Monday, December 24, 2018

Notes on Trump and Syria

Rounding up some more-or-less reliable information about the new Trump Syria has been a daunting task. Many commentators despise Trump so completely that it does not matter what he did. Trump’s Syria withdrawal is the worst thing that has happened since the bubonic plague. And we know how bad that was.

Whether it’s good or bad policy, we shall see. One thing does seem clear, however. Whether or not the policy succeeds, the way it was presented seemed impetuous and chaotic. The media made it seem as though Trump’s leading adviser was an eye doctor. The Trump administration did not trot out a group of senior officials to explain it in detail. Thus, we were left with what seemed to be warring caricatures. Isn’t there anyone in the White House who can run a communications operation?

So, in the spirit of Christmas, I have selected a few nuggets, call them gifts, that offer some different perspective on the issues. For the most part the administration should have been offering them, but… you can’t have everything.

Take Andrew Sullivan, an inveterate Trump hater, a man who has nothing good to say about Trump. Writing in New York Magazine Sullivan agreed with the Trump policy on Afghanistan, where 7,000 troops are going to be redeployed:

After 17 years, we’ve gotten nowhere, like every single occupier before us. But for that reason, we have to stay. These commanders have been singing this tune year after year for 17 years of occupation, and secretaries of Defense have kept agreeing with them. Trump gave them one last surge of troops — violating his own campaign promise — and we got nowhere one more time. It is getting close to insane.

Sullivan also took the liberal intelligentsia to task for its willingness to occupy Syria… even though, truth be told, 2,000 troops does not an occupation make:

But what’s astonishing this time is how the Democrats and much of the liberal Establishment now supports an unending occupation of yet another Middle Eastern country. David Sanger’s New York Times “analysis” is a perfect distillation of such thinking. It contains not a sentence about the costs of long-term occupation of the Middle East or the endless failures in Afghanistan. It reads as if the Iraq War never happened. It even regards non-interventionism as “a contrarian’s view of American military power.” That’s how impenetrable the Establishment bubble is!

So, Sullivan finds Trump’s actions admirable:

But I find Trump’s persistence in following his electoral mandate against so much Establishment pressure in this particular respect to be rather admirable. There comes a point when a president has to say no to the neo-imperial blob, to cut bait in wars that have become ends in themselves, generating the very problems they were launched to resolve.

As for the mission of the 2,000 troops now being redeployed, Russell Berman explains it in the Atlantic:

Most of the troops currently in Syria are not involved in combat operations; they’re serving in a training capacity, protecting the Syria-Turkey border, conducting patrols, or providing cover for supply convoys in and out of the eastern part of the country, Heras said.

And then, the Israeli site Debkafile reports that senior administration officials explained the new policy in considerably more detail… and made it sound more cogent. The point, which will be clear in the following notes, is that America is not disengaging from the region:

Following the backlash from President Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from NE Syria, senior administration officials Friday night, Dec. 21 offered Mid East leaders clarifications for allaying their concerns. DEBKAfile’s sources reveal those messages’ high points:
  1. US troops will leave eastern and northern Syria, but America is not deserting this part of the country, said the officials, without revealing the nature of its continuing presence.
  2. The Trump administration has not abandoned the Kurds or “stabbed them in the back” as widely reported, “and the Kurds know this,” it was authoritatively said. And, indeed, despite their loud cries of dismay, not a single Syrian Kurdish militiaman has deserted the lines they hold against ISIS in eastern Syria.
  3. Regarding President Tayyip Erdogan declaration that the Turkish army was about to march on East Euphrates and reach the Kurdish capital of Qamishli, amid fears of a massacre, the US officials advised distinguishing between talk and deeds. They referred to a phone conversation between Presidents Trump and Erdogan on Dec. 14, in which the latter promised his army would not cross the Euphrates. In a speech welcoming the US pullout from Syria on Friday, Erdogan allowed that Turkey would “wait a little longer before launching the operation” and counted on US “logistic support.”
  4. Trump said subsequently that the troop pullout would be phased out within 40-60 days. According to the US officials, a more realistic timeline would be 4 to 6 months. “During that time, Syria is bound to see many developments that may require  Washington to revise its plans.”
  5. The US and Iraq are in advanced negotiations for the deployment to
    the Iraqi-Syria border of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) – the “Golden Division” – which drove ISIS out of Mosul. It will stand in the path of Iranian and Iraqi Shiite militias crossings into Syria.
  6. Part of the ISOF’s deployment will include the western Iraqi province of Anbar. In this regard, the US officials referred to a disclosure by Mohammad al-Dilemi, one of the chiefs of Anbar’s Arab tribes. On Dec. 12, he said that the US army was building a new base on the line dividing Anbar from the next-door province of Nineveh. It would position US troops 30km north of the Euphrates River and near the Syrian border. This new base will provide the Iraqi division with American backup.
  7. The officials from Washington refused to confirm or deny that the Russians were involved in the forthcoming US plans for Syria; nor would they refer to a possible US-Turkish-Russian deal on the subject. They did take note of the strides taken in recent weeks toward repairing Russian-Israeli relations. The US officials pointed out that the transfer of a Russian S-300 air defense missile battalion to Deir ez-Zour in eastern Syria brought the Israeli Golan and Galilee Panhandle within their range, but not the Israel Air Force bases in northern and central Israel.

You have to wonder why American journalists did not have the story or whether the administration provided the same briefing to our own media.

And then we see that that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have sent military forces to areas controlled by the Kurds in north-eastern Syria. This from the Middle East Monitor:

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have sent military forces to areas controlled by the Kurdish YPG group in north-east Syria, Turkey’s Yenisafak newspaper reported.

The paper said the forces will be stationed with US-led coalition troops and will support its tasks with huge military enforcements as well as heavy and light weapons.

Quoting the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the newspaper reported that a convoy of troops belonging to an Arab Gulf state recently arrived in the contact area between the Kurdish PKK/YPG and Daesh in the Deir Ez-Zor countryside.

As for James Mattis, not idolized and lionized by the left as the last adult in the room, a general whose greatness surpasses greatness, several sites have reminded us that once upon a time, when Mattis was commander of Centcom, President Obama summariily removed him from his post, without even the courtesy of a phone call.

This from the American Thinker:

There was no such concern when Obama relieved Mattis as commander of CENTCOM without so much as a phone call, a factoid typical of Obama's disdain for the military, its missions, and its heroes....

[Thomas E.] Ricks says Mattis was fired because:

Pentagon insiders say that he rubbed civilian officials the wrong way – not because he went all "mad dog," which is his public image, and the view at the White House, but rather because he pushed the civilians so hard on considering the second- and third-order consequences of military action against Iran. Some of those questions apparently were uncomfortable. Like, what do you do with Iran once the nuclear issue is resolved and it remains a foe? What do you do if Iran then develops conventional capabilities that could make it hazardous for U.S. Navy ships to operate in the Persian Gulf? He kept saying, "And then what?"

To repeat myself, when President Obama relieved Gen. Mattis of his command, the hysterical ninnies who are screaming from the rooftops about Trump… had nothing to say.

Hopefully, these notes will put the new policies in something resembling perspective.


Anonymous said...

Trump never does anything without setting the stage for its successful conclusion. Does not always work. It is about time we stop killing our military personnel. Each death is a win for the Left.

Sam L. said...

Inconsistency is the Democrat way, except, of course, when hating all things not-Democrat.