The adviser to the Saudi minister of defence’s office Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri said that Saudi Arabia is prepared for a land war in Syria and this statement came days after Riyadh announced its willingness to provide ground forces to fight ISIS as part of the international coalition to fight the terrorist organisation.
Asiri said in a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat that Saudi Arabia only announced its willingness to participate in any ground operations against ISIS that the international coalition may agree to carry out in Syria because it has a serious desire to defeat the terrorist organisation. He added that Saudi Arabia is fully prepared for this and his statement came on the eve of a conference for the defence ministers of countries participating in the international coalition to fight terrorism which is scheduled to be held in Brussels today.
Asiri revealed that Saudi Arabia will carry out a large military exercise called “Thunder of the North” which he arranged some time ago. 21 Arab and Muslim countries will participate in it and there will be joint military command centres. The exercise aims to enhance fighting abilities, increase coordination between countries participating in the exercise and facilitate the exchange of information and experience.
Asiri added that “when participating countries feel that there are coordinated and interdependent efforts, the results of the exercise will be positive. We have models based on real experience of being in the Arab coalition in Yemen where operations are running excellently and positively”.
Brigadier Asiri said that the organisation of military exercises involving 21 countries is not easy, and this indicates that the infrastructure of Saudi Arabia including its ports, airports and roads is of an excellent standard. He added that Saudi Arabia has previous experience from the war to liberate Kuwait in 1990 when it hosted 33 countries on its land and that it previously carried out an exercise called “The Sword of Abdullah” in 2014 which was the same size as “Thunder of the North”.
Meanwhile, the US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Saudi counterpart Adel Al-Jubeir said that their countries would seek to reach an immediate cease-fire in Syria at international talks to be held in Munich on Thursday.
Kerry also thanked the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdul Aziz for expressing his desire to fight ISIS on the ground during a brief press conference held in Washington on Sunday evening after talks with his Saudi counterpart Adel Al-Jubeir.
Al-Jubeir said that the details of Saudi Arabia’s participation in Syria are being discussed by specialists. He added that Washington welcomed Saudi Arabia’s increasing efforts to fight ISIS.