Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has stated that he wants the US to maintain its military presence in Syria. “We believe American troops should stay for at least the mid-term, if not the long-term,” he told Time Magazine on Thursday.
The crown prince's statement came amid US President Donald Trump's declaration that American forces are set to leave the war-torn country in the near future.
Surprising his advisors, the US president told cheering crowds at a rally in Ohio last week that he will soon pull US forces out of Syria.
The Wall Street Journal
later reported that he plans to freeze $200 million in basic State Department funds for Syria’s recovery.
The policy move is a significant blow for Israel, which is relying on American support to prevent Iran’s spread across Syrian territory.
The Saudi crown prince, who is midway through a tour in the US, expressed similar concerns, stating that the American troops' presence is the last effort stopping Iran from continuing to expand.
Bin Salman remarked that without US presence, Iran would gain a greater foothold in the region, establishing a "Shi'ite Crescent."
“If you take those troops out from east Syria, you will lose that checkpoint [...] this corridor could create a lot of things in the region."
“But I believe that [Syrian President] Bashar [Assad]'s interest is not to let the Iranians do whatever they want to do,” he concluded, hopeful that despite the American decision, Assad would not become an "Iranian puppet."Michael Wilner contributed to this report.