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    Arab Troops in Syria? Alliances in Mid East Are Like Shifting Sand - Professor

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    Radio Sputnik discussed Washington’s reported proposal to replace US troops in Syria with Arab fighters with Alpaslan Ozerdem, Professor of Peacebuilding and Co-Director of Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations.

    Sputnik: What're your thoughts on the probability of Egypt, Qatar and, or the United Arab Emirates agreeing to contribute troops and/or financial assistance to Syria?

    Alpaslan Ozerdem: I think there are two possible scenarios, positions here.

    The first one is the Arab states would provide financial assistance for a certain Arab force to be deployed in Syria.

    And the second one is that the Arab states would both finance and contribute troops.

    I think for me both are problematic with some possible negative consequences on the conflict in Syria and possibly not quite possible. Let's start with the first one. In terms of feasibility, the Arab states, particularly the rich Persian Gulf countries, funding such an army might be possible. Probably they would source troops from other countries, say Sudan, or perhaps from Pakistan. However, they also talk about the involvement of the military contractor, Blackwater USA. That may play a role in this and it might be even run the Arab force in Syria. For me that is really dangerous. And when we look at the possibility of deploying Arab forces on the ground the picture is I'm afraid is not any better. First of all, to start with there're major political problems within some of those countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt on the one hand and Qatar on the other. So how can they possibly come up with an agreement on such a force is really questionable. And second, if they are deployed then there's Gulf Arab troops engaging in confrontation with Iranian forces in Syria, for example, could easily reverse the situation. And finally it's also important to see how the other regional actors would react to such an Arab force, for example Turkey.

    READ MORE: War in Syria 'Is Not Over by a Long Shot,' Analyst Explains Why

    So the alliances in the Middle East are like shifting sand. So overall this whole idea of finding Middle Eastern solutions for Middle Eastern problems could be a futile exercise.

    Sputnik: As you mentioned there're conflicts of interests and even stances between all of the countries involved. Can you comment on which countries in particular might be most likely to contribute troops on the ground?

    Alpaslan Ozerdem: Amongst the Arab countries, now, for example Saudi Arabia seems to be engaging in the conversation with the Trump administration on this. But whether or not Saudi Arabia would deploy forces while they're waging a war in Yemen I think is really questionable, because with Yemen, there's a direct security threat, so it's a priority for them. Diverting their troops and deploying in Syria I don't think that will be happening. So the most likely countries would be perhaps Sudan or Pakistan or other countries that would have that kind of military power but not funding and may be convinced to be part of this alliance.

    READ MORE: Expert Explains Why Plan to Replace US Military in Syria With Arab Troops Flawed

    Sputnik: I'm just wondering if there's really a political will as far as Pakistan getting involved in a war and how even if it's being funded by somebody else you also mentioned Blackwater. Wouldn't the US be interested in doing this in order to sort of keep out of the conflict in Syria? Trump has been promising to get out of Syria, Blackwater would still I think be perceived as a US presence.

    Alpaslan Ozerdem: Yes, it would and on in your first part of the question, in terms of countries like Pakistan or Sudan yes, there are a lot of question marks. For example when Saudi Arabia started its military engagement in Yemen, I think they were hoping that both Egypt and also Pakistan would work with them, would assist them, but that never happened. So the whole question of where the troops would come would be a significant one. And in terms of the US presence what we see is that Donald Trump keeps changing his mind on Syria, almost on a daily basis. The withdrawal of 2,000 US forces that has already created quite a big division between the US administration the military personnel on the ground don't agree with Trump. I think what we are seeing is a very complicated and divisive picture here.

    The idea of deploying an Arab force in Syria with some serious consequences for the security or the worsening of the situation, is hugely problematic.

    Sputnik: we also have players like Israel, Turkey and Iran of course all in a mix on the ground right now not on the ground but actively involved in Syria in any case. What can you say about the possibility of some kind of Arab forces and how would that impact the situation among the countries that are involved in this Syrian conflict already?

    Alpaslan Ozerdem: I think that will be a huge discontent for the Kurds if the US decides on a complete withdrawal. For Israel, though, it's really interesting that over the last few months Israel has been building closer relations with the gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. That could actually, that's a very interesting question and probably this would get a backup from Israel politically. I think that would be indeed interesting.

    The views of the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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