Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants the US military to maintain a presence in Syria, he told TIME on Thursday during his multi-city tour of the United States.
“We believe American troops should stay for at least the mid-term, if not the long-term,” he said.
Prince Mohammed said the US military presence is the last effort stopping Iran from continuing to expand influence with regional allies.
The presence of the troops, which have a remote base at Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria, will also allow Washington to have a say in Syria’s future, the crown prince said.
“If you take those troops out from east Syria, you will lose that checkpoint,” Prince Mohammed said. “And this corridor could create a lot of things in the region.”
There are currently about 2,000 US troops working with Syrian Democratic Forces to re-capture territory from ISIS.
The crown prince’s remarks came just hours after Trump told a cheering crowd in Ohio that US troops will soon be pulled out.
“By the way, we’re knocking the hell out of ISIS,” Trump said. “We’re coming out of Syria very soon. Let the other people take care of it now, very soon. Very soon, we’re coming out.”
During the interview, the crown prince also said he believes that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is not likely to be ousted from power.
He said he hopes that Assad will not become a “puppet” for Tehran.
“Bashar is staying … But I believe that Bashar’s interests is not to let the Iranians do whatever they want they want to do.”