Trump’s ATM Machines

Why is the US getting Saudi Arabia and the UAE to pay for its deployment in Syria?

By Abdel Bari Atwan

Donald Trump treats most of his Arab allies in the Gulf region as cash-dispensing machines.

His shamelessness in this regard reached new heights at the weekend when he tweeted that he had decided to stop providing an annual $230 million in aid to his allies in northeastern Syria – in territory they recaptured from the Islamic State (IS) group – and instructed Saudi Arabia and the UAE to immediately make up for most of this shortfall.

Saudi Arabia is to pay $100 million and the UAE $50 million. These sums will be spent on ‘rebuilding’ parts of Syria east of the Euphrates – areas controlled by the Kurdish-controlled Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) plus various tribal militias – and perhaps also on arming these groups.

It is noteworthy that the US decision to offload these financial commitments onto certain Gulf states comes at a time when dialogue between the Syrian Kurds and their central government in Damascus has made major progress. It is as though this Gulf-backed American move was intended to undermine these advances and reignite the fuse of war in this area, this time between the Syrian Arab Army and the SDF. President Bashar al-Asad had insisted in an interview a month ago that the Syrian state would recover these parts of the country, whether by peaceful means or by war.

The Trump administration seeks to separate the areas east of the Euphrates, which contain much of Syria’s oil and gas reserves, from the central state, and establish two US-backed ’emirates’ there: a Kurdish one, and another Arab Sunni sectarian tribal entity. It is quite possible that Saudi and Emirati forces will be deployed in the latter zone alongside US forces – Trump having backed down from his previous plan to withdraw US troops from Syria.

The main features of the new American plan have become clear. Its ultimate aim, fully in line with Israeli dictates, is to eventually trade off the departure of US and allied forces from northeastern Syria for the withdrawal of Iranian and allied irregular forces from the country.

The Kurds are mistaken if they think the US and its Arab allies are acting in their interests. They must appreciate that these parties only want to use them, yet again, as tools to achieve this deal, and that they will stab them in the back once their aim is achieved, as proven by all precedents.

The US project has been defeated in Syria. Any attempt to ‘patch up’ that defeat is doomed to failure. It is sad to see that the Saudi/Emirati coalition is taking part financially, and perhaps militarily at a later stage, in this futile endeavour.

American forces will eventually leave northern Syria in defeat. The same applies to Iraq and the entire region. They will be unable to withstand the casualties if they become targets, either of conventional military confrontations or of wars of resistance as occurred after the occupation in Iraq and in Afghanistan today.

There is plenty of evidence that this is the direction in which events will unfold. The days to come will be full of surprises, unhappy ones of course, for Trump and his allies.