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Pundits rule out Jordan’s participation in possible ground intervention in Syria

By Omar Obeidat - Feb 13,2016 - Last updated at Feb 14,2016

AMMAN — Military experts on Saturday ruled out that Jordan would send ground troops to Syria to fight the Daesh terror group, but said the Kingdom may contribute intelligence if an Arab-led coalition insists on putting boots on the ground. 

Commenting on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates’ willingness to "deploy thousands of ground troops" to Syria if the US-led coalition agreed, the experts cast doubt on such a scenario, maintaining that it would result in a military confrontation with Russia, which they described as the main player in the Syrian landscape. 

In phone interviews with The Jordan Times, the pundits said Jordan's priority is to protect its 580km-long borders with unstable Syria and Iraq. Plans of ground intervention in Syria were provoked by recent gains by Bashar Assad's forces backed by Russian air strikes, particularly in the strategic northern city of Aleppo, they said. 

Retired major general and strategic analyst Adeeb Sarayreh said military intervention should not be the alternative for a political solution to the five-year civil war in Syria, adding that negotiations between the Assad regime and the opposition were not cancelled but postponed. 

This “very dangerous" military solution may result in a world war that may have grave consequences for Jordan as it may spark a new wave of refugees from the southern part of Syria, the strategist said, adding that the Kingdom is too strained to take in any more refugees.

It is impossible to “empty the borders to join ground operations in Syria", Sarayreh said, adding that selected special operations by the Jordanian forces could be a possibility. 

However, he played down the possibility of deploying ground troops in Syria by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries because the US, which leads the international coalition against Daesh, does not want a military confrontation with Russia.  

Military analyst Fayez Dweiri said any ground intervention in Syria would require the approval of the UN Security Council or “at least the approval of the US”. 

“I can’t see the possibility of Arab ground troops in Syria under the current circumstances,” Dweiri said, adding that the talk of sending troops to Syria is only an attempt to place pressure on the Russians to squeeze out concessions in talks over the political solution. 

Dweiri, also a retired major general in the army, agreed that Jordan might only contribute commandos or just intelligence. 

Similar remarks were echoed by retired major general and air force pilot Mamoum Abu Nowar, who said that intervention in Syria by Arab troops is too late now as the Russians are about to enable Assad’s forces reclaim control of Aleppo. 

The expert said sending troops to Syria is not viable as the US administration would not support such a choice, warning that clashing with the Russians inside Syria would provoke a regional or even a global war. 

‘Heavier Russian shelling in the south of Syria’

Abu Nowar said the Russians may launch heavy air strikes in Daraa province in southern Syria to enable regime forces to retake more ground from rebels. 

“This may push around 100,000 Syrians to seek refuge in Jordan,” he warned. 

Dweiri said that the Russians have already started air operations in the area by shelling towns close to the Jordnanian border such as Nasib and Tafas. 

With the expected influx of refugees, the Kingdom would not be able to create buffer or safe zones inside Syria to keep the refugees there, according to Dweiri, who noted that Jordan and Russia are coordinating over this situation. He cited the recent visit by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs-of-Staff Gen. Mashal Al Zaben  to Moscow to discuss scenarios that might affect Jordan’s national security. 

An even scarier scenario of heavier bombing by Russians in southern Syria, according to Sarayreh, is forcing residents of dozens of northern Jordanian towns and villages to leave their areas for safer places. 

Jordan has to continue coordination with Moscow to avoid such a scenario, he said. 

A senior official said recently that Amman and Moscow enjoy good ties built on trust and appreciation for the “wise” policy Jordan has maintained during the past five years in regard to Syria.

The official said the developments in Syria now change rapidly, “by the hour”, and that Russia is in control of the Syrian issue, adding that Moscow is focusing on reclaiming all territories the regime lost to opposition rebels and that they want to leave Daesh stronghold areas in eastern Syria to the end. 

 

“Once they take control of Aleppo and other areas from rebels, the Russians want to call on the world to join regime forces in fighting Daesh,” the official, who requested to remain unnamed, said.

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