The withdrawal is a betrayal of Kurdish recruits who bled on the frontlines against Daesh, as Turkey is now free to dominate northern Syria. Furthermore, Arab and Western allies depended on US commitments in eastern Syria as a bulwark against Iranian expansionism.
Our foes are predictable in their enmity. An ally who betrays you at a time of encroaching threats is 100 times more dangerous. This betrayal grows more painful after realizing how cheaply it was sold for. Under mounting legal jeopardy and threats of impeachment, with Congress refusing to fund his ridiculous wall, all Trump wanted was a cheap Christmas victory to tout to his alt-right, lunatic-fringe political base.
Yet the Syria withdrawal represents an infinitely larger Christmas gift to others. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is licking his lips in readiness to swallow Syria’s Golan Heights in its entirety.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ecstatically thanked Trump, proclaiming that “Donald is right” that Daesh has been defeated. We have yet to hear the full story from Robert Mueller’s investigation into how Putin obtained Trump’s unswerving loyalty.
Trump’s horrifying announcement followed a phone call during which Turkey’s president threatened and cajoled him into a withdrawal commitment, sweetening the deal by promising to buy a couple of shiny US missile batteries.
But by far the biggest beneficiary of Trump’s generosity is Iran, which will now deploy its proxies to consolidate its control over the rest of Syria, further entrenching its dominance in Baghdad, Beirut and all the way to the Mediterranean.
Iran-sponsored paramilitaries from Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi are already preeminent in the Syria-Iraq border region. They will waste no time in linking up with associated militia forces in Syria and with Hezbollah to create a
Trump’s announcement will embolden Iran’s allies in Baghdad to escalate their demands for Cabinet seats. It also adds fuel to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s poisonous rhetoric that the US cannot be trusted, having signed a flawed nuclear deal then ripped it up two years later. Now it is the turn of Arab and Kurdish allies to discover that Trump’s promises count for nothing.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner spent two years promising that if Arab states reduced their hostility toward Israel and backed his peace efforts — even as his father-in-law tossed Jerusalem to the wolves — then the US would contain Iran. Arab Gulf states even silently tolerated boorish demands about lowering oil prices and bankrolling America’s commitments.
All this today counts for nothing. The US has no Iran policy, excepting some clumsy sanctions that allow the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to profit from oil smuggling. America’s Middle East strategy is determined by Trump’s whims after binge-watching Fox News, with no remaining sane administration officials to curb his worst instincts.
Trump’s retreat accelerates the countdown to a devastating confrontation between Israel and Iran’s proxies. Netanyahu, like Trump, has been distracting the public from all-consuming corruption charges with bellicose rhetoric about a few pitiful Hezbollah border tunnels. Both sides are now locked on a path of reciprocal threats and escalation. As America retreats and Iranian proxies advance, an Israeli invasion becomes a matter of time.
The perception of betrayal was palpable in unprecedentedly robust statements from Western officials who rebuked Trump’s assertion that Daesh has been defeated and stressed the need to contain Iran. Britain’s Middle East Minister Alistair Burt warned: “If allies cannot be relied upon, others are
Trump’s juvenile tweets reveal his dangerous ignorance: “Russia, Iran, Syria
Russia and Iran never lifted a finger to confront Daesh in Syria. They bear responsibility for the group’s emergence, with the Syrian regime from 2011 facilitating a conveyor belt of terrorists from its jails in order to create a bogeyman with which to terrorize the West. Tehran and Damascus bankrolled Daesh by trading in
Recent estimates of Daesh’s remaining capacity are around 30,000 fighters — hardly a spent force. These extremists thrive on instability in societies where populations have been alienated by brutal, sectarian and unjust governance. We should commence the countdown now to Daesh re-emerging as a massive regional and global threat.
There have long been intense policy discussions within Western defense establishments about which entity represents the greatest threat: Iran and its allies, or Daesh and the extremist movement? Trump has decisively solved this strategic conundrum once and for all: America will pull out its troops and allow both these menaces to thrive and proliferate.
The Middle East has been pounded by successive crises and conflicts over recent decades, but tighten your seatbelts — it is about to get 100 times worse.