American Moves to Control Further Instability in the Middle East

The US military actions in the region, particularly along the Iraqi Syrian borders, have recently gained significant attention and become a focal point. The US has strengthened its military presence at its bases in eastern Syria, cloaking these movements with “strategic ambiguity,” framed under the context of combating “terrorism” and encircling Daesh in the porous border region between Iraq and Syria. Reports of intensive American activities have surfaced for months, with their frequency escalating in recent weeks. Substantial numbers of troops have been deployed to the border region between Iraq and Syria, alongside the repositioning of naval assets and strategic bombers in the area.

As for the objectives behind these movements and reinforcements, even though they fall within the framework of a policy of strategic ambiguity, attempts have been made to camouflage them by capitalizing on protests in southern Syria, presenting them as preparations to topple the regime. However, these objectives can be discerned from the surrounding circumstances. It is common knowledge that the US is investing in the Russo-Ukrainian war to reshape the world in a way that serves its continued international dominance. This includes dismantling emerging powers and blocs. In this context, the US presence in eastern Syria and its reinforcement serves to monitor and limit the effectiveness of the Russian presence in Syria. It also sends warnings to both Iran and Turkey regarding their reliance on Russia in the Syrian file.

Therefore, it is likely that the U.S. reinforcements in eastern Syria, close to the regional powers, aim to hinder any convergence between these powers, mitigating the risks posed by their agreements to the US presence and interests in the extended region from the Gulf to the Black Sea.

One of the aims of the US movements is also to curb the activities of the Popular Mobilization Forces loyal to Iran, to prevent them from causing trouble and targeting US forces in Syria, as happened when they targeted the al- Tanf base on the Syrian-Iraqi border. These actions aim to deter them from disrupting the US stability in Iraq, especially after the US allowed the Iran-backed “Coordination Framework” to take positions within the government, including figures like Qais al-Khazali, the leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, who played a pivotal role in naming al-Sudani as Prime Minister and forming the government. This strategy seeks to sow competition and conflict among the factions of the Popular Mobilization Forces, dismantling, containing, and integrating them into the structures of the US controlled government. It also aims to isolate rebel leaders and factions, such as the al-Nujaba Movement and its leader Akram al-Kaabi, who attacked the US Ambassador during the “Quds Day” rally in April last year, designating US forces as a target for his faction. This prompted the US to threaten him with assassination to silence him and deter other factions.

There is no doubt that handing over power in Iraq to Iran-backed factions serves to reassure the Iranian regime about its interests in Iraq and encourages it to return to its functional sphere that it deviated from, with the aim of integrating Iran into the process of stabilizing the situation in the entire region. This is why the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, called on the Popular Mobilization Forces, during meetings of the conference organized by the Coordinating Committee of Armed Islamic Resistance in Tehran earlier this year, to support stability in Iraq and adhere to the decisions of the Coordination Framework.

Another US goal is also to achieve progress in the context of Israeli normalization with Saudi before the upcoming US elections. These elections will bring the US-Saudi relationship and the Iranian threats that require a significant military deterrent into focus.

It is also possible that the US administration could use its military movements in the Middle East to reassure Israel regarding the firmness of dealing with Iran, which is intended to remain a challenge for both Gulf states and Israel.

On another note, the reinforcement of US forces on the Syrian-Iraqi borders curbs Netanyahu’s pretexts and prevents him from exporting his domestic crisis through military action against Iran. Hence, Iran recently conveyed its warnings to Israel through Hezbollah’s Secretary-General, Hassan Nasrallah. Nasrallah exploited this response to the threats made by the Israeli Defense Minister to bolster his party’s popularity within Lebanon. This comes after the party suffered a setback due to its involvement in Syria and the Beirut port explosion, as well as the economic repercussions linked to Lebanon’s domestic political crisis.

As for portraying the US military movements as preparations to topple the Syrian regime, this is merely a disguise for the real objectives. The rehabilitation process of the Syrian regime, evident in Bashar al-Assad’s presence at the Arab summit in Saudi Arabia, the convergence of Arab delegations in Damascus, and Syria’s involvement in the energy project from Egypt to Lebanon, all negate the idea that the US is currently aiming to overthrow the Syrian regime. Instead, there are attempts to extract Syria from the grip of Russian and Iranian influence while keeping it in a weakened state. The US benefits from a weakened Syrian regime that is grappling with economic crises, as this intensifies its military presence in the eastern regions and strengthens Kurdish factions in the north.

There is little benefit to be gained from toppling a regime that could lead to a serious crisis, diverting attention from the Russo-Ukrainian war, or causing a clash between American and Russian forces in Syria, thereby complicating the interconnected Syrian situation and offering regional states like Iran, Turkey, and Israel the opportunity to exploit the situation for their own national interests. Hence, the matter of toppling the Syrian regime is unlikely in the current time.

As for the driving force behind the recent protests that erupted in southern Syria and spread to the north, it is due to the economic deterioration the state is experiencing, particularly exacerbated by the Russian ally’s engagement in the Ukrainian war, the dwindling Iranian support, the absence of Arab aid, and the regime’s inability to meet the bare necessities of the masses.

Therefore, the US military movements in the Middle East fall within the framework of imposing stability in the region based on its international priorities, rather than for the purpose of escalation or toppling the Syrian regime.

Copyright Ó LCIR 2023

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