US in Talks About Sending Arab Troops to Iraq, Syria

Courting Jordan, Others as Possible Boots on the Ground

US officials are confirming that they are engaged in ongoing negotiations with Arab nations, particularly Jordan, in an effort to send Arab ground troops to Iraq and Syria to fight against ISIS.

With Iraq’s military a corrupt trainwreck and Syria’s military not much better off after years of war, the US coalition is keen to see some “boots on the ground” in the nations to fight ISIS, and are increasingly recognizing that neither nation’s military is really up to retaking territory from ISIS.

The US has been increasing its own ground presence across Iraq, though they continue to deny that they’re going to be involved in direct combat operations. Jordan seems to be keen to get an Arab army involved, and could be the first nation on board with the operation.

Selling the idea to either Iraq or Syria is going to be a tall order, however, as Arab troops really means in this context “Sunni Arab troops,” from nations not on particularly good terms with the Shi’ite governments of those nations.

Jordan and Syria have seen their relationship sour dramatically in recent years, with Jordan openly training US-backed rebels for the fight in Syria, and calling for the ouster of the Assad government.

Sending this army careening into Syria and Iraq without at least some acceptance from those governments would be hugely problematic, and would further complicate an already messy war.

In the meantime, the US continues to sell ideas like arming random Anbar Province tribes or training up whole new Syrian rebel factions as the way to increase the number of boots on the ground. Their denials notwithstanding, it seems like the US troops are also likely to get sucked into direct combat sooner or later.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.