WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Trump is planning a full and accelerated pullout of the 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria, media said, a move that could leave a vacuum that Iran will be eager to fill.
The move reported Wednesday by CNN and the New York Times, quoting administration sources, will be seen in the region as diminishing the U.S. role in setting the terms for an end to the civil war that has engulfed the country since 2011.
Trump appeared to confirm the reports in a tweet. “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” he said, referring to the near-ouster of forces belonging to the Islamic State terrorist movement, which comprised part of the resistance to the Assad regime.
The Israeli government likely will be rattled by the decision. Remaining in Syria are Russian and Iranian advisers as well as troops belonging to Hezbollah, the Lebanese terrorist militia allied with Iran. Iran, Hezbollah and Russia are aligned with the Assad regime. Turkey, which also has exercised influence in Syria, has backed the rebels.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that any final status settlement to the war must include the removal of Iranian influence from Syria, and the removal of U.S. troops substantially diminishes U.S. leverage to achieve that outcome.
Russian officials said that Iranian forces should remain outside a 60-mile perimeter near Israel’s border but otherwise have suggested that Israeli might have to live with permanent Iranian influence on the country.
According to the reports, the United States will keep troops in Iraq who will be capable of strikes inside Syria.