There is no longer any excuse for U.S. policy in Syria. No longer can we simply blame the Obama administration for creating ISIS, which it did. No more can we be outraged at Obama for using ISIS and al-Qaeda as our proxies for overthrowing the Assad government in Syria.
The war in Syria should be nothing more than a mop-up operation but it is still a quagmire.
And that quagmire is purely on the shoulders of the Trump administration which refuses to stop the very policies which created the need to go in and ‘kick the hell out of ISIS’ in the first place.
President Trump campaigned on criticizing Obama and Hillary Clinton for creating the mess in Syria. And he was going to clean it up. He signed an order ending the CIA program to train rebels in Syria.
And we all cheered. But, to what end?
Because the U.S. military is still doing it.
So, what, Trump just outsourced it to the professional soldiers versus the spooks?
This situation is like all unpopular government programs. They don’t end, they just get renamed and reassigned thereby giving everyone plausible deniability.
What’s worse now is that the military is openly doing this while saying they can’t control nor do they care where these fighters we trained wind up (read ISIS).
A detailed reminder that the US-armed “Free Syrian Army” was mainly a PR front for Al Qaeda, ISIS and other jihadist terrorism in #Syria. A must-read: https://www.libertarianinstitute.org/foreign-policy/no-fsa-al-qaeda/ … pic.twitter.com/PUKhbuqmFX
5) Here’s what a CENTCOM spox told me when I asked what the Pentagon thought about its “rebels” working with Al Qaeda: “We don’t ‘command and control’ these forces – we only ‘train and enable’ them…Who they say they’re allying with, that’s their business.” Literally, wow. pic.twitter.com/FF5j6clNwj
It’s one thing for Trump to take credit for taking down ISIS, which he didn’t, that was the work of Iran/Russia/Hezbollah and the Syrian Arab Army. It’s quite another for him to do that while actively allowing the Iran-hawks in the U.S. Military and his National Security Council to continue creating more Al-Qaeda (Al-Nusra) fighters to overthrow the Assad government and enabling ISIS to regroup.
Open-Faced Turkish Conflict
We are provoking conflict between Turkey and the Kurds both in the north near Afrin but also east of the Euphrates River. By sending diplomats into SDF-controlled territory in the east we are creating a breeding ground for future chaos in the region which we can point at Iran, Russia and Turkey.
Our latest plans involve building a 30,000 strong ‘terror army’ according to Turkish President Erdogan. This army will include members of the Kurdish SDF which is best described as a rebranding for media purposes of the Kurdich YPG forces.
Erdogan will not stand for this as he sees the Kurdish PKK and YPG groups as terrorists. It’s why the Turkish army is in Syria’s Idlib province, to keep the Kurds bottled up near Afrin and prevent them from taking a strip of land to connect to the Mediterranean.
And now he’s threatening open war there as well.
But, the U.S.’s betrayal of Turkey in pursuit of regime change and Israel’s perceived security needs are ensuring further deterioration of relations between these supposed NATO allies.
And while I applaud much of what President Trump is trying to do to cut the Gordian Knot of our entangling alliances by attacking their foundations – NATO, endless Middle East wars, improving relations with Russia – his impotence at improving our policy towards Syria because of the needs of Israel and the paranoia against Iran is undermining much of that good work.
Turkey as NATO ally is an anachronism. It’s a holdover from the Cold War to counter Soviet influence in the Middle East and bottle the Russian Navy up. But, with each day Russia and Turkey grow closer and the U.S.’s imperatives in the region grow smaller.
Now, I’m not saying that Turkey is any kind of victim here. They are still trying to have their cake and eat it to. Because Erdogan still wants Assad removed from power just in case the U.S. strategy is successful.
On the one hand criticizing the U.S. for arming terrorists saying “The US’s support to PKK/PYD/YPG is an effort going terribly awry and an urgent course correction is imperative. The vision for a politically united and territorially integrated Syria will be elusive if separatist terrorist organizations are given a free hand and weapons to advance their goals.”
But on the other saying that Russia and Syria are in the wrong for violating the de-escalation zones in Idlib by attacking remnants of ISIS, Jabhat Al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda) and other so-called members of the Free Syria Army.
Turkish leadership knows that the groups which Russia and the SAA are fighting were not signatories to the de-escalation zone agreements. It knows that it is losing its ability to protect them without finally declaring a side in the mop-up operation.
Because as long as there are areas of Idlib under control of these groups the ‘territorial integrity of Syria’ cannot be achieved.
And I sense that Trump understands we are losing our position as influence peddlers in the region and is refusing to do anything to stop the dissolution of our alliance with Turkey. He likely sees it not just as a relic but also as fait accompli. So, with his military advisors his only real allies in Washington he’s having to allow them their head to stifle Iran and Russia from ‘running the table.’
And if that means allowing al-Qaeda to run amok in parts of Syria, so be it. At least, that’s me being as generous as I can be.
We Shouldn’t Be Bargaining with Terrorists
But, the problem with this kind of Faustian bargain with neoconservatives is that they never stop at an inch. They keep pushing regardless of the consequences while leaving the political fall0ut to land squarely on their political enemies.
That’s the media’s job in this.
A recent poll came out saying more than 70% of Americans want Congress to legislatively limit our overseas military commitments in very specific ways:
The poll shows strong, indeed overwhelming, support, for Congress to reassert itself in the oversight of US military interventions, with 70.8 percent of those polled saying Congress should pass legislation that would restrain military action overseas in three specific ways:
by requiring “clearly defined goals to authorize military engagement” (78.8 percent);
by requiring Congress “to have both oversight and accountability regarding where troops are stationed” (77 percent);
by requiring that “any donation of funds or equipment to a foreign country be matched by a pledge of that country to adhere to the rules of the Geneva Convention” (84.8 percent).
This it very telling of just how hard the neoconservatives and the military brass are swimming upstream with all of this. The problem is that most people have zero clue as to what our policy is in Syria. But they know, instinctively, that it’s not in our interest.
When we take a step back from the rhetoric, the propaganda and the outright lies we see U.S. taxpayer funds going to support some of the most repressive and terminally backwards people while demonizing those who are not our enemies but our competition.
Unfortunately, right now, with a weak dollar supporting Trump’s new tax policy and the U.S. economy reaping those benefits, he won’t have to make any real changes to our Syria policy in 2018 due to politics. Foreign policy is what won him the presidency.
It was the first thing the swamp hijacked from him. As the Democrats move from the failed Russia-gate to their 25th Amendment strategy to neuter him, if not remove him, his alliance with the military will continue out of necessity.
This means more training of al-Qaeda terrorists, more attacks on Russia’s forces by our pets, more double-speak from Turkey and more military advances by the Syrian Army while peace talks stay frozen at square one.