Many of the nations involved cut diplomatic ties with Iran after a mob attacked the Saudi Arabian embassy in Tehran and the exercises are seen as a veiled threat to the Islamic Kingdom’s Middle Eastern rival.
The mammoth 18-day manoeuvres – which involve four times as many troops as the British Army – come as four Saudi F-16s arrive in Turkey ahead of a possible joint invasion of Syria.
“It will serve to boost fighting capabilities”
Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri
Gulf nations and other allies – such as Pakistan, Jordan, Chad and Sudan – are taking part in the drill, which will involve ground, naval and air forces.
Saudi Arabia said Northern Thunder would send the message it and its allies “stand united in confronting all challenges and preserving peace and stability in the region”.
Neither the US nor any western nation was invited to take part.
Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri said: “It will serve to boost fighting capabilities, exchange information, benefit from experiences and expertise and enhance coordination between the participating countries.”