Trump changes Syrian war, Kurds feel betrayed

Donald Trump surprised many people and countries with his sudden decision to withdraw US troops from Syria. In protest US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Brett McGurk, a senior official coordinating the fight against Islamic State, resigned.

Trump’s decision has forced a sudden chaange of approach in the war by Turket, and Syrian Kurds, used by the US in the war but regarded as terrorists by Turkey, feel betrayed.

Reuters – Syrian surprise: How Trump’s phone call changed the war

President Donald Trump’s declaration in a phone call with Tayyip Erdogan that he was pulling U.S. troops from Syria has stunned Turkey and left it scrambling to respond to the changing battlefield on its southern border.

In the phone call two weeks ago, Trump had been expected to deliver a standard warning to the Turkish president over his plan to launch a crossborder attack targeting U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in northeast Syria, U.S. officials say.

Instead, in the course of the conversation Trump reshaped U.S. policy in the Middle East, abandoning a quarter of Syrian territory and handing Ankara the job of finishing off Islamic State in Syria.

“Trump asked: ‘If we withdraw our soldiers, can you clean up ISIS?’”, a Turkish official told Reuters. He said Erdogan replied that Turkish forces were up to the task.

“Then you do it,” Trump told him abruptly. To his national security adviser John Bolton, also on the call, Trump said: “Start work for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.”

“I have to say it was an unexpected decision. The word ‘surprise’ is too weak to describe the situation,” said the official, one of five Turkish sources who spoke to Reuters about the Dec. 14 call between the two leaders.

Trump’s decision was also a shock in Washington, where senior administration officials, including Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, tried for days to change the president’s mind, U.S. officials said. When Trump made clear he would not back down, Mattis and a senior official coordinating the fight against Islamic State, Brett McGurk, both resigned.

For Turkey, Trump’s decision offers opportunity and risk.

Ankara has complained bitterly for years that the United States, a NATO ally, had chosen the Kurdish YPG militia as its main partner on the ground in Syria against Islamic State.

Turkey says the YPG is a terrorist group, inseparable from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has waged an insurgency in southeast Turkey in which 40,000 people have been killed.

The U.S. withdrawal potentially frees Turkey’s military to push the YPG back from 500 km of border without risking a confrontation with American forces. It also removes a main cause of this year’s diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

But it also opens up an area of Syria far larger than anything Turkey had expected to fill, potentially pitting it against not just Kurdish forces but also the Damascus government – which is committed to regaining control of all of Syria – and its Russian and Iranian backers.

The YPG on Friday asked the Syrian government to take over the town of Manbij, which the Kurdish militia currently controls with U.S. support, to protect it from Turkish attack.

And if Turkish forces are to take on Islamic State in its last pocket of Syrian territory near the Iraqi border, they would first have to cross 250 km of territory controlled by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces.

“Erdogan got more than he bargained for,” said Soner Cagaptay, Director of the Turkish Program at the Washington Institute. “He had asked the U.S. to drop the YPG, but not withdraw from Syria”.

Alliances between groups fighting in Syria and countries involved in the war are complicated. Trump’s decision will force other countries to rethink their involvement, and will no doubt change the power struggles within and over Syria.

New York Times:  Syria’s Kurds, Feeling Betrayed by the U.S., Ask Assad Government for Protection

Feeling betrayed by the United States, its Kurdish allies in Syria asked the Syrian government on Friday to protect them from possible attack by Turkey.

The request surprised some American officials and could help open the way for the forces of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, backed by Russia and Iran, to start retaking the Kurdish-held part of the country near Turkey’s border.

That would be a big step toward Mr. Assad’s goal of reclaiming all of Syria, upended by almost eight years of war.

It was also the first sign that President Trump’s abrupt announcement last week that he was withdrawing American troops from Syria was not only shifting alliances in the conflict but directly benefiting Mr. Assad — a brutal autocrat once described by Mr. Trump as an “animal” responsible for chemical attacks and other atrocities.

American-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or Y.P.G., said the Syrian government should send troops to the city of Manbij, near the Turkish border.

The request amounted to a United States ally calling on an enemy of the United States to protect it from another American ally, Turkey.

The Kurdish militias are regarded by Turkey as dangerous, autonomy-minded insurgents. The United States regards them as valuable partners in helping rout Islamic State extremists from Syria — the original purpose of the American military deployment four years ago.

Although the American troops in Syria number only about 2,000, they have been a deterrent to an assault on the Kurdish militias by the Turks. The American presence also discouraged Mr. Assad’s forces from sweeping into the area even as they retook major areas elsewhere from anti-government fighters, often with the support of Russia and Iran.

Mr. Trump’s surprise announcement that he would pull American troops had raised fears of a scramble by competing forces to exploit the resulting vacuum.

It’s hard to know whether trump understands the implications of his sudden decision or not.

Groups controlling land in Syria:

 

The areas run by the Kurds in Syria have long stood apart in the conflict. They had hoped, with their American friends, to pioneer an alternative model for Syria’s future.

While none of the other powers fighting in Syria liked the situation, they mostly avoided attacking the area for fear of provoking the United States. Now, with that deterrent set to end, the future of the northeast is up in the air.

Those most likely to gain, analysts say, are the Syrian government and its allies, who want to bring the northeast back under the control of Damascus, both for the good of Mr. Assad and for their own interests.

It’s anyone’s guess what will happen in Syria now.

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39 Comments

  1. Reply
  2. Corky

     /  30th December 2018

    ”But it also opens up an area of Syria far larger than anything Turkey had expected to fill, potentially pitting it against not just Kurdish forces but also the Damascus government – which is committed to regaining control of all of Syria – and its Russian and Iranian backers.”

    The genius of Trump. He’s shutting shop. It’s only a matter of time before regional powers start disagreeing over issues. When Turkey finds the going tough, and they can’t trust anyone, I’m sure they’ll want American advice and help. Of course America will then dictate terms to their advantage and make sure Turkey remains an American asset…and confirmed lap dog.

    Reply
    • lurcher1948

       /  30th December 2018

      “the genius of trump”he would shaft New Zealand if he could make a buck out of it, and there are idiots here who think hes smart(when trump goes stupid,his followers go stupider)

      Reply
      • Corky

         /  30th December 2018

        Speak for yourself.

        Reply
      • Pink David

         /  30th December 2018

        ” idiots here who think hes smart(when trump goes stupid,his followers go stupider)”

        It must be hard to be outwitted by a man as stupid as Trump. It must have been the Russians or something….

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  31st December 2018

          Well, he seems to have left Syria to the Russians. Isn’t that … um … collusion? 😉

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  31st December 2018

            Dealing with them is collusion and not dealing with them is collusion? Sounds sufficiently McCarthy-ist to satisfy Mueller.

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  31st December 2018

              There may have been phone calls … also some of those tweets could be coded messages.

  3. David

     /  30th December 2018

    There will be some more craziness but why is it America,s problem always. The Kurds want their own territory, they do have a terrorist wing and they do need to come to the table and negotiate because nothing else has worked. If the world is worried about it and its not just a Trump thing the let the UN, EU etc do something. No point calling Trump a dangerous loon on the one hand and then expecting him to bring peace to the world, cant have it both ways.
    McGurk was an Obama appointee due to finish soon anyway.

    Reply
  4. Pink David

     /  30th December 2018

    “It’s hard to know whether trump understands the implications of his sudden decision or not.”

    Does anyone? Did anyone understand the implications of the US staying?

    “It’s anyone’s guess what will happen in Syria now.”

    Don’t you think this is a rather good reason for Trump to withdraw the US, after all, it was anyone’s guess what was going to happen even with 2,000 US troops there.

    The main thing will be it will be left to Russia, Turkey, Saudi, and Iran to spill blood and treasure there, The US has an interest in seeing those countries bleed don’t they?

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  30th December 2018

      One of the implications of Trump’s sudden decision is that other countries realise that they must stand on their own feet in all ways and that the US is not obligated to them.

      I think Trump understands that better than most.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  30th December 2018

        That’s why when Trump barged in to Iraq like the US owns the bloody place (something that is still likely to have important ramifications, seeing he pissed off their government and various significant factions within it) he told the troops that if it didn’t work out they could just put more troops back in or do something about it from their base in Iraq.

        I think Trump understands fuck all.

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  30th December 2018

          Silly nonsense that he should have met with the Iraqi government while he was there. Security would never have allowed that.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  30th December 2018

            Another day of embarrassing yourself and your family, I see, Sir Alan.

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  30th December 2018

              I never read WaPo because you told me it was so crap.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  30th December 2018

              Good point. However the article points out the Iraqis refused to meet Trump at the US airbase and the security situation is vastly different from when Obama visited. The nonsense about not meeting the Iraqis is just crap like your claim yesterday the visit was unplanned.

            • Gezza

               /  30th December 2018

              Shuddup. Bastard. (No offence.)

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  30th December 2018

              I win again.

            • Gezza

               /  30th December 2018

              Possibly. I still think it will backfire on Trump. But on the plus side if it persuades Western countries to get their troops out of the Middle East it will probably a be a good thing. They’ve done more harm than good. No point in creating havoc then claiming you’re the people who can fix it – like it wasn’t even anything to do with you.

              Also, any reminder Trump continues to give that other Western countries have let the US have too much military and economic power over them is a good thing, imo.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  30th December 2018

            Another day with your blinkers on, I see, Sir Gerald.

            Reply
        • Trevors_Elbow

           /  30th December 2018

          TKO Alan on this thread…… had ya ass handed to you Gez. You will be striped of your Lordly Titles if this weak, half hearted Al bashing attempt is continued….

          The Eels and ‘Kekos aren’t angry Gezza, just…. just… veeeeerrryyy disappointed in you…

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  30th December 2018

            God you’re a bloody crawler Trev.

            Reply
            • Trevors_Elbow

               /  30th December 2018

              nerve touched I see Gez…… watch the step lad, you may trip on ya ego ; )

              #TeamAl #DeathtoPukekos #EelIsTasty #YaAL!!!

  5. Gezza

     /  30th December 2018

    Gezza / December 30, 2018
    A perspective from one of Aljazeera tv’s regular commentators on Middle Eastern politics

    What would the US withdrawal from Syria mean for the region?
    Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria could mark the start of a new ‘all-against-all’ war in the Middle East.

    Mainly as a result of the Obama administration’s reluctance to act as a hegemon, Syria’s conflict rapidly transformed into a full-blown proxy war. The unwillingness of the US to play a more active role in the conflict enabled regional powers – such as Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia – to step in and try to influence the course of events in Syria and the Levant at large. Russia also joined the fray in September 2015, when it became absolutely clear that the US had become utterly uninterested in the outcome of the Syrian conflict.

    When Trump moved into the White House in early 2017, despite his known disapproval of most of his predecessor’s policies, and the well-known reluctance of some members of his administration to end the US military presence in the Middle East, he chose to continue with Obama’s hands-off approach in the region.

    And only a year later, he expressed his intention to go even further than Obama and order a full withdrawal of US troops from Syria.

    Trump first announced that the US will be “coming out of Syria, like very soon” in March 2018. Regional allies and advisers convinced the US president that ISIL was not completely defeated, so he agreed to give the Pentagon and State Department another six months to finish the job, still refusing to commit to an open-ended military presence in Syria.

    Implications for Syria and the region
    Now that the Trump administration officially announced its intention to leave Syria for good, regional powers who have been active participants in Syria’s war will likely increase their efforts to gain control of the areas that are currently under US control.

    https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/withdrawal-syria-region-181223131305616.html

    Reply
    • David

       /  30th December 2018

      One point perhaps missing in the piece given the theme is Trump let Mattis lose to clear shit up, they executed ISIS folk on the spot, and the mission as Trump put it is that ISIS are geographically defeated so its time for locals to clear up the remnants and not allow it to happen again has some merit.
      I think its a shame that rational discussion on middle east interventions has now descended into if Trump does it then it is without thought or merit. If Obama had declared ISIS smacked down and he was bringing the troops home then many of the same commentators would be hailing the move…I am a little guilty at times of this.

      Reply
      • David

         /  30th December 2018

        It was also a campaign promise, get the job done and get the hell home or some such Trumpianism

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  30th December 2018

          Get the job done ?
          Trumps campaign was all about ‘what the hell are we doing in Syria”

          or this direct quote before the election
          ” April 27, 2016 campaign speech, saying that “It all began with a dangerous idea that we could make Western democracies out of countries that had no experience or interests in becoming a western democracy. We tore up what institutions they had and then were surprised at what we unleashed. Civil war, religious fanaticism, thousands of Americans and just killed be lives, lives, lives wasted. Horribly wasted. Many trillions of dollars were lost as a result. “

          Reply
    • Pink David

       /  30th December 2018

      “Obama’s hands-off approach in the region.”

      Obama was quite hands on. Didn’t he take down Libya, or has than been forgotten…

      Reply
  6. duperez

     /  30th December 2018

    So in the sort of distance of Whangarei to Palmerston North you can travel through Rebel, Government, Kurdish and Isis controlled areas in Syria. In a part of the world which has been a battle ground for thousands of years.

    After the thread of Political Predictions for 2019 I am quietly confident in predicting that the major problems of Styria won’t be sorted in 2019.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  30th December 2018

      Wait a minute. Isn’t this a pro-Trump site that invents reasons why everything Trump does is rational, like you do?

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  30th December 2018

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Federalist_(website)

        They have some good articles. I thought they were linked to the Federalist Society but seems not.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  30th December 2018

          Was this one of their ‘good articles’
          “publishing an opinion piece by Tully Borland, Baptist University philosopher, defending Roy Moore dating teenagers while he was in his 30s, and arguing that such behavior was “not without some merit if one wants to raise a large family.”
          And they have changed with the wind …
          ” Matt K. Lewis writing for The Daily Beast noted a shift in The Federalist’s coverage of Donald Trump, first criticizing the presidential candidate, and then, after Trump won the presidency, criticizing Trump’s liberal critics in the mainstream establishment media and casting Trump as a victim”

          After all look what happened to the Weekly Standard after it remained critical of ‘Stupid Trump’

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  30th December 2018

            https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2018/12/27/disinformation-campaign-targeting-roy-moores-senate-bid-may-have-violated-law-alabama-attorney-general-says/

            Your quote: “publishing an opinion piece by Tully Borland, Baptist University philosopher, defending Roy Moore dating teenagers while he was in his 30s, and arguing that such behavior was “not without some merit if one wants to raise a large family.”

            Borland: I have a 14-year-old daughter. If I caught Roy Moore doing what was alleged, for starters I would kick him where it counts. That said, I don’t think it’s wrong to vote for Moore.

            and
            Then from a conservative moral perspective, Moore is guilty of lying, trying to have pre-marital sexual relations with girls half his age, and pressuring them to do so without first determining that they reciprocate. There is no sugar-coating what he did. Moore was a dirt bag and is currently lying about his actions rather than confessing the truth and asking for forgiveness.

            So we see your quote is merely a political attack on a rival using Borland as collateral damage.

            Reply
  7. Trevors_Elbow

     /  30th December 2018

    Turkey denies the Kurdish and Armenian pogroms it has conducted ruthlessly in the past. Now the US is stepping to one side and the Turks will be confronted with a huge temptation to wipe the YPG out….but unlike the early 1900’s the World is watching in full colour…. wonder if they can behave themselves?

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  30th December 2018

      Have to deal with Assad first. He doesn’t want Turkey in Syria and has the Russians behind him.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  30th December 2018

        It’s up to Putsie what Assad can and can’t do. Have you seen any videos the two of them on the occasions when they’ve met since Russia jumped in to rescue him & save their naval base in Tartus?

        Russian aircraft and special forces are pretty well sacrosanct. Erdy’s lot shot one down & he was made to pay for that big time. Now he sucks up to Putsie like a puppy.

        Russia’s profile in the region went from nothing to sky high. They are the ones making the big calls on what happens in Syria. So it’s not surprising I guess that Trump’s decided he may as well bow out.

        Reply
  8. Reply

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