By Javad Heirannia

Arab force in Syria would be “ineffective”: Askari

April 24, 2018 - 10:3

TEHRAN – Professor Hossein Askari, an expert on Saudi Arabia who also teaches international business at the George Washington University, strongly believes that “The Saudis will not do any heavy fighting. Just ask Americans what Saudis contributed during Operation Desert Storm!”

Hossein Askari, who teaches at George Washington Univerisity, tells the Tehran Times that the Arab force in Syria would be “ineffective and would leave if they incurred heavy casualties.”

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: The Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is open to sending troops to Syria, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration is seeking to assemble an Arab force in the northeastern part of the country to replace the U.S. military. Is it possible to implement such a plan?

A: The problem of assembling an effective and multinational Arab force are many. The Arabs are divided. Although most Arabs do not support Bashir Assad, most Arab leaders also do not want to send troops to another Arab country. The reason is simple. If they are willing to dispatch troops then they expose themselves to the same fate.

At the same time, Arabs are divided over other issues that overlap such as relations with Iran. Relations with Iran has divided the PGCC and so it would be tough to see Qataris fighting along Saudis and against Iranians; Iraq and Oman would also have a hard time joining a force to fight Iran. Similarly, Turkey, a country that has a base in Qatar could be fighting Qataris if they join an Arab force that had the mission of defending Kurds. There are many such overlapping issues.

Most important, the best fighting Arab force are the Jordanians and the Egyptians. But even they have had little recent fighting experience and they would want money to fight. Egypt has serious disagreements with Saudi Arabia over Syria and would want much money that Saudi Arabia cannot afford.

So in the end what the Arabs could assemble is an Arab force in name, financed with Saudi, Emirati and maybe Kuwaiti money. The force would have a few Saudis and Emiratis leading the Arab contingent but the troops would be Jordanian and maybe Egyptian with limited field experience. The U.S. could call them an Arab coalition but how effective would they be against the Syrians supported by Russia and Iran?

Q: With regard to the disagreements among Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Emirates spat with Qatar or the disagreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia about Syria, should we expect that the idea of an Arab expeditionary force would come into existence?

A: Yes, you are right and as I have alluded to some of these disagreements, it may only be a symbolic Arab force. A few Saudi and Emirati senior officers with Jordanians doing the fighting. The Saudis will not do any heavy fighting. Just ask Americans what Saudis contributed during Operation Desert Storm!

Q: Does Russia accept the presence of this so-called Arab force in Syria and how will it reshape the Syrian equations in the future?

A: I think that Putin would be delighted and very happy to see the Americans go and an Arab force to step in. The reasons are obvious. The Arab force would be ineffective and would leave if they incurred heavy casualties. If Russia bombed the Arab force, the repercussions for Russia would be reduced as compared to Russians killing Americans. And don’t let’s forget, it would show that Russia stands with its allies while Americans could run with a change administration.

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