By Areej Zaher* —
Since the autumn of 2015, former US president Barack Obama gave orders to send US militants as part of a coalition against the Islamic state, ISIS. Seemingly, the president now in office, Donald Trump, has a different prospective regarding the American administration and its foreign policies which was reflected by his out of the blue announcement on Dec.19, 2018, to withdraw the US troops and declaring it as a “historic victory” over ISIS militants.
This decision that was met with objection of both the military generals and the civilian advisers, caused a series of resignation within the American administration counterbalance, and most surprisingly the resignation of the Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. While Trump provided no concrete timetable for the withdrawal, Defense Department officials said he had ordered it to be completed in 30 days. However, after meeting with Lt. Gen Paul LaCamera, the top American commander in Iraq and Syria, President Trump agreed to extend the draw-down to four months.
Due to the latest attack in the northern city of Minbij, some US troops were declared killed, and this was a changing of events which could be an excuse for America to back down on its decision of withdrawal. Therefore, Trump latest announcement for leaving 400 militants in Syria had more positive response in the white house.
The Kurds are the most beneficial part of the American presence in Syria which guarantees its safety and interests in Syria, posing a protector against Turkey. While the decision of complete withdrawal would lead a “chaos” and “is not going to end war with ISIS, but will be a start of a new war against it”, Senator Lindsey Graham declared. This eventually will take establishing a buffer zone in consideration, meeting Turkey’s ambitions in the region.
This new tune is considered to be bad news for Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Syrian government which was hoping to take control over Tanif Base, in East Syria, close to the Jordan and Iraq borders.
This new announcement considered a threat to Iran which alongside with Russia, has been supporting the Syrian government in the Syrian civil war, providing arms, military advisers, and reportedly combat troops.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has responded, saying that wherever the US interferes, “chaos, repression and resentment follow”.
It is well known that Trump decision to keep these troops in Syria came due to pressures from the Pentagon, the Department of State and Congress, as well as Israel and its lobby, to not give Iran and its allies a victory in Syria, and to prevent them from a short passage from Iraq to Syria through Tanif area.
US Secretary of state Mike Pompeo has been in favor with Trump’s decision in keeping some of the American troops in Syria, criticizing the former President’s (Barack Obama ) policy, to strike a deal to limit Iran’s nuclear activities, and had accused him of being too soft on “Jihadi” terrorism, and a poor ally to Israel. He also accused him of empowering Iran and contribution to the rise of ISIS militants when was aiming to make peace with the Muslim world wrought by the wars of George W Bush.
It’s well known that Trump’s top priority is to counter Iran, as well to protect Israel. However, this doesn’t give America along with Turkey and Gulf Arab States the right to support rebel groups financially, logistically or militarily because they created an out of control monster as America did back in Afghanistan when Al- Qaida organization was first made as a weapon to oust the soviets.
*Areej Zaher is a Syrian writer based in Lattakia.