As soon as President Trump announced the withdrawal of troops from northeastern Syria, the Trump-hating forces began attacking his decision — “reckless rush,” “betrayal,” “impulsive,” “poorly thought out decision,” “abandonment,” “blood on his hands” — even though this did not constitute a full U.S. withdrawal from Syria, as only 50 to 100 U.S. special operations forces were moving to other locations in Syria.
I suspect some of these shrieking anti-Trump talking heads would be hard-pressed to locate Turkey or Syria on a map.
Here are two analyses of the situation from people who understand the complexities of the region. The first, published in the WSJ, from Michael Doran, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and an expert on the international politics of the Middle East, and Michael A. Reynolds, professor of Near Eastern studies and director of the Program in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at Princeton University.
The second analysis is from Caroline Glick, an American-Israeli journalist who was the deputy managing editor of the Jerusalem Post. She was an officer in the IDF for five years, and she also served as assistant foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
President Trump’s critics see his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria as the product of a dangerous impulsiveness that ignores strategic realities. They argue that it betrays the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, the Kurdish force that helped the U.S. defeat Islamic State, while rewarding a dangerous autocrat, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But it is Mr. Trump’s critics who disregard reality.
Most members of America’s foreign-policy establishment see Turkey as an ungrateful ally, perhaps even a Trojan horse inside the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s walls. On Capitol Hill and in many Washington think tanks, a call for concessions to Tehran will get a more sympathetic hearing than a call to compromise with Ankara, a treaty ally for 67 years. Turkey’s determination to secure its southern border against the YPG is a wanton impulse, in the prevailing view. But the YPG has substantial ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK, as then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter testified before Congress in April 2016. Classified by the State Department as a terrorist organization, the PKK has been waging armed struggle against Turkey since 1984 at a cost of tens of thousands of lives, according to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, a respected source on armed conflict….
….Polls reliably indicate that 70% to 80% of Turks regard the U.S. as a hostile power. While anti-Americanism is an old story in Turkey, in recent years it has a sharper edge. Turks increasingly see America as a threat.
This is a remarkable development in a country that had been a stalwart U.S. ally and partner for decades. The levels of hostility to America cannot be laid on Mr. Erdogan’s doorstep, for he commands the support of only around 40% of Turks….
Why is the U.S. losing Turkey? Turks have their own list of grievances, of which three stand out….
The third misdeed is the most consequential: the Obama administration’s decision in 2016 to arm and train YPG members and directly embed American special forces with them. Rather than work with Turkey, the U.S. chose to support the Syrian wing of the PKK, which the Turkish public holds responsible for decades of warfare and tens of thousands of deaths. The PKK represents a grave threat to the Turkish Republic, and Turks across the political spectrum loathe it. To dismiss Ankara’s objections to America’s arming of the YPG as mere anti-Kurdish bigotry is ignorant, akin to labeling the fight against al Qaeda as Islamophobia….
For the U.S. to retaliate against Turkey and alienate it permanently would be folly. To do so now—when Mr. Erdogan’s support is waning and democracy in Turkey is showing its vibrant face—would hand Mr. Putin a gift he couldn’t have dreamed of.
Via Israel Hayom.
The near-consensus view of US President Donald Trump’s decision to remove American special forces from the Syrian border with Turkey is that Trump is enabling a Turkish invasion and double-crossing the Syrian Kurds who have fought with the Americans for five years against the Islamic State group. Trump’s move, the thinking goes, harms US credibility and undermines US power in the region and throughout the world.
There are several problems with this narrative. The first is that it assumes that until this week, the US had power and influence in Syria when in fact, by design, the US went to great lengths to limit its ability to influence events there.
The war in Syria broke out in 2011 as a popular insurrection by Syrian Sunnis against the Iranian-sponsored regime of President Bashar Assad. The Obama administration responded by declaring US support for Assad’s overthrow. But the declaration was empty. The administration sat on its thumbs as the regime’s atrocities mounted. It supported a feckless Turkish effort to raise a resistance army dominated by jihadist elements aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood.
President Barack Obama infamously issued his “red line” regarding the use of chemical weapons against civilians by Assad, which he repudiated the moment it was crossed.
As ISIS forces gathered in Iraq and Syria, Obama shrugged them off as a “JV squad.” When the JVs in ISIS took over a third of Iraqi and Syrian territory, Obama did nothing….
Obama deployed around a thousand forces to Syria. Their limited numbers and radically constrained mandate made it impossible for the Americans to have a major effect on events in the country. They weren’t allowed to act against Assad or Iran. They were tasked solely with fighting ISIS. Obama instituted draconian rules of engagement that made achieving even that limited goal all but impossible….
This brings us to the second flaw in the narrative about Trump’s removal of US forces from the Syrian border with Turkey.
The underlying assumption of the criticism is that America has an interest in confronting Turkey to protect the Kurds….
The Kurds are a tragic people. The Kurds, who live as persecuted minorities in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, have been denied the right of self-determination for the past hundred years. But then, the Kurds have squandered every opportunity they have had to assert independence. The closest they came to achieving self-determination was in Iraq in 2017. In Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurds have governed themselves effectively since 1992. In 2017, they overwhelmingly passed a referendum calling for Iraqi Kurdistan to secede from Iraq and form an independent state. Instead of joining forces to achieve their long-held dream, the Kurdish leaders in Iraq worked against one another. One faction, in alliance with Iran, blocked implementation of the referendum and then did nothing as Kurdish-controlled Kirkuk was overrun by Iraqi government forces….
Here it is critical to note that Trump did not remove US forces from Syria. They are still deployed along the border crossing between Jordan, Iraq, and Syria to block Iran from moving forces and materiel to Syria and Lebanon. They are still blocking Russian and Syrian forces from taking over the oil fields along the eastern bank of the Euphrates. Aside from defeating ISIS, these missions are the principle strategic achievements of the US forces in Syria. For now, they are being maintained. Will Turkey’s invasion enable ISIS to reassert itself in Syria and beyond? Perhaps. But here too, as Trump made clear this week, it is not America’s job to serve as the permanent jailor of ISIS. European forces are just as capable of serving as guards as Americans are. America’s role is not to stay in Syria forever. It is to beat down threats to US and world security as they emerge and then let others – Turks, Kurds, Europeans, Russians, UN peacekeepers – maintain the new, safer status quo….
The best move Trump can make now in light of the fake narrative of his treachery toward the Kurds is to finally retaliate against Iran. A well-conceived and limited US strike against Iranian missile and drone installations would restore America’s posture as the dominant power in the Persian Gulf and prevent the further destabilization of the Saudi regime and the backsliding of the UAE toward Iran….