For several times, the US President threated to withdraw his troops from Syria, but was convinced not to. Yet, his decision was announced on 19 December 2018 as he wrote in a tweet “After the historic victories against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), it is time to bring our great young people home,” which was a move that blindsided American allies.
The US President justified his decision by saying that the only reason the US troops were in Syria was to defeat ISIS, and now Trump believes that this mission was accomplished, thus there is no reason for them to stay in the country.
Trump’s decision has been the centre of speculations and analysis globally. In an effort to figure out the reasons behind the move, and the next steps for Washington in the region, as well as the implications and
the consequences of this decision on key regional players, which are Iran and Israel, Daily News Egypt spoke to political experts and analysts in order to shed the light on these questions.
Commenting on these questions, the former Diplomat, ambassador Azmy Khalifa, said that as a rule of thumb, the US does not take any decision which is not in Israel’s favour. He added that ISIS has been stepping up its operations in Iraq and Syria since 2014, and the US stood still at the time without reacting. He further added that ISIS has never attacked Israel since its resurgence, on the contrary, a large number of injured ISIS members were treated in Israel and Turkey.
“Moreover, as a general principle, the US will not protect any country in any region of the world without a price. Therefore, who will pay the price for defending Syria?” Azmy declared.
Likewise, Noha Bakr, an international relations professor at the American University in Cairo, believes that Trump’s decision to withdraw the troops comes within the framework of cutting the costs, sharing the burdens, and also serving the Jewish lobby, which are one of the major factors of the US’ President’s campaign to win votes during his next elections. Therefore, Bakr predicts that the first scenario of the US’ withdrawal from Syria could likely result in the Israeli expansion, and the replacement of the US troops with Israel’s.
As for the Iranian threat in the region after the US’ withdrawal, Azmy declared that the US is repeating the previous Iraq scenario. Back at the time, the US destroyed Iraq then presented it to Iran on a plate of gold, which is what he predicts will happen with Syria. Moreover, the US withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal as the agreement was signed upon a certain US vision. That vision is that the US, through the deal, will be able to change the Iranian position regarding armaments. Yet, even though the deal does not prevent Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons, the US hoped that it will persaude Iran to change its direction in the region, after tasting the benefits of giving up nuclear weapons as the deal lifted international sanctions which were imposed on Iran.
Yet, Azmy claims that this idea is wrong because no matter how Iran benefits from the non-possession of nuclear weapons, yet it might realise that it is non-beneficial and could continue with its nuclear armament programme. “Accordingly, Trump does not want to risk this, as he does not want to bear any responsibility for Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons during his presidency,” Azmy stated.
Meanwhile, Bakr believes that the US wants Arab countries to pay the bill for the Iranian threat under the so-called Arab NATO project, which was highlighted during Pompeo’s visit to the Arab countries, and during his speech from Cairo which aimed to promote the project. “The other scenario for the withdrawal is the Iranian expansion,” Bakr stated. At the end, she mentioned, “Nor should we forget that Turkey is also a key player in the file, one of the members of the NATO alliance, even if it sometimes disagrees with some American policies, NATO’s joint defence, and we are expected to see conspiracies among the key players in this file.”