Former Jabhat Al-Nusra Commander: U.S. Withdrawal From Middle East Counters Interests Of Syrian Revolution, Sunni Muslims

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December 8, 2021

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On December 7, 2021, Uss Al-Sira' fi Al-Sham (The Root of the Conflict in Syria), a Syrian jihadi Telegram channel run by former Jabhat Al-Nusra (JN) commander Saleh Al-Hamawi, who was dismissed from the group in July 2015, published a post asserting that a withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Middle East is counter to the interests of the Syrian revolution and of Sunni Muslims, since the alternatives to an American presence are worse.

The Telegram post, which begins with the hashtag #TheMiddleEast, reads: "It is not in our interests, as revolutionaries and as Sunnis, for America to withdraw from the region, since the alternative is either chaos which will be utilized by Iran, which we have been unable to defeat, or by Russia and China, who wage war on Islam, and on Sunnis specifically, more harshly. America, as bad as it is, remains a buffer against China and Russia and a stumbling block to Iran."[1]

There has been talk of a withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Middle East since U.S. President Joe Biden stated in a July 2021 meeting at the White House with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi that: "We're not going to be, by the end of the year, in a combat mission" in Iraq. Biden clarified that U.S. forces will remain in Iraq after the beginning of 2022, "to train, to assist, to help and to deal with ISIS as it arises." Despite these clear statements, Iran-backed Shi'ite militias in Iraq have been pressing for a complete withdrawal of all U.S. forces by December 31, 2021, and since the end of July have been threatening to attack U.S. forces that remain in Iraq after the new year.[2]

In addition to the approximately 2,500 U.S. service members in Iraq, there are about 900 U.S. troops in northeastern Syria, where they work with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the struggle against ISIS, and another 200 at the Al-Tanf base near the border with Iraq and Jordan. However, there is no indication that U.S. forces intend to leave Syria soon, despite initial speculation that they might do so following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of August 2021.

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