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A Saudi military spokesman said Thursday the kingdom is ready to send ground troops to Syria to fight ISIS — an offer welcomed by Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
Saudi Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri on Thursday told The Associated Press that Saudi Arabia has taken part in coalition airstrikes against ISIS since the U.S.-led campaign began in September 2014, but could now provide ground troops. The U.S. is scheduled to convene a meeting of defense ministers from countries fighting ISIS in Brussels next week month.
"We are determined to fight and defeat Daesh," Asiri said, using the pejorative Arabic term for ISIS. He didn't say how many troops the kingdom would send.
Saudi Arabia is deeply involved in Yemen's civil war, where it is fighting Iranian-backed Shiite rebels. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have long viewed Iran as a regional menace, and Riyadh and Tehran back opposite sides in the wars in Syria and Yemen.
Secretary Carter later welcomed the Asiri's statement, saying that increased activity by other countries would make it easier for the U.S. to accelerate its fight against ISIS.
"That kind of news is very welcome," he told reporters while on a visit to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
He said the Saudi government had indicated a willingness to do more in the fight against ISIS, which controls vast swaths of Syria and Iraq.
Also on Thursday, Russia and Turkey traded accusations on Syria, with the Kremlin saying it suspected Turkey was preparing a military incursion into Syria. Turkey in turn accused Moscow of trying to divert attention from its own "crimes" in Syria, and said the Syrian city of Aleppo was threatened with a "siege of starvation."
Iran and Russia back the regime of President Bashar Assad while Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the U.S., among others, oppose it.