Trump's Syria Decision is a Christmas Present to Russia and Iran
Donald Trump's decision yesterday to withdraw US forces from Syria caught members of his own administration by surprise and doesn't seem to be based on advice from America's intelligence or military community.
Guardian: "Pentagon and state department officials were left scrambling to interpret an abrupt change in course from the US policy decided over the summer to keep forces in Syria to ensure the “enduring defeat of Isis” and act as a bulwark against Iranian influence."
"Trump’s own national security adviser, John Bolton, is adamantly opposed to the decision, for different reasons. At the UN general assembly in September Bolton declared: “We’re not going to leave as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders and that includes Iranian proxies and militias.” A diplomatic source described him as “livid” about the president’s decision."
Trump's decision will please Iran, Putin, Turkey and Assad and may well reinvigorate ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.
ABC News: "But that argument contradicts warnings from a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers Wednesday evening following the president's announcement."
"The withdrawal of American presence from Syria also bolsters two other adversaries to the United States, Iran and Russia," the group wrote in a letter addressed to Trump. "As you are aware, both Iran and Russia have used the Syrian conflict as a stage to magnify their influence in the region."
The big losers are Israel and the Kurds who must feel that they have been abandoned once again.
Guardian: "An abrupt US withdrawal would mean abandoning Washington’s closest ally inside Syria, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which has done most of the fighting in clearing Isis fighters out of its strongholds. They are being threatened with a cross-border offensive from Turkey, which sees them as indistinguishable from Kurdish Workers’ party (PKK) militants inside Turkey."
On the other hand, Russian President Putin quickly praised the decision and it will give the Russian leader a free hand to remake Syria as a more pliant and dependable ally.
ABC News: "In a news conference Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that he approved of Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. forces."
“If the U.S. removes its contingent, that is correct,” Putin said. “Let us not forget that American troops, your troops in Syria were not there legitimately."
The Japan Times: "Russia sees longtime ally Syria as a strategic asset in its quest to restore a global role, while Iran’s Shiite clerical state sees a religious imperative in fighting Sunni hard-liners and protecting Assad, a member of the heterodox Alawite sect."
"Jonas Parello-Plesner, a Danish diplomat at the Washington-based Hudson Institute, said that Trump’s move “would make Russia decisively the outside power-broker in Syria.”
President Trump responded to mounting criticism this morning on Twitter.
Twitter: "Does the USA want to be the Policeman of the Middle East, getting NOTHING but spending precious lives and trillions of dollars protecting others who, in almost all cases, do not appreciate what we are doing?" Trump tweeted. "Do we want to be there forever?"
Trump's decision is likely based on his gut instinct that America is tired of perpetual war in the Mideast, and he may be right, but the ramifications may haunt him even sooner than he imagines. Even if ISIS is unable to reestablish itself, another Sunni Muslim successor is likely to rise in opposition to Assad, his Iranian allies, and Shia dominance in Iraq.