Arab leaders reject Putin's anti-ISIS coalition, suggest ousting Syria's Assad by force

Vladimir Putin is putting together a coalition. Saudi Arabia isn't interested.
(Image credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin can count out Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies for its new anti-Islamic State coalition in Syria. Russia and Iran are ramping up military forces along Syria's Mediterranean coast to bolster the government of President Bashar al-Assad and, purportedly, fight ISIS — a goal the U.S. military says is low on Putin's priority list.

On Tuesday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jebeir told reporters that "it's inconceivable that there will be a political solution with President Assad remaining in power," that a military solution to oust Assad was on the table, and that Putin's request that other Middle Eastern nations join his nascent coalition is a "non-starter." If Russia really wants to fight ISIS, he added, "they could join the existing international coalition." As for his country, al-Jubeir said the Saudis expect their support for the "moderate Syrian opposition that is fighting against President Assad... will continue and be intensified."

The U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition is split between members willing to forge Syria's future in talks with Russia and Assad and those, like the Saudis, who are opposed to any role in Syria for Assad, or for Russia and Iran as long as they are propping Assad up militarily. On Tuesday, U.S. officials floated a proposal to include Russia and Iran in an effort to ease Assad from power during a defined transition period.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.