By Javad Heirannia

Saudis are not eager to make significant new troop commitment in Syria: Pillar

April 30, 2018 - 9:9

TEHRAN – Professor Paul Pillar, who was CIA intelligence analyst for 28 years, tells the Tehran Times that the United States cannot, of course, order Arab states to do specified things with their armed forces.  

Pillar also says, “Especially given the Saudi entanglement in the conflict in Yemen, the Saudis probably are not eager to make a significant new troop commitment in Syria.”

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: The Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is open to sending troops to Syria as Wall Street Journal reports that 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: Such a plan is consistent with the Trump administration's theme of trying to shift burdens away from the United States and onto other countries.  But the United States cannot, of course, order Arab states to do specified things with their armed forces.  Especially given the Saudi entanglement in the conflict in Yemen, the Saudis probably are not eager to make a significant new troop commitment in Syria.    

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

A: The disagreements among Arab states are one reason, though not the only reason, that the formation of such an Arab expeditionary force is highly uncertain.  This does not rule out individual countries such as Saudi Arabia trying to make such a contribution, but that would be a smaller matter than a joint expeditionary force.

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: Russia would not welcome any such force explicitly.  If formation of such a force were part of a package that involved all U.S. troops leaving Syria, Russia might be glad to have the U.S. troops gone.  But the overall Russian objective for Syria is for the civil war to quiet down and for the Assad regime to reestablish its authority over the whole country.  Any foreign force within Syria that is hostile to the regime keeps that from happening.

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