Saudi Arabia wouldn’t dare send ground troops to war-torn Syria, the chief of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards said on Saturday, after Riyadh opened up the possibility of such a deployment.
The Sunni-ruled kingdom, Iran’s regional rival, has said it could “contribute positively” if the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State (IS) in Syria decided on ground action.
But Major General Ali Jafari, commander of the Guards, said such a move would amount to suicide for Saudi Arabia.
“I don’t think they would dare do that... If they do, they will inflict a coup de grace on themselves,” he said, according to Fars news agency, a media outlet close to the Guards.
“They thought that through support and financial aid they could make gains in Syria but the recent victories by the resistance front have disrupted all of their calculations,” Jafari said.
Iran, the strongest regional ally of President Bashar al-Assad, openly provides financial and military support to the Damascus government but denies having troops on the ground in Syria.
Tehran provides military advisers to Assad’s army, as well as organising Iranian, Afghan, Iraqi and Pakistani “volunteers” to fight rebels in Syria.
Jafari was speaking in Tehran at a funeral ceremony of Brigadier General Mohsen Ghajarian and five other Guards members killed on Wednesday in Aleppo province of northern Syria.
‘return in coffins’
Syria’s foreign minister Walid al-Moallem on Saturday warned that Saudi or any other foreign ground troops entering Syria would “return home in wooden coffins”, and called on rebel groups fighting a massive government offensive in the north to “come to their senses” and lay down their weapons.
His comments came after Saudi Arabia said earlier this week it would be willing to send troops as part of a US-led military campaign against the Islamic State. The group controls large swathes of Syria and Iraq.
Al-Moallem said conventional wisdom and logic would suggest the entry of Saudi troops is unlikely, but that “with the crazy Saudi leadership nothing is far-fetched”.
“Any ground intervention in Syria, without the consent of the Syrian government, will be considered an aggression that should be resisted by every Syrian citizen,” he said. “I regret to say that they will return home in wooden coffins.”