Concerns in Saudi Arabia over signs of more military involvement in Syria

The Washington Post reports: Saudi Arabia is flexing its muscles as pro-government forces in Syria’s civil war make sweeping advances, but concerns have mounted about its expanding military involvement in the conflict.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military, backed by Iranian-led militiamen and Russian airstrikes, has pressed a major offensive in the northern city of Aleppo, even as talks to broker a ceasefire have made some progress.. The move threatens rebel groups that have received cash and weapons from Saudi Arabia, a Sunni powerhouse and U.S. ally that opposes Assad because of his alliance with Shiite rival Iran.

Saudi officials have responded by dispatching warplanes to Turkey, another opponent of the Syrian leader. They have said they could commit ground forces to Syria that would technically fight the Islamic State militant group but could also seemingly challenge pro-Assad forces.

Saudi leaders also have announced large-scale military exercises involving 20 mostly Arab and African nations.

“Bashar al-Assad will leave – have no doubt about it,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir recently told CNN. “He will either leave by a political process or he will be removed by force.” [Continue reading…]

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