February 16, 2016 / 8:15 PM / 4 years ago

Islamic State shrugs off any Saudi ground force in Syria

DUBAI (Reuters) - Islamic State says it will fight any Saudi ground intervention in Syria and that Saudi action might add to complications but would not bolster enemies of the militant group.

Saudi Arabia has said it is ready to participate in any ground operations in Syria that the U.S.-led alliance may decide to start.

“This intervention, if it happened, would not provide much to the enemies of Islamic State ...,” Islamic State said in an editorial on Tuesday carried by the‮‮ ‬‬group’s al-Naba weekly newspaper, referring to President Bashar al-Assad, his Russian and Iranian allies and the U.S-led coalition.

“Thus, Islamic State’s view toward this intervention would be no different from its view of the U.S. intervention in favor of rejectionists (Shi’ites) and the apostate Kurdish parties or the Russian intervention in favor of the Nusairis,” it said, using a derogatory term to describe Assad’s Alawite sect.

“It will keep fighting the apostate and polytheists no matter how they change their colors, tongues and homelands.”

Saudi Arabia said earlier this month that the kingdom, which has been leading Arab military operations against the Iran-allied Houthis in Yemen since March last year, believed that to win against Islamic State in Syria the coalition needed to combine aerial operations with ground operations.

Saudi Arabia, a main supporter of Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow Assad, has been an active member of the U.S.-led coalition that has been fighting Islamic State in Syria since 2014, and has carried out more than 190 aerial missions.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said last week that he expected both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to send special operations forces to Syria to help local opposition fighters in their campaign to retake the city of Raqqa, Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria.

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia confirmed it had sent aircraft to the Incirlik air base in NATO-member Turkey for the fight against Islamic State.

Major powers agreed in Munich on Friday to a pause in combat in Syria, but Russia pressed on with bombing in support of Assad, its ally. Assad has promised to fight until he regains full control.

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending U.S. ground troops to Syria. But Turkey said both Ankara and Riyadh would support a coalition ground operation.

Reporting by Ali Abdelaty, writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Ruth Pitchford

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