Speaking in Ohio on Thursday, President Trump declared that U.S. troops will be leaving Syria “very soon.” Josh Rogin argues that it would a mistake to abandon the country just because Islamic State has been defeated on the battlefield. He instead urges Washington to take advantage of the fact that, with its allies, it controls some 90 percent of Syria’s oil:
[The] larger U.S. mission in Syria . . . is really about containing Iranian expansionism, preventing a new refugee crisis, fighting extremism, and stopping Russia from exerting influence over the region. The United States has serious national-security interests in making sure that Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, and Iran don’t push America out of Syria and declare total victory. . . .
Control over oil is the only influence [Washington has] in Syria today. . . . The actual people holding the land with the oil are not U.S. troops but the mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces that were trained and armed by Washington, along with local Sunni Arab leaders who are resisting the ongoing onslaught by government- and Iranian-backed forces. The Assad regime and Iran have a stated and ongoing strategy to take back all the land that Assad once controlled, including the land containing Syria’s most valuable energy resources.
What’s more, in May, Trump is expected to pull the United States out of the Iran deal, meaning that he will reimpose U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil. It would be profoundly counterproductive to hand Iran control over a swath of Syria that contains huge amounts of oil at the exact same time. . . .
If the U.S. troops leave, the Kurds are likely to cut a deal with the regime and leave the Sunnis to Assad’s cruelty. Then the Iranians will move into the area, completing their land bridge of control from Tehran to Beirut. If Trump doesn’t have a real Syria strategy, he doesn’t have a real Iran strategy.
Source » mosaicmagazine