Saudi Arabia is going to invite 20 countries while it hosts the “largest” military exercise in the region. The exercises are going to be conducted for 18 days.
The “North Thunder,” as the military exercises are called, coincides with Riyadh’s claim that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will be toppled. Saudi Arabia earlier deployed military personnel and jets to Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base, already in use by the US Air Force for Syria operations.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir earlier said the Assad should not be a part of Syria’s future. If he does not leave through a political process, he must be removed by force, Jubeir said.
Military analyst Col. Ibrahim Al-Marie said the military exercises would rely on “the latest technology in light of the growing regional terrorism and turbulent environment, and after the success of Decisive Storm.”
“Participating countries are Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, the UAE, and some Gulf states, through maritime, air and land efforts,” he said. “This manoeuvre is considered the most important in the past five decades conducted by Gulf, Arab and Islamic countries.”
While 21 countries are scheduled to take part in the exercises, the United States and other Western countries have not been invited.
Russian news agency RT observes that the move raises an alarm that Riyadh may be getting ready for an all-out ground invasion in Syria. Saudi Arabia is one of the allies of the US-led coalition in the fight against the Islamic State. Riyadh, on the other hand, claims it has no plans to intensify its efforts against ISIS in Syria.
Meanwhile, Arab News believes the “North Thunder” is a “clear message” to Tehran as well as every Middle Eastern country Iran supports. According to military experts, the northern areas in the Gulf region is likely to pose threat, Iran starts using Iraq as its military ally against neighbouring countries.
In a recent interview with American media, the Saudi Foreign Minister flatly stated that Assad will be toppled if he does not leave during a political transition.