Opinion: The President surely opened up a can of worms when he spoke about withdrawing our military troops from Syria and soon. Just last week, Trump said “We’ll be coming out of Syria like very soon,” before a Pentagon spokesman calmed our allies fears by stating that the United States was committed, at least until the Islamic State had been defeated.
Then on Tuesday, Trump doubled down on his announcement stating that “it’s time” for the United States to get out of Syria. “It is very costly for our country, and it helps other countries more than it helps us,” he said. “I want to get out, I want to bring our troops back home.”
Now most of the President’s own administration and even most viewpoints from the left, consider it catastrophic and would leave a power vacuum that could invite the Islamic State back in.
When the United States entered the fray a few years ago in 2014, the country was in a shambles. The civil war was raging and there WAS a huge power vacuum where ISIS moved in created its own “caliphate.” When the American and coalition troops deployed there, their stated mission, the only one was to work by, with and through the Kurds to defeat ISIS.
The U.S. wasn’t tasked with overthrowing Assad or stopping the civil war. ISIS was the goal and now, they’ve been pretty much kicked to the curb and are doing what they’ll continue to do. Retreat to another state to lick their wounds and return in another form. They’ll never fully be eradicated as long as politicians allow them to leave with their families, as we saw the mass exodus play out months ago.
So Trump’s announcement certainly wasn’t welcome news for the Kurds and the Israelis, the two regional peoples figuring to be most affected by the decision if the U.S. does withdraw.
The Israelis have never been fond of the Syrians and the Assad regime. Now even less so with the Syrians inviting the Iranians in. Iran wants a permanent presence in Syria, preferably on the Israeli border.
Just a few weeks ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thought that he and President Trump were in concert as far as Iran is concerned in Syria. “We don’t have any limits on our action in Syria,” Netanyahu said. “We see eye to eye,” he said of Israeli and U.S. policy.
But the Israelis are getting mixed signals from Washington. On one hand, Trump is saying they’ll be pulling out soon. On the other, Monday, Pentagon officials were stating that they’re sending dozens more troops to the 2000 or so that are already there.
The Israelis rightfully fear that a U.S. pullout will not see a resurgence of ISIS but a power vacuum where the Iranians move in. The Russians have said in private to the Israelis that they may have to get used to a permanent Iranian presence in Syria. I don’t see the Russians putting up with that for long.
The IDF has already bombed an Iranian base and if need be, the Israelis will act unilaterally. With or without U.S. support. Israel will no doubt bomb Iranian positions in Syria if the Iranians establish a supply line to Hezbollah, the “Lebanese” militia that Iran essentially leads. Hezbollah is aiding Syria in the civil war and looks to establish a permanent presence in the country.
The Israel government worries that the Russians will intervene on the behalf of Iran.
The SDF, the Syrian Democratic Forces of the Kurds are stuck in the middle, as they were in Iraq and have little prospect for any kind of self-determination, even with the U.S. remaining.
The Turks, who consider them terrorists, are attacking SDF strongholds from the north. The Assad regime, with heavy Russian backing, are in the south. There is no peace plan and likely will never be one between the Turks and the Kurds.
As they were in Iraq, they’re getting screwed and will be forced to leave their homes or be eradicated themselves. There will be no mass caravan of Kurds leaving with their families being protected to do so. It sucks but what are the alternatives?
But by pulling out of Syria, what truly changes for the U.S.? The last thing we want is to get into a shooting fight with the Turks. The U.S. has a major airbase there and prior to this mess with Erdogan, the Turks had been one of the United States’ closest allies.
The U.S. isn’t going to try to overthrow Assad now, with just 2000 troops in the country. For what end? With the help of Putin and the Russians, Assad has weathered the storm and is stabilizing his hold on the country.
But the Iranian presence in Syria? It probably isn’t sustainable. The Russians don’t want them there, and even for Assad, they were an ally of convenience. He trusts the Russians much more than he’ll ever trust the mullahs in Tehran.
Our troops have what’s left of ISIS, the Turks are attacking the Kurds, who we trained, funded and led, the Russians, Syrian Army and the Iranians all facing them. Now what? After 17 years of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, we don’t need our troops getting into another open-ended war in Syria.
The Russians already have tested our resolve when they foolishly and recklessly used “mercenaries” to attack a US base before the US and Allied air support blew them all to hell. It wasn’t a mistake or an error in judgement. They won’t make that mistake twice.
Our government sent the troops there to stem ISIS. That part has been accomplished and is nearly done. And once it has, the government doesn’t need to dawdle any further. There is no quick, easy answer for the quagmire of Syria. Get our troops out of there.
Use any and all political means to ease the suffering of the Kurds. Reinforce our support for the Israelis and if necessary, front load some troops there for their defense.Then get the troops the hell out of Syria.