Ground Invasion in Syria will be a Blunder. By Manish Rai
15 Feb 2016
The United Nations mediated Syrian peace talks in Geneva was abruptly suspended it was stated that there was more work to be done by the big powers 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. Now another so called efforts for restoring order in Syria is taking shape that’s the Gulf States led by Saudi Arabia sending ground troops. The Saudis claimed that they are fully prepared for a land intervention in Syria and even they have 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 Gulf States would be taken as a hostile act by the Assad regime and its backers. But this proposed ground forces deployment could put 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 issued a stark warning of the potential consequences. 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. 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 rebels forces before they are entirely eradicated and/or expelled from the country. This ground invasion by coalition of Gulf states 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. But 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.
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. Another important question will be what should be gulf invasion forces attitude towards Kurdish militias as they are coordinating with Russians and are hostile towards Turkey. Most important aspect which should also be seriously considered is 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 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 only thing which can work out is the peace talks and reconciliation. The new round of negotiations should be launched for Syrian crisis aimed at creating a new regime that both Russia and the United States could support. From there, peace can grow. Two big world powers United States and Russia should also realise that the Syria is the best place to start for them for seeking avenues of cooperation.
(Author is a columnist for Middle-East and Af-Pak region and Editor of a geo-political news agency Views Around can be reached at email@example.com)