Apr 17, 2018

The geopolitical difficulties behind Trump's Syrian Arab force

Saudi soldiers on the Yemeni border in 2015. Photo: Cihan / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Foreign policy analyst Max Boot sums up the skepticism of many Middle East experts regarding reports that President Trump wants to replace U.S. troops in Syria with an Arab military force, tweeting: “Saudi/UAE forces are bogged down in Yemen, Egyptian forces in Sinai. Somehow I doubt they are the solution in Syria.”

Between the lines: Egyptians have their hands full dealing with terrorists in the Sinai and the Libyan instability on their western border. It seems unlikely they’ll substantially extend themselves further by deploying in Syria. And the Gulf countries are unlikely to want to make further financial commitments beyond those they already have in Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan. From their perspective, they’re already picking up plenty of the tab for the problems in their neighborhood.

More emailed analysis from Elliott Abrams, a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations and former deputy national security adviser under President George W. Bush:

“Egypt has resisted sending troops to Yemen despite significant Saudi pressure (and the promise of rewards) in recent years. This is likely because the generals know their troops are not well prepared for such duty and could suffer casualties that would be highly unpopular at home. For the same reasons I don’t think they will send their troops to Syria. More generally, any useful Arab force would have to be led by the United States and our soldiers, not be a substitute for us. They could at best be force multipliers.”

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