- The Washington Times - Friday, February 5, 2016

Saudi Arabia for the first time as offered to send ground troops to Syria to help fight the Islamic State terror group, its defense ministry said Thursday. 

“The kingdom is ready to participate in any ground operations that the coalition (against the Islamic State) may agree to carry out in Syria,” said military spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri during an interview with al-Arabiya TV news.

Thousands of special forces troops could be deployed, most likely in coordination with Turkey, Saudi officials told The Guardian. Both countries seek the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad from power. 

Saudi Arabia was one of the first nations to join the international coalition against the Islamic State in Sept. 2014. The kingdom had conducted several airstrikes on Syrian targets but its campaign was largely downsized once Saudi Arabia turned its attention toward another intervention against terrorists in Yemen. 

Mr. Asiri hinted that Saudi Arabia is now able to free up forces for deployment to Syria thanks to recent progress the kingdom has made against Houthi rebels in Yemen. 

A decision on the matter could be made at a NATO summit in Brussels next week. 

“There is frustration with the current efforts put in place to fight Daesh,” said the Saudi analyst Mohammed Alyahya, the Guardian reported.

“Increasingly, it seems that none of the forces on the ground in Syria (besides rebel groups) is willing to fight Isis. The Assad regime, Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah are preoccupied with fighting Bashar al-Assad’s opposition with one ostensible goal: to keep Bashar al-Assad in power, irrespective of the cost in innocent Syrian lives.”

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