The US President shocked many people when he announced that he was withdrawing his forces from Syria just a few days after the State and Defense departments announced efforts to reinforce policies of the government in Syria politically and militarily, whether against ISIS, the Turkish intrusion or the Iranian presence.
Practically withdrawing the US forces means handing the remaining lands to Russia and Iran. While it may spell the end of the Syrian revolution, it is however, not the end of the regional war on Syrian lands or skies. Iran and its militias would still remain, as well as ISIS, while Turkey will continue its battles northern Syria.
Trump confused his administration, his government’s plans and broke his promises and has pleased Moscow, Tehran and Damascus. However, he is still the only US president who confronted the Iranian regime more than the administration of the former US president, Barack Obama. Iran’s success in Syria might be create its end, as the regime in Tehran does not know when or where to stop. Its desire to expand and dominate will restore the great powers; whether with Trump or any other president who will be elected later. The problem is with Tehran, which is the problem of the West as it is for the Middle Eastern countries.
What will happen next?
The US forces are not that huge nor powerful over there, as there are 2,000 with a few hundred intelligence workers, the State Department and others. Its importance is that it represents the commitment of the superpower to impose its policy. It established Syrian militias loyal to them – the Syrian Democratic Forces – most of them Kurds and Arabs. Which is said that they number over 30,000 fighters located east of the Euphrates.
The US withdrawal from Syria would increase the intensity of the regional conflict and reduce the chances for peace. It would be the worst option, specifically for Iran, considering that it is the winner in this withdrawal which it considers a defeat for the American side. With no agreement signed by all parties in Syria, the crisis and the conflicts will continue in different ways.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
The US withdrawal and the resignation of its defense secretary would complicate the situation even further than it is already is inside Syria and its surroundings. Iran will not withdraw now, but rather will reinforce its presence. In return, Israel will intensify its confrontation and ISIS hidden cells will come out from their hideouts. As it was the main reason behind US’ military return to the region, after the Nusra Front and ISIS succeeded on the ground and took over vast areas in Syria, including those areas with oil. The indications then suggested that what al-Qaeda did in Iraq and in Afghanistan would be repeated; which means targeting the US and its interests.
This contradicts with Trump’s narrative that ISIS had been eliminated and that his government is not ready to fund others’ wars. As confronting Iran and the siege of al-Qaeda, is a war for the US security and its interests, which of course converges with the interests of the region and the world.
Foreign or domestic?
Whether the motives of the US president were domestic in preparation for another presidential campaign in two years or to get out of the Syrian situation, Trump will most probably do what his predecessor Obama did; he will resend his forces to Syria. Without getting Iran’s forces and militias out, the situation will not stabilize. It would attract different regional and international interferences, which in turn, in the light of this chaos, would bring back the terrorist militias.
While Trump considers that besieging Iran is a key pillar of his foreign policy, his decision to withdraw from Syria gives a contradictory meaning for everyone, including Iran. Also, the verbal confrontation with Moscow, which we notice that is witnessing an unprecedented escalation on both sides since the end of the Cold War.
In my opinion, US withdrawal would increase the intensity of the regional conflict and reduce the chances for peace. It would be the worst option, specifically for Iran, considering that it is the winner in this withdrawal which it considers a defeat for the American side. With no agreement signed by all parties in Syria, the crisis and the conflicts will continue in different ways.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.