Long-time regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Turkey are considering forming a military alliance to overthrow embattled Syrian President Bashar Al Assad – with the help of Qatar, the Huffington Post reports.
Citing “sources familiar with the discussions,” the online publication said that Turkey would provide ground troops, while Saudi Arabia conducts airstrikes to help opposition fighters gain ground in Syria.
Qatar has long advocated for a government transition in Syria. It was the first country to host an opposition-operated embassy, and has also reportedly been allowing US military forces to train anti-Assad rebels here.
However, one analyst said while anything is possible in this “new age of out-of-area-Saudi military action,” such a military alliance looks unlikely.
In an email to Doha News, David Roberts, a lecturer at King’s College London, said:
“Though the region is in flux presently and KSA’s new militarism has been something to behold, the necessary political and military agreements for this kind of a deal will be hard to reach.”
He added that a partnership in which Saudi Arabia only had to contribute airstrikes and not send troops to Syria may appeal to the kingdom, but Turkey would have a hard time domestically selling the idea of putting its own troops in harm’s way.
However, according to the Huffington Post:
“(Turkish President Recep) Erdogan has taken a number of steps to suggest that he is preparing to deploy ground troops to Syria. Weeks after he met with the Saudi king, the Turkish leader signed a defense deal with Qatar to facilitate intelligence sharing, military cooperation and possible deployment of Turkish and Qatari troops in one another’s countries.
This agreement builds upon a joint training deal the two countries signed in 2012, and positions Qatar well to mediate the discussions between Turkey and Saudi Arabia.”
In terms of KSA and Turkey’s relationship, the two countries have been at odds since the Arab revolutions broke out in 2011.
Saudi Arabia supported the removal of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, and labeled his Muslim Brotherhood party a terrorist group.
Turkey on the other hand condemned the ousting, and welcomed Muslim Brotherhood members who fled Egypt and Saudi Arabia and were later pressured to leave Qatar.
However, Saudi Arabia’s new king, Sheikh Salman, is perceived to be friendlier to the Brotherhood than his predecessor, who died in January.
Some analysts say that following the recent Saudi-led military attack on Yemen against the Shia Houthi rebels, the kingdom could use the support of Sunni Muslim Brotherhood members in Yemen against the opposition.
In terms of a timeline for Saudi-Turkey action against Syria, HuffPo states that joint intervention would likely not occur until after a Camp David meeting in the spring, when Obama will meet with GCC leaders to discuss Iran, Syria and Yemen.