Saudi seen sinking deeper into West Asia'a proxy war

15 February 2016

Saudi Arabia is reported to be spearheading a military campaign amassing forces from 20 countries against Iran-backed forces in West Asia, including Syria and Yemen, in what could lead to catastrophe in conflict-ridden West Asia.

The report follows another report by Al Jazeera that Turkish forces have already started shelling Kurdish-held areas in Syria, including an airbase, in the northern province of Aleppo, where Saudi is also opening a front against the Iran-backed Syrian regime.

An AFP report quoting Syrian Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) said Turkish artillery have targeted their positions in Menagh airport and a village near Azaz, which were recently captured from the Syrian opposition.

The report quoting news agency SPA said armed forces from some 20 countries, including Pakistan, are gathering in northern Saudi Arabia for ''the most important'' military manoeuvre ever staged in the region.

In what is termed the ''Thunder of the North'', the military exercise involves ground, air, and naval forces, the report said.

Saudi Arabia is currently fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia, which last December also formed a new 35-member coalition to fight ''terrorism'' in Islamic countries, also deployed fighter jets in Turkey for anti-Islamic State fight.
SPA did not specify when the military exercise will begin or how long it will last.

However, the agency called it the ''most important and largest in the region's history'' in terms of the number of nations taking part and the weaponry being used.

Twenty countries will be taking take part, SPA said.

Among them are Saudi Arabia's five partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council, as well as Chad, Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Senegal and Tunisia, it added.

A Saudi source said on Thursday that members of the new ''anti-terrorism'' coalition will gather in Saudi Arabia next month for its first publicly announced meeting.

Riyadh has said the alliance would share intelligence, combat violent ideology and deploy troops if necessary.

Meanwhile, Al Arabiya television quoted Saudi Arabia's minister of defence as saying that the country has already sent aircraft to NATO-member Turkey's Incirlik air base for the fight against Islamic State militants in Syria.

Turkish forces, on the other hand, have started shelling Kurdish-held areas, including an airbase, in Syria's northern province of Aleppo, Al Jazeera quoted sources as saying.

Turkish artillery targeted Syrian Kurdish positions in Menagh airport and a village near Azaz, which were recently captured from the Syrian opposition, the report said.

US defence secretary Ash Carter welcomed Saudi Arabia's commitment to expand its role in air strikes against Islamic State but disapproved of Turkey targeting Kurdish positions.

Both the Pentagon and the State Department have called on Turkey and Kurdish militants to take steps to prevent the violence from getting worse.

''We are concerned about the situation north of Aleppo and are working to de-escalate tensions on all sides,'' the State Department and the Pentagon said in their statements.

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