Trump to Raise Big Arab-Muslim Army against ISIS as Centerpiece of His Trip
The Arab mini-summit arranged to greet Donald Trump on May 22, when he lands in Riyadh on the first leg of his foreign trip as US president, is growing into a major event. Its object, DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources reveal, is the foundation of a big Arab-Muslim army to fight the Islamic State terrorist organization.
This is not just an idea for thrashing out in long palaver, but programmed to be a decision for swift implementation.
The White House hopes the president will fly out of the Saudi capital with commitments in his pocket for more than half a million troops from the rulers in attendance.
The Saudi royals and US diplomats and officers are working hard to stretch the numbers of summit attendees, with particular attention to the rulers already committed to sending troops to the new army. In addition to the hosts – Saudi King Salman, Defense Minister Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef – the known comers so far are the rulers of most of the Gulf emirates, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaf Sharif.
(Egyptian President Abdul-Fatteh El-Sisi will not be there for reasons outlined in a separate article.)
The secret war plans US Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster have drawn up name their first objective as the liberation of Raqqa, the town ISIS has made its Syrian capital.
This new Arab-Muslim force would massively augment and accelerate the inroads made so far on the fringes of the targeted town by the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) led by the Kurdish YPG.
On Wednesday, May 10, the US-trained and armed SDF claimed to have captured the town of Tabqa and the Tabqa dam, Syria’s largest, from ISIS, about 40km west of Raqqa.
Neither Mattis nor McMaster or Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, seriously rate the Kurdish-led SDF up to the mammoth, casualty-intensive task of defeating the Islamists and driving them out of Raqqa – hence the need for the large-scale Arab-Muslim army, which will be based on existing military forces – much like the coalition the United States assembled for the first Gulf War in 1991.
This plan still has several unknown factors – chiefly, how are the troops to reach Syria?
Two possible answers are still to be explored:
1. Passage through Turkey. This is far from certain. Fourteen years ago, President Tayyip Erdogan (who is still in power) refused permission for American troops to pass through Turkey on their way to fight in northern Iraq. In the present sour state of relations between Ankara and Washington, it is hard to see him being accommodating – except for a very steep price. His terms will become known when he visits Washington on May 16, six days before the projected Riyadh summit. The latest promise of US heavy weapons to the Kurdish YPG may be the first casualty.
2. Passage through Iraq. Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi has already come forward with an offer of two Iraqi divisions for rooting out the ISIS concentrations established in Deir ez-Zour and the Euphrates Valley of eastern Syria. But would he allow Saudi and Gulf units to pass through his country to reach Syria? Tehran were certainly squeeze Abadi hard to dissuade him from this step.
When President Trump lands in Brussels on May 25 for the NATO summit, he hopes to be armed with hard commitments towards a formidable Arab Muslim fighting force for defeating ISIS in Syria. This will be a lever for him to call on alliance members for substantial contributions to the most ambitious military campaign ever waged against the Islamist terrorists who also harass Europe.