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NATO mulls joining US-led coalition in Syria, Iraq: Carter

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter addresses the media in Brussels, Feb. 11, 2016. ©AFP

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter says the NATO military alliance may join a coalition purportedly targeting Daesh Takfiri militants in Syria and Iraq.

“Thanks to the leadership of NATO Jens Stoltenberg we are exploring the possibility of NATO joining the coalition as a member itself,” Carter said on Thursday after a meeting with the coalition members in Brussels.

All of NATO’s 28 members are individually part of the US-led coalition that has been conducting air raids in Syria since 2014.

On Thursday, Stoltenberg said NATO had deployed three military vessels to the Aegean Sea to carry out reconnaissance and surveillance operations for what he called countering human trafficking amid the refugee crisis in Europe.

“This is about helping Greece, Turkey and the European Union with stemming the flow of migrants and refugees and coping with a very demanding situation,” he said. 

On the sidelines of the Brussels meeting, Carter also met with Saudi Defense Minister and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, whose country is also a member of the coalition.

This picture taken on Feb. 11, 2016 shows a general view of the proceedings during the Global Coalition meeting at NATO headquarter in Brussels. ©AFP

Peter Cook, Carter’s spokesman, said Saudi Arabia proposed to expand its role in the US-led air campaign.

Riyadh has expressed readiness to deploy special forces to Syria if the US-led coalition decides to deploy ground troops. Bahrain and the UAE also followed in Riyadh’s footsteps and hinted at their preparedness for similar deployments.

The United States has praised the deployment plan, which has, in turn, drawn an angry reaction from Damascus and its allies.

On Thursday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that the involvement of foreign troops in Syria would only lead to a “new world war.”

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem has also vowed that his country would send any aggressor home in “coffins.”

The new pledges for military deployments in Syria come amid militant losses on various fronts and Syrian army gains.  

Members of the US-led coalition are staunchly opposed to the Damascus government and support militants fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad. 

The foreign-sponsored conflict in Syria has reportedly claimed the lives of more than 470,000 people and displaced almost half of the country’s population.

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