Washington NeoCons are in a rage over the Trump news of his reported pull out of all American troops from Syria. This is not literally true of course, but I will get to that in a minute. First we must go over what was said leading up to the surprise move to get some clues as to why Trump pulled this trigger now.
On the Pentagon front, it appears they were caught flatfooted. Joint Chief of Staff General Dunford recently claimed a “stabilization force” of 35-40,000 would need to be trained to protect Syria from an ISIS resurgence. That made me wonder what the heck the US have been doing all of these years there if not training people, including many going over to the jihadis, even donating their weapons.
This surprise move will go down in history as Trump’s Christmas surprise. So let us try to peel the layers off this event to see what could really be going on inside.
Who knew the announcement was coming?
It apparently caught everyone flatfooted. The proof came when the Pentagon was initially asked how long it would take to bring the troops home; it had to replay that “We are working on that now.” The military brass does not like to be blindsided with something like this.
We also did not hear a word from John Bolton or Nikki Haley, who would usually have been out front on a move like this. Trump took all the credit like he usually does with “We beat ISIS, we won and we are going home like I said we would” statement. The man does love short simple explanations for everything. He will crow about his defeating ISIS in his State of the Union address in January, but have to share it with the Joint Chiefs of Staff all sitting on the front row.
It seems no one in Congress was tipped off either, and they let the world know quickly. The first out of the gate were the dependable Israel-firsters, Senators Mark Rubio and Lindsey Graham. Graham called it an “Obama-like mistake”. Rubio went further, describing it as a “colossal” mistake and a “grave error that’s going to have significant repercussions in the months and years to come.”
This is what senior Senators do when a president leaves them out of the loop on a major policy shift. All of the pro-war and pro-Israeli think tanks will be added to this “big mistake” choir.
Israel will be livid because now Assad will not have the US forces on his Northern and Western flanks, which will make it easier for him to focus on the Idlib problem and face off the Israelis in the Golan Heights, who will be looking to stir up trouble. Nothing scares militant Zionists more than the prospect of peace.
Was the recent Syrian peace process success a last straw for Trump?
Intelligence analysts always quickly ask the key question, why now? Why did Trump not wait until after the Christmas recess, and even his State of the Union address, to give the new Congress some time to get its bearings.
Some might pose that, with the Democrats publicly reveling in their threats to initiate a number of investigations into Mr. Trump’s scandal closet, he wanted to clear Syria off his desk. Others might say that he wanted to get out before getting caught in a bind with a Turkish invasion into northern Syria that would kill US troops, along with the problems that would cause.
Erdogan had his invasion force in its jump off positions and was bombing YPG strong points. Did Trump make a deal with Erdogan that if he would back off from attacking the Kurds and buy the Patriot missiles, then Trump would pull out? The quickness of the move strongly indicates that a deal was made that had to go publicly quickly to seal it. We will know soon with the mountain of post analysis that is coming over the next few days.
Last week saw the Arab League boycott of Assad broken with the visit by Sudan’s president, and the UN completing the first organizational steps in creating Syria’s new Constitutional Committee, with the US playing no role whatsoever. They surely will be fighting like cats and dogs over the new Constitution, but that will be a relief for the Syrian people, especially those who are returning home after years as refugees.
The refugees are a growing element of Assad supporters, as they know that he and the Syrian army, with Russia and Iran’s help, saved them from the jaws of the US-coalition proxy terror war. I think Trump could see that any chance of getting a US puppet in control of Syria was down to zero.
What does leaving really mean?
This is not a trick question. The White House press secretary stated that the US would start transitioning to the next stage of its Syrian campaign, and it would work with its allies to continue the fight. This is a confusing statement, due to its widely being known that the US Coalition ran many of the ISIS units, was particularly active in extricating commanders to use in the future, and sent foot soldiers to Afghanistan to stoke the growing chaos there.
Afternoon reports state that 2000 troops were coming home, with all the State Department people getting out in the next 24 hours, meaning there was only one plane load and they were all at one location. But the real number has always been much bigger.
Special operations are a big outsourced business these days. Eric Prince has been negotiating with the US to replace US Afghanistan troops with his private army contractors, and doing so publicly. And while some US troops will be coming home, many could be shifted to the two new US bases built just over the border in Iraq, in close support positions for the US Kurdish allies inside Syria.
The air wing of the US coalition is not leaving and will be on call for bombing missions when ordered to support what the White House called the next phase. The 2000 US troops could be replaced quickly by another coalition member’s troops. The Gulf States have been supporting ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood, and countless opposition groups inside Syria. We did not hear a peep out of any of them today.
Where do we go from here
Expect the Russians to announce a troop pull down in response to the US leaving, as they have done this in the past during de-escalations. That of course would change quickly if the Gulf States, for example, were to move their Yemen mercenaries to Syria as part of the Yemen War winding down.
Syria’s next military move is anyone’s guess. Will it use the US pullout to begin reasserting itself over Arab territory that the Kurds took over with US backing? Or will Assad want to remove the Idlib jihadi thorn in his side, as no political process can result in a vote if they are not cleared out of Idlib?
Russia, Turkey and Iran have been guarantors of the peace process, where one of the main planks is that Syrian territory is not to become Balkanized by foreign powers. Since they are there at the invitation of Syria they can legally engage any force attacking Syria, if they choose.
Did Trump need a distraction?
Trump needed a big play here to get the press off his Mueller investigation problems, especially with the National Inquirer accepting a “no prosecution” deal by admitting that it helped Trump pay off sexual flings to protect his election candidacy, a felony. With both the National Inquirer and his own attorney rolling over on him, Trump is now a dead man walking on that charge.
The New York Attorney General closed down the Trump Foundation this week for the Trump family using it as a tax dodge and a promotional vehicle to bolster their business and political interests. New York is looking into more of Trump’s dirty laundry in 2019, which looks like it will be a tougher year for him than 2018 has been. Will winning the presidency ironically be the ultimate downfall of Trump.
Jim W. Dean, managing editor for Veterans Today, producer/host of Heritage TV Atlanta, specially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.