[BLOG] Ground Invasion in Syria Would be a Blunder

“And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it.” Deuteronomy 20:12 (The Israel Bible™)

The UN-mediated Syrian peace talks in Geneva were abruptly suspended. This is clearly due to the need for more interference by the “big powers” who are sponsoring the talks between the Syrian sides. The latest inconclusive Syrian peace talks were attended by representatives of the Syrian government, the Saudi-backed coalition, and the High Negotiation Committee but it failed to reach to any conclusion.

So-called efforts to restore order in Syria are taking shape, led by Saudi Arabia, sending ground troops. The Saudis claimed that they are fully prepared for a land intervention in Syria and they have even started moving ground forces and fighter aircrafts to Turkey’s Incirlik base.

The Saudi-led gulf coalition says that their declared target is ISIS. But the presence of troops from the Gulf States would be taken as a hostile act by the Assad regime and its backers.

This proposed ground forces deployment could put the announcement of a potential ceasefire in Syria in jeopardy. The Saudi move increases the possibility of a massive escalation in the Syrian conflict already, Russia warned. Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev said, “The Americans and our Arab partners must think well; do they want a permanent war?”

The Saudi plan to send ground troops into Syria appears to be just a ruse. But this is precisely the kind of reckless saber-rattling that could ignite an all-out war, one that could embroil the United States and Russia. The House of Saud is not pleased with US-led diplomatic efforts on Syria.

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s bustling to organize the Geneva negotiations supposedly to find a peace settlement to the five-year conflict is seen by the Saudis as giving too many concessions to the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad and his foreign allies, Russia, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

This proposed ground invasion in Syria may also be aimed at pressuring Syria government and Russia to accommodate the ceasefire demands which may provide a breathing space for the Arab states-backed rebel forces.

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There is a widely held perception that troops from the Sunni Gulf states will provide support for Syria’s Sunni rebels who are losing ground and this will bring them into conflict with the Shia enemies – Iranian “volunteers” and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters backing the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

It is obvious that the Gulf states are responding directly to the collapse of their proxy forces across the country, their most recent threats to further escalate the conflict in Syria are tenuously predicated on “fighting ISIS.” It is clear then that this sudden interest in escalation has nothing to do with ISIS and more to do with rescuing the Saudi allied rebel forces before they are entirely eradicated and/or expelled from the country.

This ground invasion of the Gulf states at the hands of a coalition will be, in all reality, aimed at challenging and rolling back Syrian and Russian gains on the battlefield. Or at the very least, providing an unassailable sanctuary within Syrian territory Gulf-backed rebels. The risks of a conventional military intervention, given the complex conflict dynamics in Syria should be taken into account by the Saudis before marching into Syria with the ground forces.

The first issue with starting the ground operation in Syria will be how to arrange the air support for the operation. Without air support, it is impossible to launch a ground operation that could last months. Close air support is essential to protect ground forces with firepower, reconnaissance, and surveillance. The issue then becomes whether Russia, which has declared a de facto no-fly zone over northern Syria, will allow any Saudi planes and helicopters to enter Syrian airspace.

Further, what should the gulf invasion forces’ attitude towards Kurdish militias be as they are coordinating with Russians and are hostile towards Turkey? Most importantly, they should seriously consider an exit strategy. Neglecting an exit strategy usually comes with heavy economic and political costs.

It’s a very remote possibility that intervention by a ground force will be a decisive factor in the Syrian arena. Moreover, it will be counterproductive and will prolong the conflict.

The most likely result of a ground invasion however, would be a Golan Heights-style stand-off that could last years, if not decades. One thing everyone has to understand: that there can be no military solution to the war in Syria. The only successful path is that of peace talks and reconciliation. The new round of negotiations to launch for the Syrian crisis should be aimed at creating a new regime that both Russia and the United States could support. From there, peace can grow. Two big world powers, the United States and Russia, should also realize that Syria is the best place to start when seeking avenues of cooperation.



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