About the US withdrawal and filling the vacuum in eastern Syria

About the US withdrawal and filling the vacuum in eastern Syria

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In a surprise move, US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw US troops from Syria. In a tweeter, Trump said: “We defeated ISIS in Syria and that was the only reason our troops were there during my presidency.” Earlier, US officials told Reuters that the United States is considering withdrawing all its troops from Syria as it approaches the end of its campaign to regain all the territory controlled by the “ISIS” organization. The Washington Post quoted a US military official as saying that ” Trump decided to withdraw all US troops from Syria, “the source revealed that the decision was taken on Tuesday, and that” the withdrawal of all US forces from Syria will be implemented as soon as possible, “and said that Trump insisted on an immediate withdrawal, and rejected a proposal for an orderly withdrawal after a period of time, a Pentagon source confirmed that US would continue to work with our partners in the Area.

Trump’s decision was a surprise to his Syrian, regional and international allies and administration officials on one hand, and Washington’s opponents in Syria, the Middle East and the world on the other. US officials have often left a margin in their decisions regarding the survival of US forces east of the Euphrates River and Manbij north-east of Aleppo and at the Al-Tanf base at the corner of the Syrian-Iraqi-Jordanian border for the possibility of a surprise from President Trump as he is the final decision-maker . But yesterday’s decision was a surprise because it spoke of a “full and rapid withdrawal” without any coordination with US military institutions, coalition partners against ISIS, local allies in the Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) and regional and international forces. Washington maintains some 2,000 troops in the north-east of the Euphrates deployed with the forces of Qusad. It provided air and ground support in the fight against Da’ash. It built some airports and military bases in the eastern Euphrates areas, as well as the Al-Tanf base near the border triangle between Syria, Iraq and Jordan.
At the press level, all editorial and opinion articles in US newspapers criticized today the announcement by President Donald Trump of the withdrawal of the American forces from Syria with one exception. In an article in the New York Times, Professor Joshua Glitzer, former director of the National Security Council, said that the United States is at risk for another moment of the term ” the mission accomplished ” “When Trump announced yesterday on tweeter,” We defeated the state organization in Syria, which was my only reason to keep our forces there during my presidency.” Glitzer added that the state organization was not “defeated” and that America’s mission in Syria was not fully completed, referring to the recent terrorist attack on the Christmas market in the city of Strasbourg, France, which left five dead and dozens injured. It is a vivid reminder that the threat of the organization remains. The demilitarization of the state organization from territories and even the fighters does not mean success in its defeat, because if they are expelled from a stronghold, they will reappear in other areas, but in more deadly forms, and therefore “this is not the time to end the mission, lest we find ourselves confronted with a more severe renewed adversity.” The decision to withdraw is a sudden, dangerous and separate from any broader strategic context or any logical reason, planting new doubt about America’s commitment to the Middle East and its willingness to become a global leader and the role of Trump as the supreme leader.

The New York Times in the newspaper’s editorial considered that the decision to withdraw was worrying and that this was not the first time the Trump administration had sent mixed messages. It referred to what National Security Adviser John Bolton announced less than three months ago about an expanded goal for his troops in Syria. The aim is not only to defeat the state organization but also to ensure that Iranian troops to leave the country in what appears to be a credible statement of official policy. The decision is sudden and dangerous – as detailed by the newspaper – separate from any broader strategic context or any logical reason, and it planted new complaints about America’s commitment to the Middle East and its willingness to become a global leader and the role of Trump as a supreme leader.
The newspaper added ” Sending conflicting orders to soldiers on the battlefield – as Trump now does – is not only disrupting morale and undermining allied forces like Syrian Kurds , but may risking killing or wounding US soldiers because of the goals abandoned by their leaders. It added that the withdrawal is also likely to be of concern to Israel, which is concerned about the strong Iranian military presence in Syria, as well as Jordan, which bears a heavy burden of Syrian refugees who fled cross-border fighting.
“It is hard not to wonder whether Trump once again made a dramatic move as a way of diverting attention from the bad news of the flood of legal provisions tightening the law around him,” the New York Times concluded. If so, this would be the worst logical reason for a big leader who swore to protect the nation and respect all those in uniform. “Trump with this decision is offering a huge New Year’s gift for President Bashar al-Assad, the state organization, the Kremlin and Tehran, and also guarantees the sacrifice of American military gains there.

The Washington Post, in its opening article, disapproved the announcement of the withdrawal of US forces addressing it on tweeter “Trump destroys US policy in the Middle East.” It added “The resolution also provides a huge gift on the occasion of the new year to President Bashar al-Assad, the state organization, the Kremlin and Tehran. It also guarantees sacrificing of US military gains there and eliminates any influence that Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo and his special envoy to Syria James Jeffrey might have to stimulate a diplomatic settlement that meets the administration’s own goals to keep the state Organization away.
The newspaper added the more important that Trump fall into the same trap as President Barack Obama when he pulled all troops out of Iraq in 2011. This decision effectively guarantees more security disintegration, the rise of the state and Iran again, and the US will have to return to Syria at a greater military cost and in less favorable conditions than if it remained there.

Bloomberg said “Trump’s withdrawal is a huge mistake,” with potentially disastrous consequences. And that by taking this decision as if to say to the allies “You can trust America to let you down,” The Agency said “Trump should go back on his decision.”
National Interest had another opinion, it contradicted the mainstream view of US newspapers that “staying in Syria no longer makes sense” and that the risk of American forces staying there is too large and outweighs any desired benefits. “Trump is right to say that troops should be withdrawn from Syria, It is time for the president to go beyond Washington’s intervention in this matter and to work for the interests of the soldiers and to put America’s interests first .

National Interest added “Trump is right to say that the troops should withdraw from Syria, and it is time for the president to go beyond Washington’s intervention in this matter, to work toward the interests of the soldiers and to put America’s interests first.

The newspaper say that there are plenty of evidences in his favor – for example, that there is no threat to America’s security justifies the deployment of a deadly military force, but there is a great strategic threat to America because of the civil war that is still burning there.

The newspaper added: Moreover, as important, Congress has never authorized US intervention. It is important to note that the forces in Syria were originally sent there by the Obama administration to help “Syrian Democratic Forces” led by Kurds to expel the state organization from its alleged capital, al-Raqqa. National Interest reported that the mission ended successfully in October 2017 ” and according to all laws ,troops should have redeployed , but instead of returning troops home, officials seemed to be looking for something new to do.”

At the political level, If the decision is consistent with the Trump political program, this does not negate its association with many other factors, both external and internal. The first is the “special relationship” between the US administration and Moscow, which was blatantly embodied in the direct Russian intervention in favor of Trump’s election in the 2016 presidential election. If this intervention seems justified enough to the “reward” of Trump for Russia despite the political embarrassment of this intervention for the American president noting that the political realism has to say that the “relationship” is of an ideological nature, so Trump and his ideological camp proved to be Putin’s natural political allies, which was confirmed by the close relations of all extreme right parties in Europe and the world.
The withdrawal is undoubtedly connected with the pressure exerted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Trump. However, these pressures coincided with the Trump relationship and his “special” camp with the Russian leadership, adding to the pressure created by the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the victory of the Democratic Party in Congress, which began a real pursuit for tramp in global and local issues.

The main winners of the resolution ( if applied as quickly as Trump wants ) will first be Russia , which began to mobilize forces and transfer ammunition to Deir al-Zour ( which contains many oil fields , most notably the field of al-Omar and al-Tanak fields) , and this is not new that Russia is the first beneficiary . Washington’s policy is based on four points about the Russian role : there is no objection to the survival of the Kremlin forces in the Levant , there is no objection to the survival of Bashar al-Assad in the process of political determination , which is determined by the course that will go despite the US diplomacy to keep many papers which led to his departure under the pretext of the atrocities he committed when the time comes , to approve Moscow’s plan to keep the Syrian army , the backbone of the state, and finally the non-objection of Moscow’s control over the buried oil and gas wealth in Syria . Although Moscow does not see these points as new because of the de facto status it created with its military power, the most prominent of Washington’s understanding with it is the common concern for the security of Israel , which benefits from the margin of freedom granted by this understanding to direct strikes to the Iranian presence . The actual concession that the Kremlin wants from Trump is in Ukraine and Europe and in sanctions.
second is Turkey, which announced a week ago its readiness for a major operation to wipe out its Kurdish opponents east of the Euphrates, and there will be a big race between these two forces to fill the American military vacuum, and there are also signs of trying by Iran and the Syrian regime to exploit the situation and push forces towards areas controlled by the opposition. The Kurds are the biggest losers as Turkey prepares for a military operation in eastern Euphrates as they are among the most parties worry about the US withdrawal as they form the backbone of Syria’s democratic opposition forces, which have taken over a quarter of the country with support from Washington. It is known that Syria’s democratic forces(QSD) are the largest ally of the United States in Syria. These Kurdish forces control about a third of Syria’s oil and gas-rich territory, which produces the most important strategic agricultural crops, such as grain and cotton.

With the withdrawal of US troops, France remains in the coalition, with small private operations forces in Syria, and Britain, which the media says has secretly deployed a number of soldiers. Former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has said the US withdrawal is a victory for Russia, Iran and Turkey, and Turkey’s allies and the Syrian regime. ” on Tweeter , it was written , as usual , the US leaving the Europeans in a more difficult situation – and it seems totally wrong that we do not have a defensive force capable of helping stabilize neighboring countries,” he said, amid calls by France to create a European army separate from the NATO .

The coming months will shed light on what the French , British and Norwegian forces are doing which present in the fold of the US presence in Syria , and will the elimination of ” ISS” precede the withdrawal “” or leave a fork for use , and will Moscow coordinate with Washington its withdrawal , and will allow Iran or Turkey to fill the vacuum . Will the Kremlin protect the Kurds and Syria’s Democratic Forces in the north –east from Turkey , and will the reward that America win from the withdrawal is the return of harmony between it and the traditional Turkish ally , with the repercussions on Syria ,the sick man , on which Israel is preparing to detach the Golan from it ? .. it is a withdrawal that increase the confusion .

Muammar Faysal Khouli
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies