Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Treacherous Trump throws Kurds under the tanks, and Russia fills the void

The saying, usually, is throw someone under the bus. But in Syria, they throw someone under the Turkish tanks.

Writing at The Bulwark, in Conning the Con Man Shay Khatiri explains how Donald Trump got rolled by Turkey. And he doesn’t even know it. Excerpts follow.

Last Wednesday, the president of the United States set a new standard for America’s allies: What did you do for us at Normandy? Because Kurds did nothing, they have been given genocide in return for their help fighting the Islamic State.

It’s a nonsense standard, of course. Everyone knows that. For instance: Why are we providing Israel any support in the face of Iranian and terrorist existential threats? Where were the Jews when we needed them in the War of 1812?

Why did the president make this decision? Perhaps the readout (which is not a transcript, stop calling it a transcript!) from his phone call with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is a good guide: If you sing the American president’s praise and give him something that benefits him personally (and not the United States), then he will give you what you want.

… He gave Turkey’s strongman a giant gift. What did he get in return?

The short answer is simple: “He got nothing.”

Well, that’s not entirely true. He got a vacuum that Russia is reported to be filling. More on that below.

What I’m trying to say here is that the President of the United States, the person on whom the world order relies, the most important person on earth, is an impulsive idiot. He made a foreign policy decision about “the Kurds” without knowing anything about them. He provided a defense for his decision that is simultaneously historically inaccurate and irrelevant. He made this decision as his own Department of Defense recently warned that the Islamic State was a threat to reorganize. He made it with no plans of what to do with the thousands of Islamic State prisoners on the ground. He did it to end an “endless war” that, as of last month, has claimed the lives of seven American combatants—one, potentially, killed by Turkish forces. Every single one of them is a loss. But still. The truth is that America was accomplishing a significant foreign policy goal with only 2,500 troops committed (down to 1,000 before the recent developments), mostly special forces, and minimal losses. If you are against hegemonic interventions, then this operation was almost the definition of how to maximize the return on a small investment.

Trump did all of this against the advice of his own advisers. And he did it because an anti-American Islamist thug of a leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was nice to him on the phone.

Here’s the truth: There is no “endless war” in Syria. As far as the American involvement goes, there is in fact no war in Syria. What there is, is a U.S. president who is a catalyst for American decline.

And this decline is going to place us in real jeopardy and invite real conflict.

Decline brings weakness, and weakness is a provocation. Eventually, Americans are going to be given the bill for this president’s astonishing weakness.

Russia is ready to play a role in that. The NY Times reports that Russia Troops Patrol Between Turkish and Syrian Forces, Filling an American Void. The announcement signaled that Russia is moving to fill a security vacuum left by the U.S. withdrawal and illustrates the loss of American influence in the war.

The Americans had until Monday maintained two military bases in the area, and Russia’s announcement signaled that Moscow, the Syrian government’s most important ally, was moving to fill a security void left by the withdrawal of both the American military and its partners in their effort to destroy the Islamic State and its Syrian base.

Videos circulating on social media appeared to show a Russian-speaking man filming himself walking around a recently evacuated United States military base in northern Syria, punctuating the message that the Russians were now in charge.

President Trump decided last week to abruptly yank American forces from a Kurdish enclave of northern Syria, ending a longstanding alliance with Syrian Kurdish fighters regarded by Turkey as terrorists. Turkey’s military then invaded, driving tens of thousands of civilians from their homes and forcing the Syrian Kurdish fighters to align themselves with the Syrian military in a stunning switch of allegiances for survival.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that its military police, which had already established a presence in other parts of Syria, were patrolling along a line of contact separating Syrian and Turkish forces, who have been racing to control large parts of northern Syria since the Turkish invasion began last Wednesday.

The Russians were patrolling near the strategically important city of Manbij, vacated by the Americans and Syrian Kurds and now occupied Syrian government troops. The statement also said Russian troops were coordinating “with the Turkish side.”

Russia and Turkey will soon be the only foreign armies in the area.

Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw from northern Syria drew global condemnation, left Kurdish fighters feeling betrayed, and raised the possibility that the president had made a strategic blunder that would open a volatile new chapter in the war. Experts on the region warned that the withdrawal of American troops would embolden Russia, Iran and the Islamic State.

The misery continues: “As of Tuesday, fighting in Ras al-Ain and other areas of northern Syria has forced at least 160,000 people from their homes, according to United Nations estimates. The Kurdish authorities put the figure at 270,000.”

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