DUBAI: The head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard said on Saturday Saudi Arabia lacked the courage to go through with a plan to send ground troops to Syria, and warned they would be wiped out if they went in.

Mohammad Ali Jafari's blunt words on the Fars news agency were Iran's first official reaction to a statement from its regional rival Saudi Arabia this week that it was ready to join ground operations in Syria if a US-led military alliance decided to start them.

“(The Saudis) have made such a claim but I don't think they are brave enough to do so ... Even if they send troops, they would be definitely defeated ... it would be suicide,” Jafari was quoted as saying.

A general from the kingdom had said on Thursday that. Saudi Arabia is ready to join any ground operation the US-led coalition against the militant Islamic State group in Syria might decide on. Saudi Arabia supports certain militant groups against Assad's forces.

Iran has already sent forces to Syria to back its ally President Bashar al-Assad in his country's five-year-old civil war. Washington and its allies have backed militants fighting Assad and say he must eventually step down.

Tensions between the two Muslim countries had sparked following the execution of Saudi dissident Sheikh Nimr and the subsequent attack on Saudi mission in Iran by protesters.

Earlier in January, Saudi Arabia and some of its allies broke off ties with Iran over the embassy attack. The United Arab Emirates downgraded relations while some others recalled their envoys in protest.

The Iranian government had quickly distanced itself from the attack, saying the protesters had entered the Saudi embassy despite widespread efforts by the police to stop them.

The development came two weeks before Iran emerged from years of economic isolation when world powers lifted crippling sanctions against the Islamic Republic in return for Tehran complying with a deal to curb its nuclear ambitions.

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