The Syrian Debacle and Its Implications for Europe


October 18, 2019 06:11 PM
When a worldwide energy withdraws, it apparently does not leave a entire lot behind: some sand-colored tents with camouflage nets in the desert, 3 red-and-white radio masts, a handful of toilets, some ice chests and oil barrels, and a diesel engine that is nonetheless operating. That is what the former United States military base appears like close to the city of Manbij in northern Syria.
The Americans are gone. And it did not take lengthy for a new master to arrive. The Russians arrived the day following the Americans left the base.
It really is Tuesday of this week and armored cars with Russian flags flapping in the wind are rolling toward Manbij. One particular of the initially to enter the abandoned U.S. base is Oleg Blochin, a stocky, bearded man wearing a black baseball cap.
Blochin is not a soldier, he’s a reporter for the pro-Kremlin Russian wire service Anna News. In a video he uploaded to his Facebook web page, he appears like a cheerful tourist who has accidently stumbled into a war. He is apparently embedded with a unit of Russian mercenaries tasked by President Vladimir Putin with stopping Turkish troops from becoming established right here. Blochin is, if you will, the advance group.
In the video, you can see him, camera in hand, walking previous a black trash bin complete of cola cans. He moves toward the entrance of a tent and measures inside. There is a can of chicken breast on the shelf. His foot strikes a thing on the ground — a football. Other videos recorded at the military base show a Gameboy close to a handful of boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts and a package of Pringles. There is a plate on a table that is nonetheless half complete of meals.
“Now we’re going to the American soldiers’ quarters,” says Blochin. As his camera pans, a number of cots with blankets nonetheless on them come into view, creating it appear as even though the Americans had just left to go out on patrol. “The air conditioning is nonetheless on,” Blochin says. “It really is hot outdoors, cool inside.”
The Americans did not have a great deal time to leave the camp. A Pentagon spokesman told Newsweek magazine that they attempted to take as a great deal gear as achievable, but the rest had to be left behind. Any “sensitive gear” that could not be moved was destroyed, the spokesman mentioned.
Seldom has a single act in worldwide politics triggered such a fast chain of events as the U.S. pullout from Syria final week. Only hours following the Americans started leaving, Turkish soldiers marched into the northeast of the civil war-torn nation. This prompted the Kurdish YPG militia, which had previously controlled the area jointly with the Americans, to get in touch with for assist from Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and his most significant patron, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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This marks the starting of what is probably to be the final, decisive round following eight years of this brutal civil war. And even if the scenario on the ground appears chaotic, the Turkish military has as a result far restricted its operations to the 100-kilometer stretch amongst the cities of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn. Meanwhile, Syrian soldiers have taken up positions in quite a few locations along the Turkish-Syrian border, flanked by Russia. And it would be exceptionally hazardous for the Turks to attack them.
Such is the existing scenario in Syria: The Americans have pulled out, the Turks have gone in, the Kurds have fled and the Russians are attempting to slow the Turks’ advance. And the dictator in Damascus need to be pleased, mainly because it has now develop into even much more probably that, with Moscow’s backing, the man accountable for what is possibly the greatest mass murder of the 21st century will quickly have all of Syria back beneath his manage. What does this portend for Syria, the Kurds and Europe? Will the Islamic State (IS) terror militia take benefit of the chaos to regroup?
Initially, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicated that he intended to continue with his offensive, no matter the expense — till the final Kurdish fighter was driven out of the border location. It even looked as if Erdogan was ready to danger a split with NATO more than the invasion. In response, U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to “destroy” the Turkish economy if Turkish soldiers pushed deeper into Syria.
Following a meeting with Erdogan on Thursday evening in Ankara, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence created the surprise announcement that Washington and Turkey had agreed on a cease-fire, with Turkey now pledging to give the YPG 120 hours to vacate the border location. This is probably to temporarily ease tensions in Turkish-American relations, but it is unlikely to adjust the scenario on the ground a great deal, provided that the Kurds in all probability will not entirely withdraw from the location. But that did not cease Trump from touting the cease-fire deal as an “outstanding outcome” that would save the lives of “millions of persons.”

Dozens of civilians have been killed in the newest battles, and about 100,000 have lost houses and are now fleeing the violence. Could possibly Europe be facing a new refugee crisis if, as Erdogan has threatened to do a number of occasions in the previous, Turkey retracts on its deal with the EU and makes it possible for Syrian refugees in Turkey to continue their journey onward to Europe?
One particular point is currently becoming increasingly clear: A altering of the guard is taking location in Syria. The West has surrendered. The Europeans and the Americans have repeatedly condemned the atrocities in Syria, but they have completed small to protect against them. Meanwhile, the despots — Assad, Erdogan and Putin — are emerging as the victors. And the consequences will be felt far beyond the Middle East.
The Finish of a International Energy
The disaster all started with a telephone get in touch with amongst Trump and Erdogan on Sunday, October six. Afterward, the White Property sent out a skimpy, six-sentence press release stating that Turkey would march into northern Syria and U.S. troops would withdraw from the location and not be aspect of the operation. In other words: The West was pulling out and leaving Erdogan to do what ever he desires.
There are competing versions of what took location for the duration of that telephone get in touch with. Trump’s critics claim the U.S. president was hoodwinked by Erdogan mainly because the Turkish president presented the invasion as getting inevitable, leaving Trump with no option, according to this interpretation, but to accept it.
A further version of events is that Trump’s advisers had asked him to implore the Turkish president not to invade and to threaten enormous sanctions if his troops did march into Syria. But that Trump did practically nothing, or quite small, of the sort.
As an alternative, say critics, the president deviated from the script and shocked his advisers by pledging to Erdogan he would withdraw American soldiers from the border location. Up to that point, the U.S. units had served as a protective buffer amongst the Kurdish militia and Turkey.

Shortly following the get in touch with, a frenzy broke out in Washington. Trump’s announcement shocked and horrified European allies, such as France and Germany. Members of the Republican Celebration even denounced the 180-degree about-face as a “betrayal” of the Kurds. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, 1 of Trump’s most loyal backers, warned that the Syria choice was “a disaster in the creating.” Later, he would be even blunter. “The worst point any Commander in Chief can do is to give land back to the enemy that was taken by way of blood and sacrifice,” he tweeted. And: “I worry this is a total and utter national safety disaster in the creating, and I hope President Trump will adjust his pondering.”
The agitation amongst Trump’s closest allies is reflective of the massive effect of his choice. Trump has touched on 1 of the paradoxes of American foreign policy: On the 1 hand, Washington exploited the Kurds for a number of years as helpers in the fight against the IS terrorist militia in Syria, backing them with funds, weapons and military help and taking for granted the deaths of 11,000 Kurdish fighters in battles against the Islamists. On the other, the U.S. was looking for to deepen relations with NATO companion Turkey and cozy up to Erdogan, even even though Ankara considers YPG to be a terrorist group.
Trump hasn’t shown any indication that he thinks there was something incorrect with his choice. He boasted about the withdrawal of the U.S. troops the very same morning of his telephone conversation with Erdogan. “The United States was supposed to be in Syria for 30 days, that was quite a few years ago,” he tweeted. Islamic State has been defeated, and “it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars.”
‘America First’ Certainly
The Syrian choice is an instance of just how domestically driven Trump’s foreign policy is. “America Initial” was a essential guarantee of his 2016 election campaign and, to the cheers of his fans, he has condemned the deployment of the U.S. military and ridiculed the foreign and safety policies of his predecessors in the White Property as “stupid” and “high priced.” Trump played on the feeling, widespread amongst quite a few Americans, that military deployments abroad do not do a great deal much more than expense human lives and a lot of funds.
It is becoming clear that he plans to deploy that method once again for the duration of his re-election campaign. And it may well turn out to be reasonably simple for him to peddle the withdrawal from Syria to his supporters as a achievement. But the choice also shows what Trump is capable of now that there is practically no 1 in the White Property or in his administration to oppose his isolationist bent.
Trump had currently ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria 1 ahead of. Even then, final December, his argument was that IS had been defeated, creating the ongoing U.S. presence there superfluous. Then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigned in protest and Trump postponed the pullout — at least for the time getting.

A sense of bitterness permeated Mattis’ resignation letter, which also provided a scathing critique of U.S. foreign policy beneath Trump. In it, Mattis wrote that the president has “the correct to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are improved aligned with yours.” In other words: If Trump wanted to plunge the Middle East into chaos, then he was the incorrect man.
Internally, it is mentioned that Mattis repeatedly warned against abandoning the Kurds in northern Syria, and in his letter, the basic explicitly reminded the president of the significance of alliances for America. “One particular core belief I have often held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our exceptional and extensive program of alliances and partnerships.” He continued that the U.S. “can not defend our interests” without the need of “sustaining powerful alliances and displaying respect for these allies.”
The general’s anger and the adverse headlines his resignation designed for the president apparently had some effect on Trump. John Bolton, who was nonetheless the president’s national safety adviser at the time, succeeded in dissuading Trump from his Syria choice. Bolton warned Trump strongly that an American withdrawal from Syria could outcome in the resurgence of Islamic State.
With Bolton now gone, Trump has surrounded himself with like-minded ideologues and sycophants in each the White Property and Pentagon. Despite the fact that they must know improved, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and new National Safety Adviser Robert O’Brien have shown small interest in attempting to rein in their stubborn boss.
The outcome is that there is only 1 force on the Republican side that is nonetheless looking for to include Trump: GOP foreign policy professionals in Congress. They are persons like Lindsey Graham, but also Representative Liz Cheney, the influential daughter of Dick Cheney, who served as vice president for the duration of the administration of George W. Bush. Considering that Trump announced his choice to pull out, she and other Republicans have been protesting the president’s move virtually everyday. “Withdrawing U.S. forces from northern Syria is a catastrophic error,” Cheney mentioned, expressing her anger in a statement. On Wednesday, the Property of Representatives passed a resolution rebuking Trump for his choice to pull American troops out of Syria by a majority of 354 to 60. A total of 129 Republicans voted against their personal president.
It seems that Trump underestimated the headwinds he would face inside his personal celebration. His reaction — a mixture of defiance and knee-jerkisms — has only served to make his foreign policy seem much more erratic and a when-proud globe energy even much more ridiculous. In a match of rage, he referred to as on Erdogan to cease fighting in Syria and announced he would slap fresh sanctions on the nation, such as an boost of punitive tariffs on Turkish steel to 50 %. At the very same time, even though, he has sought to justify his choice to withdraw by distancing himself from the Kurds.
Speaking from the Oval Workplace on Wednesday, Trump mentioned the Kurds are completely capable of defending themselves. “They know how to fight.” Apart from, he mentioned, the Kurds are “no angels.” He then repeated himself: “As I mentioned, they are not angels.”
It all seemed to come to a climax with the bizarre letter Trump sent to Erdogan final week, 3 days following his choice to pull out. The letter is only a handful of lines lengthy and it is written in the Twitter-friendly vernacular that has develop into Trump’s hallmark. “Let’s function out a excellent deal!” the president writes to Erdogan. Never be a fool,” he writes, ahead of closing it with: “I will get in touch with you later.”
For Trump, the Syrian crisis may well be much less threatening than the Ukrainian scandal, but basic doubts about his sanity continue to develop.
Even the Wall Street Journal, owned by media czar and Trump loyalist Rupert Murdoch, fired a clear warning shot at the president. Trump must be cautious, the paper’s editorial board wrote in an op-ed. A lot more and much more Republicans “are questioning his judgement as Commander in Chief.” It adds: “With impeachment looming, he cannot afford to alienate much more pals.”

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