Saudi Arabia will reap what the US has sown in Iraq and Syria

Is this retribution against the “Sunni Islam” that hit America on September 11?

Jamal Khashoggi
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Washington is fully aware of what’s happening in Syria. It has a special envoy for Syria who constantly meets with the Syrian opposition and a former ambassador to the country who is displeased with the way the US administration has dealt with the Syrian crisis from the very beginning. The former ambassador continues to offer advice to his government that is not taken into consideration. He is said to have even participated for years in two operation command centers directed by three entities: the State Department, the CIA and the Pentagon.

Located in Amman and the South of Turkey, the command centers reportedly collect information that determines the prevalence of different armed groups fighting in Syria, and their movement between cities, villages and regions. They also record the rise and fall of the influence of these groups and track weapon supplies, sources and distribution. Even the demographic changes as a result of the on-going conflict are recorded.

After taking the advice of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar and after dealing with the different rebel forces, Washington seems to have turned its back on its allies. It appears to have ignored the interests of its regional allies and of the Sunnis. It doesn't seem to care about the majority of Syrian revolutionists and has instead opted for the Kurds to ensure the liberation of al-Raqqah from ISIS. It has sent around 300 US troops to support Kurds fighters.

These troops reportedly proudly lead with yellow ribbons on their arms representing the Democratic Union party linked to the PKK, once classified as a terrorist group by Turkey and the US. This has triggered Turkey’s ire. Washington is said to have clarified that it has engaged with the group for the sake of al-Raqqah alongside a group of Arab tribal fighters.

All this must be causing apprehension to Saudi Arabia. It may have also added to its growing concern over the “neo-Americans”, even if their justification was accepted for fighting in Fallujah along with the Iranian revolutionary guards lead by major general Qassem Suleimani.

These troops belonging to “al-Hashd el-Shaabi” and the Iraqi army are closely linked in a way thus making the fight against ISIS impossible without them. Even if we accept such a hypothesis, Washington is not compelled to choose Kurd separatists as partners in the war in Syria against ISIS. In fact, it has three better alternatives.

Three alternatives

The first alternative would be the Syrian rebels, the right option for several reasons. They represent the majority of Syrians, they call for regime change, oppose the partition of their country, and are against ISIS that is fighting them in the first place. ISIS withdrew from the ancient city of Palmyra captured by the Syrian regime, evacuated several villages in which the Kurds gained ground, but were fiercely fighting the Syrian rebels in Azaz.

Washington is said to have had an unpleasant experience with the rebels as they abandoned Washington after getting trained and acquiring weapons. Yet, Washington imposed on Syrian rebels strict conditions but not on the Kurds. It held them accountable for their connection with al-Nusra and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in the battlefield.


Is this retribution against the “Sunni Islam” that hit America on September 11?

Jamal Khashoggi

Washington is said to be carrying out background checks of members belonging to the opposition and even spying on their phones. It obliged them to only fight against ISIS but not the regime, which is the main reason behind the revolution and their call for freedom. All this has jeopardized the trust between the two sides. However, Washington’s supposed links to a minority group that does not have any national relevance is still not justified.

The second option would be of the old US ally, Saudi Arabia, which has repeatedly said it is ready to dispatch ground forces to Syria to rein in ISIS if an international cover, i.e. the American support, is provided. America knows that Saudi Arabia is capable of creating a large Islamic alliance that goes beyond Syrian revolutionaries, Turkey and Gulf countries.

Such an alliance would be the perfect way to eliminate ISIS on the military and the ideological levels and this will be very much welcomed by the local population. In such a scenario, Washington will not have to send its ground forces or expose its citizens to danger. It will solely have to protect its allies from Russians and leave the task of restoring order to the regional powers.

The third option is Turkey, which has reiterated several times its willingness to create a buffer zone in the North of Syria that could be safe for millions of Syrians and that could stop the flow of refugees to Europe. This would also end rumors about making its land as the route for ISIS.

President Obama’s interview with The Atlantic spurred general outrage. His insinuation regarding Turkish President’s failure because he “had refused to use his huge army to resettle stability in Syria” angered Erdogan. It is true that the Turkish president wasted several opportunities to intervene before Russia eventually did but he continuously offered the Americans to lead a joint operation against ISIS.

The question that arises is why is the United States reluctant to utilize its historic allies such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia? Why does it display the tendency to intervene with suspicious elements and minorities such as “al-Hashd el-Shaabi” in Iraq and the Kurd separatists in Syria?

Is this retribution against the “Sunni Islam” that hit America on September 11? Even if that was the case, it would be wrong interpretation because the perpetrator was not “Sunni Islam” but an extremist group. However, such a belief, it seems, prevails in American politics. This has been evident in an article published in The New York Times or in one of the discourses attributed to President Barack Obama that he has to justify each time he meets his Saudi allies.

Regardless of the rationale behind American approach in the region, it chooses to align with wrong plans and bad intentions. We will bear the dire repercussions of this approach in few years. The success of Iran and the separatist Kurds in Iraq and Syria will not eliminate ISIS. It will rather be a temporary victory out of the historic context and will spur further ethnic divisions along with sectarian ones after years of failure and autocracy. This will only result in decades of disasters.

America intervenes in our world as we seem unable to tackle the differences. In the light of this fact, isn’t it crucial for us to understand the reason behind its interference? Saudi Arabia might not be able to replace the US or push it in the right direction but this is our region and we are going to suffer from the consequences of what the United States does to us.

This article first appeared in Al Hayat on June 4, 2016.

Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels. Twitter: @JKhashoggi

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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