President Trump’s sudden call for US troops to withdraw from Syria and Afghanistan has left many observers scratching their heads.
Yes, in general, it is to be welcomed that American forces are leaving Syria. They have been there illegally, in contravention of Syria’s sovereignty, for the past four years. US troops getting out of the Arab country potentially allows for a political settlement to take hold after nearly eight years of war.
As for Afghanistan, US troops have been there for nearly 18 years on a dubious mission to “combat terrorism”. Again, the removal of US soldiers from the Central Asian country could, potentially, lead to less war and more political stability.
Russia has welcomed in principle the move by Trump to withdraw forces from Syria. However, as the Russian foreign ministry noted this week, it is not clear “what the US gambit involves”. Moscow’s wariness is well-placed.
There seems to be a lot of American politicking behind Trump’s abrupt decision-making. His call for “our boys to come home” caught the Pentagon and many hawkish Republicans and Democrats by surprise. The word was they were “blind-sided” by the president’s order. What could be going on, in part, is Trump looking toward the 2020 presidential election, and posing as the “peace candidate” making good, superficially, on his past electoral promises to end overseas American wars.
However, Trump posing as a peace candidate is a bit hard to take. A few days after his order to recall troops from Syria and Afghanistan, he made an unexpected visit to Iraq this week where he met US troops stationed there – nearly 16 years after his predecessor GW Bush illegally invaded that country in 2003 with all the destruction and ongoing mayhem that that invasion unleashed.
To the US troops in Iraq, Trump sounded jingoistic and warrior-like, claiming that they had defeated terrorists. “We like winning, right,” he said, as if he riling up the crowd at a football match at halftime.
Trump announced he had no intention of pulling the 6,000 or so US troops out of Iraq. In fact, he said the country would henceforth serve as a base from which future attacks could be launched on Syria, and presumably, other Middle Eastern countries, when the need arose. Apparently, the Iraqi government was not even consulted about this new force-projection plan.
Trump is therefore not scaling back US militarism overseas, as some pundits wishfully, or alternatively, fearfully, think. He is merely rationalizing US imperialism as a leaner, meaner force.
The lie to Trump’s supposed peace overtures is given with his bragging that Turkey is being given the job to “finish off” the Islamic State and other terror groups in Syria. Terror groups which Washington has covertly weaponized for the past eight years.
What is appealing to this businessman-turned-president is that US imperialism is being subcontracted out to client regimes in the Middle East, thereby saving Washington money from having to deploy American forces across the region.
Trump is not pulling forces out of Syria or Afghanistan due to anything principled regarding international law or respecting other nation’s sovereignty. His pullout is simply down to a shallow and sordid cost-benefit analysis for US imperialism.
Such grubby calculation is bound to be just as destabilizing as in the case of direct American military intervention. Already, Turkish troops are making ready for a renewed invasion of Syria. The Turkish move has little to do with the purported eradication of Islamist terror groups and more to do with crushing Kurdish separatists in northeast Syria whom Washington up to now has been sponsoring. The Kurds are being abandoned by Trump in his dollar-driven calculus, which may result in greater conflict between Turkey and Syrian government forces who will hardly stand idly by if Ankara violates Syria’s sovereignty more than it already has.
Ominously, too, days after Trump’s declared troop withdrawal from Syria, Israel launched air strikes on Damascus this week. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had warned that his country would “fill the void” left by vacating US forces in Syria. Criminally, the latest Israeli air strikes apparently put two civilian airliners in grave danger by using them as a cover for their sneak attack, according to Russian military monitoring. That gross violation is reminiscent of the way Israeli subterfuge resulted in the fatal shoot-down of a Russian reconnaissance plane in September off the Syrian coast with the loss of 15 airmen.
American forces should never have been present in Syria in the first place. The purported mission of “fighting terrorism” was always a sham, a cynical cover for Washington’s real objective of destabilizing Syria and regime change.
It is becoming clear that Trump is recalling US troops not for any principled reason to do with peacemaking, and more to do with rationalizing his country’s imperialist power projection in the Middle East. The corollary of this sordid calculation is the way Syria and the region is being further destabilized by the American maneuver.
Trump is not signaling peace. More, he is giving notice of a different piece of the criminal American imperialist action that has so defiled and debauched the Middle East for decades.
American capitalism is wired for war. Always has been, always will be. No president of such a deranged country, especially not a former hotel magnate, could ever entertain any other way.