Syria’s Reality: A View from Amman

Smoke rises in Raqqa, Syria.
Black smoke rises from Raqqa city where U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces fighters battle against Islamic State militants, in Raqqa, northeast Syria, Thursday, July 27, 2017. U.S.-backed Syrian fighters have captured almost half of the Islamic State group’s de facto capital of Raqqa, but the push into the city in northern Syria has slowed due to stiff resistance and large amounts of explosives planted by the extremists, a spokeswoman for the fighters and monitors said Thursday. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

By Robert Richer

Robert Richer served as a former Associate Deputy Director for Operations at the CIA.  He retired in 2005 and before his retirement he also served as Chief of the Near East and South Asia Division, responsible for Clandestine Service Operations throughout the Middle East and South Asia. Mr. Richer currently consults on Middle East and national security issues and is a senior partner with International Advisory Partners.

With increasingly confusing statements and actions from the White House and the Pentagon on U.S. policy toward Syria, The Cipher Brief presented a live briefing from Amman, Jordan with Cipher Brief Expert and former CIA Chief of Middle East operations, Robert Richer during the 2018 Threat Conference.  Richer talked about the perspective of local actors and how U.S. statements and actions are being interpreted on the ground.  The briefing has been adapted for print below.

The biggest perception in the Middle East and specifically here in Jordan, is this inability to understand what U.S. policy is. That inability translates into concern for everything from instability to next steps to long-term commitments. Some of the recent pronouncements– i.e. whether the U.S. is going to withdraw troops, keep troops or keep troops in play–have gotten people in Jordan on edge. There are close to 100,000 refugees right across the border, looking for a place to go, and Jordan does not believe they can accept them at this point based on their population.

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