Last month’s announced US withdrawal from Syria took many nations by
surprise. The subsequent disavowal of any and all timelines are only
adding more questions. Americans may not be getting a lot of answers,
but US allies across the Middle East are likely to get some form of reassurance.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton will both be heading for the Middle East over the next several days, with Bolton making the rounds in Israel and Turkey, and Pompeo visiting much of the GCC.
Broadly these two are meant to be reassuring nations that the US will remain heavily engaged in the region, and trying to explain how the US stay in Syria is not “indefinite” when there is no definite timetable for it.
Pompeo is also said to be discussing the possibility of sending GCC troops into Syria as an alternative to having US troops there. That probably won’t sit well with Turkey, which has already stated its desire to invade those areas where US troops are embedded with the Kurds. It may, however, please Israel, as they are keen to keep fighters hostile toward Iran inside Syria.
US officials also suggested that Pompeo would address the murder of Jamal Khashoggi while in Saudi Arabia, addressing the lack of credibility of the Saudi narrative. If past administration discussions with the Saudis on this matter are any indication, this will largely involve brain-storming ways to ensure the Saudi Crown Prince isn’t officially blamed.
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