The criticism stemming from President Trump’s decision to remove US troops from northeastern Syria and allow Turkey to move forces into the area should come as no surprise. The Trump administration’s foreign policy decisions have been under fire since 20 January, 2017. Pundits, former diplomats, retired military officers, and politicians have second guessed practically every move the administration made, as well as the reasons behind the decisions. In some instances the criticism was motivated by politics, in others by the simple fact that Trump’s foreign policy was, and continue to be a mystery to many inside and outside of the Beltway.
As far as Syria goes, there should be no surprise, or for that matter, criticism surrounding the move by the president. Outside of defeating ISIS, the United States had no other vital interest related to the Syrian conflict. ISIS has been removed from the board so there is no other compelling reason for the US to keep troops in the area. Even humanitarian reasons aren’t enough to justify a longer commitment.
Syria is in the process of being Balkanized by its erstwhile allies and supporters. Assad’s victory was a pyrrhic one in every way imaginable. The post-conflict phase is now getting underway. The corpse of Syria remains on life support, allowing just enough circulation and heart activity for Turkey, Russia, and Iran to start partitioning sections of the country off. What’s left of Assad’s government, and the territory it controls will become a vassal state beholden to Russia. Iran is busy attempting to craft southern portions of Syrian into a forward operating location where it can springboard operations against Israel. Now Turkey is getting into the act, and with tacit US approval is preparing to move forces into northeastern Syria and establish a security/buffer zone. Erdogan has been seeking this opportunity for years, and with good reason. For a nation-state, security is always linked to expansion.
President Trump has been eager to pull the US out of its open-ended military engagements in the Middle East. His efforts have met with some success, and some failure. Contrary to what some pundits, and politicians on both sides of the aisle claim, Trump is not abandoning the Kurds, or giving Turkey a blank check with regards to Syria. If the Turks move against the Kurds or take action viewed as being outside of the parameters of the arrangement, there will be repercussions.
We will discuss this, as well as Turkey’s coming operation in Syria around midweek.