Most observers of the Middle East cannot make sense of US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull his troops out of Syria. The decision was abruptly announced a few weeks ago without informing the U.S.’s other allies involved in the region. Now, for the first time a Saudi Prince has publicly criticised the US President’s decision and warned against following through with it.
Prince Turki al-Faisal warned the withdrawal of US troops would have a negative impact for U.S. and its allies and allow Iran, Russia and President Bashar al-Assad to strengthen their hold in the parts they control.
Using strong words, Prince Turki said the US troop withdrawal would make things worse for the Syrian people who have already suffered a lot at the hands of Bashar al-Assad. "The US actions from my perspective is that it is going to further complicate, rather find any solutions to it and further entrench not only the Iranians, but also the Russians and Bashar al Assad, so from the perspective it is a very negative development," he said.
The prince added that the resignation of US Defence Secretary James Mattis in December was a sign that even military officials saw the policy as folly. "Obviously he disagreed with the administration on Syria policy so in that context his remaining would have been a more positive sign of commitment to that policy," he said.
The Saudi prince’s comments were reported on BBC just hours before US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Riyadh for a visit. Pompeo is visiting U.S. allies in the Middle East such as Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain and Iraq as a reassurance measure post Trump’s announcement of policy changes in the region.
Prince Turki is not officially part of the Saudi government but has served as the country’s ambassador to the UK and Ireland in the 2000s. His statements hint at what the Saudi government is thinking about its most-important Western ally.