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Iran, Russia response put Syria incursion plans on hold: analysts

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)
Tanks stationed at a Turkish army position near the Oncupinar crossing gate close to the town of Kilis fire towards the Syria border, on February 16, 2016. ©AFP

Iran and Russia’s firm response has made Saudi Arabia and Turkey hold back on their plans to deploy ground troops to Syria, Middle East commentators say.

The analysts made the remarks in a round-table discussion hosted by the Basirat news and analysis website linked to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

Reza Mirabian, an expert on Saudi affairs, said the Saudis and Turks have been serious about the incursion of Syria, but harsh reaction by Iran and Russia made Riyadh and Ankara as well as their European allies “to think twice.”

“Since the cost of military operations in Syria is very high for the Saudis, Turks and the Westerners, it seems that the move is not on their agenda anymore for at least a short time,” he added.

He further noted that Saudis think they are “gradually losing their influence in the region” due to their deadly war Yemen and their huge financial support for Takfiri militants in Syria.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia have said they are waiting for a US nod for ground operations inside Syria.

Although swiftly welcomed by the United States, the initiative attracted heavy criticism from Damascus, with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem saying “coffins” await any aggressor to the country “whether they be Saudis or Turks.”

Elsewhere in his remarks, the expert underlined that Saudi Arabia and other regional Arab countries as well as Turkey are well aware that the US is not in a position “to take aggressive and unpredictable actions” in Syria.

The Saudis cannot accept the fact that Iran is a major player in the region, he added.

Shoaib Bahman, an expert on Turkish affairs, said the Ankara government is also reluctant to take military action alone like the Saudis.

“On the other hand, there are serious geopolitical differences between Turkey and Saudi Arabia regarding their spheres of influence,” he added.

Tensions in the Middle East have heightened in the past months after regional powers sided with warring sides to the conflict in Syria.

The foreign-sponsored conflict in Syria, which flared in March 2011, has claimed the lives of some 470,000 people and left 1.9 million injured, according to the Syrian Center for Policy Research.

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