How the failure of Geneva peace talks pushed Saudi-Turkish military intervention in Syria

Orient Net - News Analysis 2016-02-07 14:23:00

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The statement of the spokesman and adviser of the Saudi defense minister Brigadier General Ahamd Asiri about Riyadh’s readiness to participate in the national coalition to fight against ISIS on the ground in Syria wasn’t out of the blue. 

Geneva peace talks between Assad regime and the Syrian opposition have come to a deadlock and the military escalation in Syria made the regional powers decide to take the next step.  

Certainly, the current consecutive developments on the ground in Syria have pushed Saudi Arabia to look for a foothold in Syria as the military situation in Aleppo near the Turkish borders is getting more complicated due to the advance of Assad regime backed by Iran and Russia. 

The Saudi’s preparations were reported by CNN which said that there are more than 150,000 soldiers from Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Egypt and Jordan who are about to conduct military training. The news added that a joint chief of staff was appointed for the forces which are supposed to intervene in Syrian through Turkey. 

This is not the first time in which news about an imminent Turkish-Saudi military intervention occupy top news reports. The Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi spoke in TV interviews that Saudi Arabia will not accept a Russian-Iranian victory in Syria. Turkish officials have also stated that Turkey will establish a buffer zone in order to prevent ISIS members from infiltrating into the Turkish territories. 

On February 2, Assad army and its allies succeeded in cutting the northern road between Aleppo city and Turkey, known as the Azaz corridor. Although the battle was a local affair involving a relatively small number of fighters, it may prove to be a turning point in the war. In addition to threatening the opposition presence in Aleppo province, the development could put the entire Turkey-Syria border under the control of pro-Assad forces within a matter of months, or spur Kurdish forces there to choose coexistence with Assad.

Cutting the northern corridor  

The offensive against the corridor was launched from Bashkuy (on the northern outskirts of Aleppo) and from the pro-regime Shiite enclave in the villages of Nubl and al-Zahraa. Hezbollah and two other Iranian-supported Shiite militias (the Iraqi brigade of Badr and the enclave’s local "National Defense" militia) are the main ground units participating to the battle, pitted against opposition forces. 

The opposition-controlled corridor between Aleppo and Turkey is only five to fifteen kilometers wide, wedged between Islamic State (IS) forces to the east and the Kurdish canton of Afrin to the west. The main rebel groups in this area are Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zinki, and the Sultan Murad brigade (a Turkmen group very close to Turkey). These groups are formally members of the rebel umbrella organization Jaysh al-Fatah, which is supported by Saudi Arabia and Turkey. 

The fall of Aleppo will not be a marginal event for the opposition and its backers in Riyadh and Ankara. It simply means that the conflict has reached the Turkish territories which will be encircled by a Kurdish and Alawite strap particularly after the Russian cooperation with the YPG. 

The fall of Aleppo means that the Syrian opposition will lose its presence in the north except Idlib which means that Turkey will lose much of its influence in the northern parts of Syria and cause a new influx of refugees to Turkey.