Friday, December 21, 2018

Without cause, Trump orders retreat from Syria

Russia goes expansionist. Iran fields troops beyond its borders. Turkey is waiting to take bloody punitive action against the Kurds. ISIS remains. And Trump orders a retreat from Syria without cause - other than, perhaps, his gut (which is larger than his brain).

Jennifer Rubin explains Trump’s Syria bug-out: Here’s just how illogical and dangerous he is.

Trump’s assertion about the defeat of the Islamic State is false — according to his own administration. (“There are about 15,000 Islamic State militants in Syria, according to best estimates. In recent months, the group has been regaining a foothold in the country. Violent attacks have increased.") If we see a revival of the Islamic State in Syria, just as Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 gave al-Qaeda its second wind, Trump will be to blame.

Tehran and Moscow will celebrate. (“Russia has positioned itself as one of Assad’s major allies. Its military has been active in Syria since 2015. Without the U.S. troop presence, Moscow will be able to expand its role in Syria and its sphere of influence across the Middle East.”) As will Bashar al-Assad, who proved that genocide pays in the end. The move confirms we have no coherent policy for containing Iran. Israel may finally discover that slavish praise of Trump might get an embassy to move but won’t help keep Iran at bay.

The Kurds are betrayed, left to what surely will be an onslaught from the Turks. It is a warning to other would-be allies in the war against Islamist militant terror: Don’t trust the Americans.

Eric S. Edelman, former ambassador to Turkey, tells me, “This is perhaps the single worst decision made in the Trump Presidency (which is saying something). In one swoop he has undermined his Administration’s policies on ISIS, Syria and Iran, undercut and embarrassed his entire national security team, disconcerted (once again) America’s allies, and set the stage for a series of disastrous sequels.” He explains: “This decision will have consequences for years and haunt the United States when Islamist extremist terrorism rises from the ashes. It appears that this decision was made on his gut instinct that he knows better than his advisers and that he can negotiate a great deal with his fellow authoritarian [Turkish President Recep] Tayyip Erdogan.” Edelman concludes, “In fact, all he is doing is guaranteeing that Russia and Iran are the arbiters of the region’s future and that Turkey and others will be looking to Moscow and Tehran to take their cues, not Washington.”

Trump has managed to devise a foreign policy that is morally vacuous and inept. We have simultaneously abandoned allies and victims of repression while bolstering enemies of the United States. Perhaps our enemies are not Trump’s, however. (Moscow had a banner day on Wednesday — the United States announced retreat from the Middle East and sanctions relief for two Russia firms, one of which is the world’s second-largest aluminum producer.) Really, if you had to order up a Middle East move that would heighten Russia’s stature and influence, it would be hard to beat Trump’s Syria move.

Check out Rubin’s column for Republican reactions from Congress.

MORE: Defense Secretary resigns in protest of Syrian withdrawal. Jim Mattis, Defense Secretary, Resigns in Rebuke of Trump’s Worldview.

UPDATE: Under Trump, American global retreat continues. U.S. to Withdraw About 7,000 Troops From Afghanistan, Officials Say.

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