05.01.2019 Author: Viktor Mikhin

President Trump’s Syrian Theatrics


The US President, Donald Trump, who has become accustomed to amusing the world with his theatrics just as a magician does by pulling a rabbit out of a hat on the circus arena, has once again left everyone dumbfounded, his own administration in particular. He suddenly ordered all the US forces stationed in Syria to be rapidly withdrawn, and announced victory over DAESH (a terrorist organization, banned in Russia), thus leaving allies and his own advisors in disarray. The leadership of Pentagon and the US Department of State is desperately trying to come to terms with and comprehend the sudden change in US policy, as only the day before the President gave a month for a decisive victory over terrorists. However, at present, Donald Trump has decided to abruptly change the course undertaken in Syria, and, therefore, tweeted “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”

Trump’s statement is at odds with assessments by his own administration. For instance, the Pentagon Chief stated that at least 14,500 military personnel remained in Syria. “That’s intelligence that is presumably sat on Trump’s desk while he proclaims victory this morning,” said the Director of countering terrorism and extremism at the Middle East Institute, Charles Lister. He also noted that DAESH claimed responsibility for an attack in its former capital of Raqqa only minutes before Trump’s tweet. The sudden departure of the United States from Syria means that Washington is abandoning its closest ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces, which, under Kurdish leadership, has made a key contribution to the expulsion of insurgents from their strongholds. According to global media outlets, the US President’s recent decision has prompted James Mattis, the current Pentagon Chief, to tender his letter of resignation because of differences in opinion with Donald Trump. He will leave his post at the end of February 2019.

Donald Trump’s most recent and unexpected statement, which does not fit in with Washington’s current policy course, is quite thought-provoking and evokes a number of reactions. For instance, previously the American President articulated a phrase, which prompts nothing more than laughter, “The USA has fiercely fought against Daesh from the very first days.” It is no longer necessary to prove anything, as the whole world knows that Washington was responsible for delivering DAESH, as well as Al-Qaeda, into this world. It was the USA that created the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda for the purposes of fighting the USSR, which deployed a unit of its military forces to Afghanistan to combat terrorism. At the time, with the help of “democratic” American media outlets, a photograph was circulated all around the world. It depicted the US Secretary of State, surrounded by terrorists – “dušman” in a Panjshir Valley, looking through a scope of an automatic rifle and stating that they would cover Afghanistan and Soviet soldiers with blood. It was the USA that armed the terrorists with Stinger Man-Portable Air Defence Systems and sent over 50 US training staff, who were also responsible for shooting down Soviet planes. In other words, these American trainers were also simply terrorists, as at that time the United States had not declared war against the Soviet Union. Incidentally, the instructors can now be tried in courts, as the names of those Americans that shot down Soviet planes with the aid of Stingers are now public knowledge. Such grievous crimes do not have a statute of limitations.

The whole world is also well aware that the United States was responsible for founding and structuring a Sunni rebel group in Iraq, aimed at combatting the Shia leadership in Baghdad. After merging with a similar Sunni rebel group in Syria, DAESH was born. Its set goal was to overthrow the officially elected President Bashar al-Assad so that terrorists could take over his leadership. With this same aim in mind, the monarchies of the Persian Gulf arranged to generously finance these military units, while the USA provided them with the latest weaponry, by even parachuting it in at times. In addition, in territories adjoining Syria, training camps were set up with US instructors and special forces on site. The latter are still engaged in criminal activities in Syria, contrary to all international laws and despite demands from Damascus for them to leave these territories.

All of this is public knowledge in the United States, as evidenced by numerous facts published by the global media outlets. As a result, the unexpected statement made by Donald Trump, which half of the US population rose up in arms against, does not garner anything but a wry smile and disappointment. But then again, American analysts do not share their President’s viewpoint and point out that terrorist activity levels remain high. The Western coalition, headed by the USA, has not enjoyed any real military success so far, hence it is too early to talk about destruction of DAESH. In fact, Washington itself is an obstacle to stabilizing processes in the region. In conjunction with the withdrawal of U.S. forces, Washington is ending its air campaign against DAESH. Reuters reported this development with a reference to sources in the White House Administration. According to the agency’s source, the Head of the White House ordered for airstrikes against terrorists to stop. Pentagon data shows that, during the U.S. involvement in the Syrian war, the United States air force used more than 100,000 bombs and missiles in the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR).

It is also useful to read reports by Arab media outlets, which, on a number of occasions, presented incontrovertible facts and information about the secret pact between US military commanders and DAESH terrorists. However, if, earlier, such statements mainly stemmed from media sources, nowadays even Iraqi Council Representatives have begun making similar explicit allegations against Washington. For example, according to the online newspaper Al-Masdar News, Arab media outlets reported on the indignation, expressed by the Iraqi Council Representative Ali Kavi, about the fact that the coalition forces, led by the United States, had created a safe passage for the movement of DAESH terrorists from Syria to the heart of Iraq. This unsanctioned by Baghdad transfer of terrorists from Syria to Iraqi soil has prompted many Iraqi Council Representatives to call for a review of the Iraqi strategic relationship with Washington. In addition, Ali Kavi pointed out that the presence of US military forces in Iraq is yet to yield any substantial benefits for Iraqi defense capabilities and security.

Hence, the unexpected announcement, made by Donald Trump, is clearly indicative of the fact that he clearly understands most terrorists had already made their way to Iraq.  For example, approximately 100 DAESH insurgents, transferred with US assistance out of Syria, are at present hiding out in the regions around Makhmur, south west of Erbil (Iraq), as reported by the commander of Kurdish forces Yadgar Garmiani during an interview with the media outlet, Kurdistan24. He said that most DAESH members in this region are foreigners, and that they have their wives and children with them. He also reported that the commander of this terrorist unit is a US citizen.

The terrorist organization DAESH, in the meantime, is hiding and regaining strength in preparations for a new attack after its defeat in Syria, report Western media outlets, with a reference to experts on terrorist-related research.  Bruce Hoffman, an analyst specializing in the study of terrorism from Georgetown University, stated that DAESH militants had anticipated their defeat in battle and the loss of their caliphate, and had made preparations to this effect. Hundreds of insurgents were able to leave Syria and make their way to Turkey and Iraq in order to regroup and prepare for fighting yet to come.

In October of this year Washington’s Institute for the Study of War (ISW) published a research report entitled ISIS’s Second Resurgence. It stated that militants were seeking new sources of funding and restructuring their command and control structures within their defeated and divided ranks. These actions were being taken in order to prepare for the upcoming large-scale invasion of Iraq and Syria, the report stated.  The study includes a detailed map that depicts the movement of terrorist units from January to October 2018 from Syria to Iraq.

Incidentally, the United States is no longer striving to remove the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government from power, the United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement, James Jeffrey, told the news source Al-Masdar News on 17 December. “We want to see a regime that is fundamentally different. It’s not regime change — we’re not trying to get rid of Assad,” said James Jeffrey during his speech at the Atlantic Council. According to his statements, the United States is not prepared to fund any reconstruction efforts in Syria until Washington sees that Damascus is prepared for political change.

Many politicians have reasonable doubts about the veracity of the latest publicized decision, made by the White House Head, and point out that the decision to withdraw American forces from Syria does not mean that they will actually leave the country.  Will the United States actually withdraw all of its troops from Syria? The answer to this question will depend on whether they will close their military base Al-Tanf. After all a decision to withdraw all troops does not always mean complete withdrawal.

While analyzing the most recent unexpected decision, taken by Donald Trump, it is worth pointing out the futility of any future US policies and that of Donald Trump in the Middle East. Regardless of any measures, whether they be military ones, or of any complimentary rhetoric voiced by Washington, the United States will, sooner or later, be forced to leave this region without any hope of ever returning there.

Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”