The United States is facing a new turning point in its policy toward Syria, as it announced the appointment of former US ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey will serve as a special advisor to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Syria overseeing talks on a political transition in that country.
The administration also transferred former officer Joe Rayburn from the National Security Council to the State Department as Special Envoy to Syria
Expelling Iran from Syria
The announcement of the appointments, was preceded by a statement issued by the State Department relating to the financial contributions of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other countries to the stability budget in Syria.
The statement referred to the US commitment to strategic objectives in Syria, pointing out that Trump announced his commitment to staying in Syria until the eliminatation of ISIS and that the United States is working “to ensure the withdrawal of Iranian forces and allies” from Syria.
This official statement stems from a firm conviction by Trump that Iran should be expelled from Arab countries and that American troops' immediate withdrawal from Syria would be a bad step, and would allow Tehran to keep its forces and loyal militias in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
The United States wants to cut the road for Iran through the Syria’s Democratic Forces (SDF) that have moved to the Syrian area of Bu Kamal to break the Iranian-built pathway between Tehran and Beirut, through Baghdad, Deir al-Zour and Damascus, according to Pierre Ghanim, Al Arabiya News Channel correspondent in Washington.
The Americans view with great caution the seriousness of Iran’s stabilization of its forces and alliances in these countries.
Putin in agreement
The US does not see Iran as having any intention of withdrawing from Syria, but it considers that they have the potential to succeed in the mission, especially since the Russian president is in agreement with Washington on that.
The White House considers that Putin and Iran have different interests in Syria and that Putin sees the dangers of Iran’s presence in Arab countries, including Syria and Yemen, and that the Russian President informed the Americans of this position before and during the Helsinki Summit.
According to a White House official, Syria was the longest-running topic in the discussions between Presidents Trump and Putin and their top advisors in Helsinki. The talks started three weeks earlier, when Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton met President Putin in Moscow to prepare for the summit, according to a source close to those meetings.
The Russian president said he also did not want an Iranian presence in Syria, but he was not sure if Russia could take them out.
The White House source said: “it was a correct comment”, adding that: “The situation seems difficult for Iran to maintain a presence in Syria because of the economic consequences of sanctions. The military threat they pose in Syria is worrying everywhere in the region.”
During the announcement of the new appointments at the State Department, the statement said Joe Rayborn, who became deputy assistant secretary of state, would be Syria’s special envoy and would coordinate the work on the ground and would be charged with “confronting Hezbollah and building a strong government in Lebanon” and coordinating work with Jordan.
This appointment and mission seem to be another indication of the Americans’ interest in fighting the presence of Iran, its allies and militias in Syria and Lebanon, and is now working more closely to coordinate its work and activities to achieve this mission.
Coordinating with the Russia
The Americans are now looking at the next phase of reaching an understandings on the steps needed to be taken with Russia and with European allies, who continue to insist that defeating ISIS and the pull out of Iran and its militias will only take place through progress towards a political solution to the conflict in Syria on the basis of Resolution 2254.
Ambassador Jeffrey will work to revive the political process in coordination with the United Nations and its sponsorship as previously agreed upon.
Accordingly, Syria and Iran will be at the heart of the National Security Advisor John Bolton’s talks during his visit to Israel and Geneva, where he is expected to meet with his Russian counterpart in Switzerland and follow up on what President Trump and Putin have begun in Helsinki, including the elimination of ISIS, political process, Iran, the humanitarian situation and the non-use of chemical weapons again.