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Trump’s Proposed Withdrawal Of Troops From Middle East Contradicts Long-Standing U.S. Policy
Turkish and U.S. armored vehicles are seen during a joint patrol in the northern Syrian city of Manbij earlier this month. (Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Trump’s Proposed Withdrawal Of Troops From Middle East Contradicts Long-Standing U.S. Policy

The only reason to keep American troops in the region is to protect Israel, as the U.S. is much less dependent on Middle Eastern oil, president declares

United States President Donald Trump revealed in an interview that his administration would consider withdrawing troops from the Middle East because his country has become less dependent on oil from the region. The only reason to keep American forces there, he contended, is to protect Israel.

“Oil is becoming less and less of a reason to stay in the Middle East because we’re producing more oil now than we’ve ever produced,” the president asserted. “One reason to stay is Israel.”

Analysts have noted that gauging Trump’s seriousness is notoriously difficult, as he sometimes appears to be weighing foreign policy by thinking out loud to the press. On the other hand, the leader has made good on past pledges, notably by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocating the American Embassy to the holy city in May.

Yet the idea of withdrawing American troops from a volatile region has raised eyebrows among policy-makers and experts.

Dr. Martin Sherman, Executive Director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, believes that such a move “would be very grave” in terms of regional consequences.

“It would certainly leave the Kurds in a difficult position. It would also give the Russians a free hand in Syria,” he stressed to The Media Line. “There would be no U.S. naval forces near Syria to deter another chemical-weapons attack by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. And I don’t think we should belittle the gravity of such a prospect.

“Trump is fortunately putting Israel’s interests as a primary consideration, but it is a bit early to speculate when it comes to the Middle East. Only the foolhardy forecast,” Dr. Sherman concluded.

Last week, U.S. media outlets and policymakers slammed Trump for not punishing Saudi Arabia for its hand in last month’s killing of columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. The president hit back, saying the Jewish state would face regional turmoil if not for the stabilizing effect of the kingdom.

“Israel would be in big trouble without Saudi Arabia,” he told members of the press at his Mar-a-Lago resort home in Florida.

Kanishkan Sathasivam, a professor specializing in Middle Eastern politics at Salem State University in Massachusetts, explained to The Media Line that American troops have never been stationed in the Middle East specifically to protect Israel.

“The forces have always been there, initially—pre-1980s—to thwart the Soviet Union’s ambitions as part of a Cold War containment strategy,” he asserted, adding that thereafter American soldiers remained primarily to contain Iran and Iraq.

“Our Persian Gulf allies such as Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait would be extremely concerned about a U.S. withdrawal. This would factor into U.S. policy decisions. Moreover,” Sathasivam continued, “any strategy to prevent Iran’s nuclear-weapons ambition now or in the future will require at least some modest amount of forward U.S. military presence in the region.

“And since Trump has committed himself to a policy of denying Iran such weapons, the idea of removing U.S. troops would be contradictory.”

Nevertheless, Sathasivam concluded that Washington might choose to wind down its military commitments in places like Iraq and Syria, and its supporting role in the Yemen conflict.

“But the big forward posture of the U.S. military, as reflected in its large bases in the region, will remain.”

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