Saudi Arabia: Ready to join ground operation in Syria

Saudi Arabia military spokesman says nation is ready to join ground troops in any operation by U.S.- led coalition in Syria. ( AP)

The spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s military said on Thursday the kingdom was ready to join any ground operation in Syria if required by the U.S.-led coalition.

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

“If there was a consensus from the leadership of the coalition, the kingdom is willing to participate in these efforts because we believe that aerial operations are not the ideal solution and there must be a twin mix of aerial and ground operations,” Asiri said.

Since late 2014 Saudi Arabia has been part of a U.S.-led coalition which officially has 65 members and has been bombing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group which seized large parts of Syria and Iraq.

Asiri is spokesman for a separate Saudi-led Arab coalition which, since March, has conducted air strikes and ground operations in Yemen.

That coalition supports the government there in its fight against Houthi rebels who seized much of the country and are backed by Iran.

Iran is also one of the main allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose regime has been fighting an insurgency for about five years.

Saudi Arabia supports more moderate rebels against Assad’s forces.

U.S. welcomes Saudi news

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter welcomed on Thursday a Saudi offer to participate in any ground operations in Syria launched by the U.S.-led coalition.

Carter said increased activity by other countries would make it easier for the United States to accelerate its fight against ISIS.

“That kind of news is very welcome,” he told reporters while on a visit to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

Carter said he looked forward to discussing the offer of ground troops with the Saudi defense minister in Brussels next week.

Click here to watch Al Arabiya’s full interview with Saudi military spokesman Ahmed al-Asiri

(with AFP and Reuters)