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Dhaka Tribune

Thunder of the North manifests power, unity against Iran

Update : 28 Feb 2016, 06:27 PM

The “Thunder of the North” military exercise is a clear message from Saudi Arabia to Iran and Syria’s Bashar-regime, that any hostile intentions and actions that Riyadh sees as unfriendly will be strictly dealt, an expert has said.

The “world’s biggest” military drill began in the northern region of Saudi Arabia on Saturday and 21 countries, all included in the last month’s surprise Saudi-led anti-militancy coalition are participating.

According to unofficial sources, around 150,000 soldiers, 2,540 warplanes, 20,000 tanks, and 460 helicopters are participating in the largest military exercise in the history of the region.

A spokesman for the Arab coalition forces, Ahmad Assiri, said the aim of the exercise is to achieve the highest level of preparedness, exchange expertise and promote coordination among the participants.

Political observers and experts said the military exercise aims at delivering certain indirect messages at the regional and international levels, along with reaching a high level of readiness among the participating armed forces.

The venue chosen for the exercise, Hafr Al-Batin in northern Saudi Arabia, adjacent to Iraq, near Iran and Syrian is also a strategic move, they said.

Saudi military experts have been issuing warning that the next probable threat to the Gulf states is likely to come from the northern areas, after Iran demographically occupies Iraq and uses that country as its military arm to meddle in the affairs of neighboring countries and drain Gulf states’ resources.

While talking to Arab News One Saudi military and strategic analyst, retired colonel Ibrahim Al-Marie, said the three main goals of the exercise are to protect the joint security of the Gulf, Arab and Islamic states, increase combat readiness and coordinate joint operations between participating forces.

“This maneuver is considered the most important in the past five decades conducted by Gulf, Arab and Islamic countries. It will rely on the latest technology in light of the growing regional terrorism and turbulent environment, and after the success of Decisive Storm (Saudi-led military campaign against Houti rebels in Yemen).”

Al-Marie said the exercise provides a chance to improve and activate the anti-Dae’sh military alliance announced by Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman last month.

However, he denied any link between the military exercise and the recent announcement by the kingdom regarding “boots on the ground” intervention in Syria, noting that these exercises were announced previously and are part of a defensive, not offensive, approach.

The military strategist alleged that Iran seeks control in Iraq for extremist Shias who are loyal to Tehran, and not Baghdad.

“We know that Iran has been trying to widen its footprint in Iraq through a so-called demographic occupation and emptying Iraq of Sunnis, either by displacing them or wiping them out, as well as by emptying the country of moderate Shias loyal to Iraq,” he said.

“This demographic occupation is currently happening in Iraq and Syria through the use of the Fatamid brigades, who are Shias from Afghanistan and who have been promised Syrian, Iranian or Iraqi nationality if they achieve victory for Iran in Syria,” he added.

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