
5. Little hope for Syrian peace. The major diplomatic development at Munich was the “cessation of hostilities” agreed to by the United States and Russia. It inspired significant pessimism at the conference. Participants pointed out under the terms of the deal, Russia and Assad were permitted to continue their bombing campaign for an additional week; after that they could bomb any factions they designated as al Nusra or the Islamic State. It was unclear what, if any, consequences Russia might face for violating the agreement, or if such transgressions would merely result in pursuit of another deal.
It is clear that time is now on the side of the Assad–Russia–Iran coalition. As their offensives batter the moderate opposition, and given American reluctance to intervene to shift the balance of forces, there is a diminishing possibility that a diplomatic effort will yield an outcome favorable to the United States and its partners. The current trends demonstrate that the parties America would most like to see prevail are under the most pressure, and are growing weaker by the day. Hence the rush to seek a diplomatic agreement as soon as possible, before Assad and Russia lock in additional gains.