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What’s Driving New Arab Force Plan in Syria?

Alwaght- Some diplomatic sources have recently revealed that the Americans and Saudis at a recent meeting in Syria’s Hasakah province talked about establishing an Arab force as an affiliation of the Kurdish-majority Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The US government, which just a couple of months ago announced it intends to remove its forces from Syria, appears to plan to unveil its new strategy in the war-ravaged Arab country in an apparent shift. 

New American goals 

When in mid-October last year President Donald Trump said he ordered his forces out of large swaths of Syria’s north, the equations of this part of the country transformed fast. Turkey launched its Operation Peace Spring fast advancing into Qamishli, an area controlled by the Kurdish allies of Washington. On the other side, the Kurds, feeling betrayed by Trump administration, turned head to Russia and President Bashar al-Assad’s army. The immediate outcome of this temporary alliance was Damascus forces deployment to the Kurdish-controlled Manbij town in the north. Trump, while claiming that he did not betray the Kurdish allies by a secret accord with Turkey, along with the Ankara campaign quitted arms deliveries to the Kurdish militias under the excuse of not wanting to arm them in the face of a NATO ally. 

By pulling out of Syria, Trump wanted to realize his campaign-time Syria withdrawal promises but was squeezed by pressures originating from the Congress and his advisors who argued the US could not leave to Russia the interests it invested on for years particularly control of the Syrian oilfields. So, the Americans evacuated all of their military bases in northern Raqqa and northeastern Aleppo but maintained their presence in the two provinces of Hasakah and Al-Tanf in Syria’s south. Trump in a speech brazenly said his forces stay in Syria for oil.  

Al-Tanf base is located in a strategic area close to the Al-Tanf border crossing with Iraq linking it to a highway connecting Damascus to Baghdad and in a wider range connecting Iran to Lebanon through Iraq and Syria. At the time, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump agreed to conditionally keep between 200 and 300 troops in Deir ez-Zor suburbs in northern Syria to control oil-rich spots. Trump’s largely twisted policy in northern Syria compounded as news came about new progress made by the Syrian government forces in some parts of Idlib, the last stronghold of foreign-backed terrorists. 

With these all considered, the American president pursues a set of goals in northern Syria. Here are some of them: 

Blocking Syrian and Russian forces’ access to the significant oilfields 

Syria’s richest oil reserves are located in the east and Hasakah. According to the Russian officials, the American state organizations’ income from private trade of the Syria oil reaches $30 million a month. Russia’s Ria Novosti news agency, quoting comments by the Russian ministry of defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov, reported: “this, what Washington is doing now — capturing and maintaining control through the use of arms over oil fields in eastern Syria — that is, to put it simply, international, state-sponsored banditry.” 

Splitting Syria 

In November, SDF, which earlier had initiated cooperation with Russia, prevented a Russian effort to set up a military base in Halakha’s north. They closed the way of Russian military convoy of about 60 armored vehicles aiming to construct a base close to the Rmelan oilfield in northern Hasakah where American forces are stationed. A couple of days later, Lebanon’s Al-Nashra news website reported that an American patrol blocked a Russian convoy in Tal Bidar village in Hasakah. The Russian vehicles rerouted to the Semalka border crossing area near the border with Iraq. In a Paris peace meeting, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia said that the US intends to split Syria to get full control of the Syrian oil. He continued that the Americans want Arab investment to create small regions in northern Syria ruled by Kurdish Democratic Union Party and SDF as a military wing. After several months, Lavrov’s prediction is nearing the reality and the Arab-American camps are rebuilding in the north. 

Taking the initiative in post-ISIS Syria 

With the Syrian army’s retaking areas once held by ISIS and other terrorist groups, there are chances of normalization of ties between al-Assad and the Arab and European countries. This will open the door to their possible participation in Syria reconstruction, helping them gain influence in the post-war Arab nation. In mid-December, Trump signed into law the Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act. Al-Qabas newspaper of Kuwait in a report said that the Caesar act is, in fact, an authorization from Congress to Trump to foist tougher financial sanctions on Damascus within six months. The act, the Kuwaiti paper said, targets organizations and individuals dealing with the Syrian government as well as high-ranking Syrian military commanders and politicians including President al-Assad and his wife. The law even applies to European countries if they deal with Syria. 

Perpetuating Syrian conflict in favor of the Israeli regime 

After Trump’s recognition of the annexation of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights by the Israeli regime, the power regain of the Syrian government increased the possibility of escalation of tensions in the Golan Heights. Tel Aviv had already set up influence in the Kurdish-dominated areas through Emalia, an organization affiliated with Mossad, and discussed oil with the Syrian Democratic Council, the political wing of the SDF. So, Washington’s new Syria strategy also looks to boost the Israeli policy and interests in northeastern Syria. 

Arab countries 

The Saudi and Emirati sticking in Yemen war quagmire and also their record of supporting anti-Syrian terrorist factions removed Riyadh and Abu Dhabi from Syrian past two year’s equations. In May last year, word spread that Saudi Arabia renewed its efforts to get a toehold in Syria’s east. Al-Akhbar newspaper of Lebanon disclosed efforts by Thamer al-Sabhan, the Saudi state minister for Arab affairs, to negotiate with Deir ez-Zor tribes. The paper added that al-Sabhan met senior tribal leaders telling them that the Arab kingdom was ready to support their military council. He, reports went on, urged the tribes to negotiate with the SDF and avoid confrontation with them. 

Some SDF commanders visited Arab countries over the past few months. Haberturk news network of Turkey talked about a visit by Mazloum Kobani, SDF’s commander, to Abu Dhabi where he within a four-day stay met with Saudi and Emirati officials. He was sent back with “bags of a large amount of money, the Turkish broadcaster claimed. The Arab actors seek to take on Turkey in Syria and also find a play card in the face of Iran which has deep influence in the Arab state. 

For Saudi Arabia, former terrorist groups are a burned card now. Thus, it should get new ones. A new force could form with Saudi funding and the US support under the excuse of checking the Iranian foothold in the northeast. Recent reports suggest that Riyadh has undertaken to fund and train an Arab force dubbed Al-Sanadid Forces as well as an elite force led by Syrian opposition figure Ahmad Asi al-Jarba. That is taking place in the context of Turkish focus on Libya developments to fill Ankara place. The odds of Riyadh abandoning support to the Syrian Kurds after realization of its interests are strong.

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