Why U.S. Troops Should Remain in Syria

Nov. 14 2022

Since driving Islamic State (IS) from its territorial strongholds in Syria, a contingent of American forces has remained in the country. Thanks to their presence, Russian, Iranian, and Syrian-government forces have been kept out of the entire swath of the country east of the Euphrates River. James Jeffrey explains the value of keeping this contingent in place:

The core result of [a U.S. withdrawal] would be to give the Russians greater diplomatic and military bandwidth to increase their pressure on Turkey and Israel to withdraw from Syria as well. That would eventually leave all of Syria under the control of Bashar al-Assad, who instigated the war, and hand Russia and Iran a strategic victory. The United States would be transforming a relatively effective in-country operation that has just 900 soldiers—none of whom have been killed in almost four years—into an offshore effort against IS, presumably in coordination with the tyrant responsible for 650,000 deaths and the displacement of half his country’s population.

Assad’s efforts against IS are feckless. Moreover, military leaders at U.S. Central Command have publicly stressed the need for a U.S. footprint in Syria, not out-of-country bases, to suppress IS. Yes, . . . Iranian-backed militias attack U.S. positions in Syria—just as they do in Iraq and elsewhere in the region. But retreat encourages, rather than deters, Tehran.

The relative success of [the current American] strategy has only become more evident in the past four years, as the ceasefires have held and several attempts by Arab states to reduce Assad’s isolation have garnered no real response from Damascus. More importantly, in an era of increasing geostrategic competition, including with Russia and Iran, the United States must avoid giving away unnecessary strategic victories. The Syrian freeze might not be pretty, but it is likely what limited victory will look like going forward in Syria and perhaps elsewhere.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Iran, ISIS, Russia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy

Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship