If the Gulf States proceed with their decision to deploy ground forces into Syria, this will certainly be the start of a new world war.
Both Russia and the United States demanded ceasefires in the long-running civil war so that the fight could be concentrated against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) – but each on their own, conflicting terms.
But the Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, staged their own intervention, saying they were committed to sending ground troops to the country. Their favoured rebel groups have been pulverised by Russian air raids and driven back on the ground by Iranian-supplied pro-regime troops.
Russia issued a stark warning of the potential consequences. “The Americans and our Arab partners must think well: do they want a permanent war?” its prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, told Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper in an interview due to be published on Friday but released on Thursday night.
“Saudi Arabia will not step back from its offer to send ground troops to Syria as part of an International Coalition operation,” Mohammed al-Yahya, a London-based Saudi analyst said.
Both Russia and the United States had demanded a ceasefire in the Syrian war.
Russia did not specify a date publicly but diplomats said that they had suggested March 1, which the Americans say would leave them another two weeks to achieve their military goals, including the defeat of “moderate” rebel forces in the north around Aleppo.
The United States countered by demanding an immediate ceasefire.
Under the United Nations security council resolution passed in December, any ceasefire would automatically exclude Isil, the local al-Qaeda branch Jabhat al-Nusra, which operates throughout rebel territory, and other UN-designated terrorist groups.
Since these are being struck by both the United States and Russia, as well as the regime, the terms of the resolution mean that the only group that would have to stop fighting under the terms of a ceasefire would be the “moderate rebels” backed by the West.
The kingdom, along with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, is offering to provide the troops the United States-led coalition are needed to take on Isil on the ground under coalition air cover.