When Saudi Arabia talked the US into helping defeat ISIS in Syria, it also asked for guarantees that, should Putin strike their forces, the United States would come to its defense. Barack Obama told the Saudis to seek the guarantees from NATO since Turkey is a member. Today. Prince Mohammad bin Salman is visiting NATO HQ because Turkey and Saudi Arabia are seeking NATO guarantees in case their troops come under attack from Putin’s war machine.
Why would Putin attack the Saudis and the Turks battling ISIS? Because his sole aim in Syria is to defeat the moderate and Islamist factions opposed to Assad in order to give the world a choice between Assad and ISIS. If Saudi Arabia engages ISIS directly on the grounds, it spoils Putin’s grand scheme in Syria. ISIS serves a convenient role for the axis of Syria/Iran/Russia and this is why Putin has avoided bombing their positions. A defeated ISIS might compel the world powers to seek regime change in Syria.
Since Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty is clear about where NATO will defend its members. It states that “an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all“. Saudi Arabia and Turkey are attempting to get an exemption for NATO to extend its protection to Syrian soil. The fact NATO is listening to their argument because Putin is exacerbating deliberately the Syrian refugee flooding Europe, NATO might act, but not without its own set of conditions. This is why Turkey and Saudi Arabia are seeking NATO guarantees.
How would NATO react to Turkish and Saudi request? Most likely the organization would attach its own conditions to its guarantees. If we have to guess what these conditions are, here is our best guess for the top four:
- NATO might limit the use of anti-aircraft missiles just enough to compel Putin to stop bombing civilians, which is driving the exodus towards Europe. Even if the weapons are unsuccessful in bringing down any Russian fighter jets or bomber, the open skies conditions Putin has enjoyed so far would be now laced with a danger he will not risk confronting too often.
- NATO, most likely, would place a limit on the numbers of troops, their equipment, and their geographic movements just enough to stem the flow of refugees leaving Aleppo and just enough to break the Aleppo siege. NATO might believe that a peaceful solution in Syria is the best option to compel Russia to act with civility.
- NATO would also seek guarantees from Turkey that its own air force would remain stationary even if its troops are threatened. If both countries want NATO to guarantee the safety of their troops, NATO most likely would limit any risks inherent in potential accidents or reactions by overzealous pilots on the part of Turkey.
- Saudi Arabia and Turkey would cover all the costs should NATO scramble to protect their troops from Russian aggression if the above conditions are met.
Most likely Saudi Arabia would agree to these demands in the hope that Russian or Iranian mistakes might compel NATO to confront both countries in Syria. If not, there are always the possibilities of unclear accidents, ambiguous attacks, and forced aggression to change NATO’s mind.
Of course, the above argument would become null and void should NATO refuse to defend any of its members on foreign soil. This is why Turkey and Saudi Arabia are seeking NATO guarantees.
Saudi Arabia’s attempt at mitigating its risks is smart, but if it fails at convincing NATO, King Salman might not have any choice but to enter the Syrian war with Saudi troops by opening a second front against Iran in Syria. Even if many Sunni countries are willing to help with their own resources and manpower, the war in Syria would take a new dimension because this is a war where allies of Iran are fully engaged while allies of Saudi Arabia, in the form of American power, would be sitting this war out.
Even if the risks of inaction on the part of Obama create a present and clear danger to America, this president is oblivious to such danger because of an ideology he cannot seem to be able to shed no matter the costs.