US-led coalition says Syria withdrawal has begun

In this file photo taken on December 30, 2018 a convoy of US military vehicles rides in Syria's northern city of Manbij. (AFP)
Updated 11 January 2019

US-led coalition says Syria withdrawal has begun

  • The US-led military coalition in Syria has begun pulling out troops
  • Trump said he had ordered the withdrawal of all US forces in Syria, which are believed to number around 2,000

WASHINGTON: The US-led military coalition in Syria has begun pulling out troops, a spokesman said on Friday without elaborating on locations or timetables.
"CJTF-OIR has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria," spokesman Colonel Sean Ryan told AFP in a statement, referring to the US-led anti-extremist force.
"Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements," he said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the coalition had started scaling down its presence at Rmeilan airfield in the notheastern province of Hasakeh.
"On Thursday, some American forces withdrew from the Rmeilan military base in Hasakeh province," Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based monitoring organisation, said.
"This is the first such pullout of American forces since the US president's announcement" of a full troop withdrawal from Syria last month, he said.
On December 19, Trump said he had ordered the withdrawal of all US forces in Syria, which are believed to number around 2,000.
His announcement, which came after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was criticised even within his own camp and is already having major repercussions on the nearly eight-year-old conflict.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Friday talks between the US military and its Turkish counterparts on the Kurds and Syria will continue next week, in the hopes of producing results both countries accept.
Bolton, in a radio interview, said he, President Donald Trump, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo understood Turkey had committed "not to harm the Kurds who had fought with us against ISIS."
Bolton had suggested on Tuesday that protecting Washington's Kurdish allies would be a pre-condition of the US withdrawal troops from Syria, which began earlier on Friday. That drew a rebuke from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who called his comments "a serious mistake."
"What we’re still pursuing in these military-to-military conversations are assurances and protocols and procedures so that everybody feels comfortable with how this is going to happen. And we’re hoping those discussions, which will continue next week, will produce results that are acceptable on both sides," he said in an interview with Hugh Hewitt, according to a transcript.

 


Pan-Arab poll: Biden better for region, but must shun Obama policies

Updated 26 October 2020

Pan-Arab poll: Biden better for region, but must shun Obama policies

  • Majority of respondents to Arab News/YouGov survey consider neither candidate good for region
  • Findings show strong Arab support for Trump on Iran but not on Jerusalem embassy move

RIYADH: Nearly half the respondents in an Arab News/YouGov poll conducted in 18 Middle East and Africa (MENA) countries believe neither candidate in the upcoming US elections will necessarily be good for the region.
Of the rest, 40 percent said Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden would be better for the region while 12 percent said the same thing about incumbent President Donald Trump. But a key takeaway of the poll is that if Biden, who served as vice president to Barack Obama until 2017, wins the White House race, he would be well advised to shed the Obama administration baggage.
When asked about policies implemented in the Middle East under the Obama administration, the most popular response (53 percent) was that the Democratic president left the region worse off, with another 58 percent saying Biden should distance himself from Obama-era policies.
The study surveyed a sample of 3,097 respondents online to find out how people in the MENA region feel about the Nov. 3 US elections.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Containing Iran was found to be one of the top four issues that respondents wanted the next US president to focus on. Strong support for Trump both maintaining a war posture against Iran and imposing strict sanctions against the Tehran regime was noticed in Iraq (53 percent), Lebanon (38 percent) and Yemen (54 percent), three countries that have had intimate regional dealings with Iran.
President Trump’s 2017 decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem proved overwhelmingly unpopular, with 89 percent of Arabs opposing it. Surprisingly, in contrast to most other Arabs, Palestinian respondents inside the Palestinian Territories indicated a greater desire for the US to play a bigger role in mediation with Israel.
Arab opinion was largely split on the elimination this year of Iran’s regional “satrap” Gen. Qassem Soleimani, with the single largest proportion of respondents from Iraq (57 percent) and Lebanon (41 percent) seeing it as a positive move, as opposed to those in Syria and Qatar, where most respondents — respectively 57 percent and 62 percent — saw it as negative for the region.

Iran also figured in the list of perceived threats to US interests, although well behind white nationalism (32 percent) and China (22 percent). The other critical challenges for the US as viewed by Arabs were cybercrime, radical Islamic terrorism and climate change.
For a country that touts itself as an ally of the US, public attitudes in Qatar were found to be surprisingly out of sync with US objectives in the Middle East. The perception of radical Islamic terrorism, Iran and Islamist parties as the “three biggest threats facing the region” was much softer in Qatar compared with the region as a whole.
It came as little surprise that three quarters of respondents want the next US administration to make it easier for people from Arab countries to travel to the US. The figure for Lebanon, for instance, was even higher, 79 percent, underscoring concerns that many young Arabs are actively trying to leave the region.
Among other findings, Arabs remain overwhelmingly concerned about such challenges as failed government (66 percent) and the economic slowdown (43 percent).
Close to half of the respondents (44 percent) would like to see the next US president focus on empowering young people in the Arab region and solving the Arab-Israeli conflict (44 percent), followed by containing COVID-19 (37 percent), reining in Iran and Hezbollah (24 percent), quashing radical Islamic terrorism (24 percent) and tackling climate change (17 percent).