06:44 GMT +323 March 2018
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    A picture taken on November 16, 2015 shows a Saudi F-15 fighter jet landing at the Khamis Mushayt military airbase, some 880 km from the capital Riyadh

    What's Behind Saudi Proposal to Join Fight in Syria, Iraq

    Middle East
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    The Saudi-led Islamic military alliance is ostensibly interested in joining the United States and its allies in their efforts to tackle Daesh in Iraq and Syria, but political analyst Alexander Sotnichenko suggested that Riyadh and other members of its counterterrorism coalition pursue a different agenda.

    "It is in the interest of the United States and its allies to draw foreign forces to divide Syria in the first place. The fact that members of the Islamic coalition have become increasingly active could indicate that they want to make it in time for Syria's partition," he told Vzglyad.

    The political analyst said that Syria's future could be in trouble if Baghdad pushes Daesh out of Iraq earlier than Damascus tackles the terrorist group on its territory.

    "In this case the coalition forces assisted by the United States and the Gulf states could cross Iraq's border with Syria and advance further west. As a result they will end up taking control over a large part of Syria, which they will refuse to transfer to the Syrian government," he said.

    The political analyst also warned that if the Syrian Kurds continue their anti-Daesh push, the country might follow Iraq's example and turn into a "failed state." Then Syria's "disintegration and endless civil war" will plague the region for years to come.

    These scenarios have prompted Sotnichenko to say that Moscow and Damascus should wrest Syria from Daesh "as soon as possible."

    The political analyst also expressed doubt that the Islamic coalition is truly willing to help the US in its anti-Daesh efforts. After all, Saudi Arabia and other countries have taken part in the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve, but their role has been limited.

    In addition, "Saudi Arabia and many of its allies have been embroiled in the Yemen conflict. Other countries either have limited capabilities or, like Qatar, have 'taken a backseat' and no longer take part in the Syrian conflict. These countries could only join a ground military operation if the United States exerts significant pressure on them," he said.

    There is an additional challenge when it comes to Raqqa, since the campaign to free Daesh's de facto capital is led by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), mostly made up of Kurdish fighters.

    "They are not interested in fighting along troops sent by the Gulf nations who used to be some of the key sponsors of Daesh. The same is true of Kurdish forces and Shia-led militias in Iraq. Ground presence of the Islamic coalition in Syria and Iraq is most likely out of the question."

    Last week, Saudi Major General Ahmad Asiri, an adviser to Saudi Arabia's defense minister, told Sky News Arabia that the Saudi-led Islamic coalition was ready to work together with the US-led coalition to tackle Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

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    anti-Daesh coalition, Syrian conflict, Syrian crisis, Syrian Kurds, US-led coalition, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, United States, Russia
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