Saudi Arabia Announces Plans For Large Military Exercises, With 20 States Invited

Saudi Arabia has announced plans for 20 countries to come together in the region for “massive” military exercises that are set to last 18 days. This comes as increased warnings from the government of Saudi Arabia towards Syrian President Bashar Assad that he will be toppled and a clear of affirmation of Saudi Arabia’s place in that toppling.

The announcement was made by the country’s news agency, confirming that participating troops are expected to arrive in “the next few hours.” Saudi Arabia certainly appears to be playing up the importance of these military exercises, describing them as the “largest and most important” military drills in the region’s history. That being said, it’s no surprise that the country would want to show signs of strengths at a time when Assad’s brutal regime appears to be regaining territory in the unstable region.

The exercises will be comprised of air, sea, and land forces, taking place in the north of the country. The aim of the military exercises is to show that Riyadh and its allies “stand united in confronting all challenges and preserving peace and stability in the region.” However, many of the country’s key western allies, including the United States and the United Kingdom, have not been invited to take part in the exercise. Instead, 20 Arab and African countries will be sending troops to the region as a sign of solidarity.

Saudi Arabia is a key member of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, or ISIS/ISIL, but appears to be keen to still show their own strength against the country. The country is working closely with Turkey, deploying equipment and personnel to the key Incirlik Air Base in the country. That same air base has been something of a key strategic point throughout the conflict, already providing a base for the U.S. Air Force to conduct their activities.

With the country continuing to break away from the United States and other allies in their reaction to the crisis, fears are growing that the country is preparing to launch a full attack in order to eradicate Islamic State and depose the sitting president. This comes on top of the country’s current support for opposition troops that are battling the Assad regime and other brutal forces in the country. The news follows ever stronger words from the Saudi Arabian government, with their foreign minister flatly stating that they have no problem in toppling Assad if he doesn’t choose to leave with a full political transition.

“Bashar al-Assad will leave – have no doubt about it. He will either leave by a political process or he will be removed by force.”

Bashar al-Assad - Syrian President

You might also remember that Saudi Arabia formed a 35-country member coalition in a battle against terrorism last December, which now appears to have lost momentum against the wider global coalition that includes key western powers.

The situation in Syria and the surrounding region only appears to be growing more complicated, so it appears Saudi Arabia is now getting more and more forthcoming in terms of their actions. It’s pretty clear that the country feels that their western allies simply aren’t doing enough to tackle both Islamic State and Assad’s regime. However, many key players in this conflict now see the best course of action is to eradicate Islamic State before deposing of Assad. Either way, this is a complicated situation that isn’t going to get any less complex any time soon.

[Photo by DOD/Getty Images]