Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will be removed by force if the peace process fails, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister has said.“Bashar al-Assad will leave – have no doubt about it,” Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told CNN. “He will either leave by a political process or he will be removed by force.”Saudi Arabia has sent troops and fighter jets to a Turkish military base ahead of a possible ground invasion of Syria.
Saudi Foreign Minister Jubeir made clear that his country’s troops would not go it alone.“I can tell you that there is some serious discussion going on with regards to looking at a ground component in Syria, because there has to be a possibility of taking and holding ground, that one cannot do from the air.”“We are saying we will participate within the U.S.-led coalition, should this coalition decide to send ground troops into Syria, that we are prepared to send special forces with those troops.”
Saudi Arabia launched a massive military exercise that will include troops from 20 nations, state media reported Monday.The drill, dubbed North Thunder, involves Arab and Muslim countries, according to the Saudi Press Agency. It’s taking place in King Khalid Military City in northeastern Saudi Arabia.The news agency did not provide much information on what the exercise entails but called it “the largest in the region’s history.” The agency said it will involve air, sea and land forces.
The Saudi state agency made the announcement on Sunday, adding that participating troops will begin arriving in “the next few hours.”The oil-rich nation described the exercises as “the largest and most important” military drills in the region’s history.The so-called “Northern Thunder” exercise will take place in the north of the country and will include air, sea and land forces. SPA said that it will show that Riyadh and its allies “stand united in confronting all challenges and preserving peace and stability in the region.”
Some 100,000 Syrian refugees are being looked after in camps inside Syria close to the Turkish border, including 35,000 who this month fled a Russian-backed regime offensive in northern Aleppo province, a top Turkish official said Friday.Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan, whose country has come under increasing pressure to open its border to people fleeing the violence, said the refugees were being accommodated in nine camps just across the border with Syria.
To the east of Aleppo, Kurdish forces are, with American support, eyeing the remaining ISIS strongholds along the Turkish border — Jarablus and Manbij. The U.S. wants ISIS out,to remove its access to resupply of materiel and fighters from Turkey.Meanwhile, Turkey, America’s NATO ally that is engaged in a brutal but often unseen war with the Kurds’ allies in Turkey’s southeast, doesn’t want the Kurds to advance, and may stop at nothing to prevent that.
Turkey shelled YPG positions for a third straight day on Monday to try to stop its fighters seizing Azaz, just 8 km from the border. Ankara fears the Kurdish militia, backed by Russia, is trying to secure the last stretch of around 100 km along the Syrian border not already under its control.“We will not allow Azaz to fall,” Davutoglu told reporters on his plane on the way to Ukraine. “If they approach again they will see the harshest reaction,” he said.
Ankara is likely to take action to counter the Syrian military and allied groups on choking up a supply link on which militants relied to get weapons and logistics.Syrian troops and Lebanon’s Hezbollah fighters have retaken the town of Azaz, located to the northwest of Aleppo, prompting Saudi Arabia and Turkey to hint at deployment of ground forces to the region.Asked if Ankara might act to reverse the gains, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (seen below) said on Friday, “Wait for the next few days and you will have the answer,” Turkish paper Hurriyet reported.