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Syria – Trump’s Christmas Present to our Enemies

    On December 19, 2018, President Trump declared ISIS was defeated in Syria, that he defeated them, and that he was ordering the withdrawal of all U.S. military from Syria within 30 days. The President announced the major change via Twitter and released a video of him declaring victory in front of the White House wherein he invokes the memory and service of fallen soldiers in this conflict.  The video was understandably highly offensive to veterans and military families.  The new policy abandoned our allies and rewarded our enemies.  Yet again, President Trump worked against the interests of the United States and supported the interests of our enemies.        

    Trump’s declaration and decision was an incredible mistake and another lie to the American people.  ISIS has not been defeated by any measure.  They continue to have over 30,000 fighters actively devoted to their cause, vibrant leadership, and a strong cyber presence to continue communications and recruitment.  Trump’s sudden abandonment is an abysmal tactical and strategic failure in the war against ISIS.  He went against the Department of Defense, State Department, National Security Advisor, White House Special Envoy for Syria, U.S.Intelligence Community, Senate and House leaders, and our allies in NATO and the Middle East. 

    Republicans including Lindsay Graham, Bob Corker, Ben Sasse, Marco Rubio, Adam Kinzinger, Mike Rogers, etc., have all condemned the change.  They have referred to this decision as a colossal mistake, grave error, threatens U.S. citizens, will have serious repercussions,abandons our friends and allies, rewards our enemies, hurts U.S. interests, etc.  By abandoning allies, this will make it much harder in the future for our allies to trust us and to find friends to help with new conflicts.  All true, all dangerous…  During the campaign, Trump claimed he knew far more about ISIS than the generals and promised a winning Syria strategy within 30 days of taking office.  After taking office, he learned it was not nearly that simple, not that he would ever admit it. 

    Trump basically continued the Obama policy (which had its own problems)but with some minor changes to the Rules of Engagement.  He ceded ground in Syria multiple times,especially to Russia, not getting anything in return.  This is yet another clear example of weak and feckless foreign policy contrary to the interests of the United States and our allies (remember the failed Helsinki Summit, failed North Korea Summit, and failed NATO meetings, to name a few). The only winners of this sudden, baseless unilateral U.S. withdrawal are ISIS, Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, and Turkey. Syria’s Assad clearly benefits, as Russia will continue to prop up his brutalregime and allow him to continue to murder his own people.  There has been not easing whatsoever of the incredible human suffering of the Syrian people.   

    Russia and Turkey praised the decision.  Russia has not had a realistic presence in the Middle East since 1973, despite its support of Syria.  Trump’s policy has allowed Russia to take control of ports and large amounts of Syria territory.  Russia has not been an ally against ISIS but rather has attacked anti-ISIS Syrian forces working with the U.S., our allies,and the Kurds.  Russia has even attacked U.S. forces (a move Trump has ignored and forgiven) only to be repelled.  Now Russia has virtually unfettered control over Syria and a large foothold/presence in the Middle East.  Russia is growing increasingly friendly with Turkey, who has been acting more and more contrary to its role as a NATO member state.  The time is drawing near when Turkey will leave NATO and align more closely with Russia.  Trump merely acquiesces to this geopolitical catastrophe with inevitable devastating effect on the U.S, NATO, and the Middle East.  This too begs the question as to how and why Putin controls so much of Trump’s agenda, even were it directly conflicts with the interests of the U.S… 

    Turkey has been planning an invasion of northern Syria for months to commit genocide against the Kurds more than to oppose ISIS.  Over the years, the U.S. under multiple Presidents, has forcibly worked to protect the Kurds from Turkey and other oppressors.  This is a big reason for active, considerable Kurdish support of U.S. policy and operations in the region.  The Kurds have been a loyal, dedicated ally for decades, fighting hard along with us in Iraq and Syria.  Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey have oppressed the Kurds for generations and they have relied on the U.S. intervention to prevent mass atrocities against them. This is how Trump is rewarding a stalwart ally – suddenly giving Turkey a green light to invade Syria and slaughter the Kurdish people. 

    Turkey’s action will greatly help Iran and hurt the U.S.  Could Trump’s decision be based on a recent statement by Turkey of their interest to make a large arms purchase from the U.S.?  The strategy seems to have worked recently for Saudi Arabia.  Is this Trump’s way of encouraging Turkey to ease off Saudi Arabia for murdering Jamal Khashoggi in its embassy in Turkey?  Trump loves oppressive rulers like Putin and Turkey’s Erdogan and appears to be subjugating himself to their will in Syria in complete contrast to U.S. values, interests, and national security.  It seems more Trump real estate deals are in the works…           

    If Trump truly wished to end U.S. involvement in Syria and the war against ISIS, he should have at least made some deals with Russia and Turkey in exchange for withdrawing U.S. troops.  For example, the U.S. could withdraw in exchange for Turkey not attacking the Kurds and Russia ending its increasing aggression and threat of imminent invasion against Ukraine.  Worth a try before just unilaterally leaving with nothing in return.  Maybe there were other deals to be made.  Trump is the consummate deal-maker after all…  France, perhaps ironically to some, announced it will remain in Syria, committed to the fight against ISIS and in support of free, democratic Syrian forces.  Hopefully other allies remain so that France is not staring down Russia by itself and ISIS fails to regain territory.  Perhaps President Macron cold dangle the idea of a Trump Tower in Paris…  Instead, all we have is President Trump giving a grand Christmas present to our enemies. 

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