It’s tempting to laugh at the shambles that is US policy in the Middle East. But it’s no laughing matter. The chaos of Washington’s policy is destabilizing and dangerous.
If President Trump thought his senior envoys coming to the region would clarify his recent announcement of pulling US troops out of Syria and Afghanistan, the opposite is the effect.
Trump announced on December 19 that US troops would be pulling out of Syria and Afghanistan. This week, both his National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo only added more confusion and instability to the conflict-prone region.
Bolton directly contradicted the president when he was in Israel and said that US forces would not be leaving Syria until a host of vague conditions were met. Those conditions included the defeat of terrorist groups and the containment of Iran.
Trump also appeared to backpedal on his troop withdrawal plan, saying that US forces would be quitting Syria on a longer time scale than what he originally said on December 19.
Bolton was given short shrift when he travelled on to Turkey where he was snubbed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who declined to even meet Trump’s security advisor over comments he made earlier concerning American guarantees of security for Kurdish militants in northeast Syria. Ankara considers the Kurdish militia as “terrorists” while Washington has backed the same group in its putative campaign against Islamist terror groups.
Then Pompeo in a speech delivered in Egypt appeared to contradict Bolton by saying that US forces were being withdrawn from Syria as Trump had ordered. The debacle of mixed messages from senior US officials shows Washington’s policy in the region is an utter shambles.
What to make of it all? Trump’s sudden pullout call of troops may be just American politicking, as the president looks to the 2020 elections and his need to give his electoral base a feel-good factor. Will US troops actually withdraw from countries in the Middle East that they are illegally present in anyway? That remains to be seen. Certainly the shilly-shallying and ambiguity enunciated by Bolton and Pompeo suggests that the directive of troop drawdown is not what it may have first appeared to be.
Russia’s deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov struck a correct note of caution this week. He said Moscow doubts that US troops will vacate Syria because of the wider pattern of American militarism being an endemic, incorrigible factor.
Ryabkov said: “I cannot imagine that the United States will fully and indisputably leave Syria in terms of physical military presence… Washington is locked in unstoppable contest for world domination and driven to be everywhere.”
Ryabkov’s skepticism echoes the view of Russian President Vladimir Putin in his initial reaction to Trump’s pullout announcement on December 19. Putin said then that it was a case of wait-and-see for actual results, reminding that the US has been talking for years of withdrawing from Afghanistan, but has yet do so after nearly 18 years of occupying that country.
So, the purported withdrawal of US forces from Syria and Afghanistan may never happen, under the existing imperialist nature of Washington. And even if there is some drawdown of US forces, that certainly doesn’t mean anything in terms of overarching American imperialist policy in the Middle East. Trump himself has been talking about Iraq being a hub for future US military operations in the region.
Pompeo in his messages to the Middle East showed this week that the US wants to bolster its confrontational policy towards Iran. It seems that what Washington is after is merely a rationalization of its military forces in the region. The notion was very much renewed of US client regimes in the region taking over as surrogate forces, both in Syria and elsewhere.
The danger stems from the instability for the region accruing from Washington’s bumbling contradictions and aberrations.
Turkey is warning that its forces are ready to invade Syria allegedly to confront the Kurdish separatists, while Israel seems emboldened to fill a perceived vacuum in US presence to take on Iran in Syria.
Trump’s shambolic Mideast policy is testament to the failed US imperialist machinations in the region going back decades. Washington’s interventions have caused nothing but war and misery for the Middle East. The US needs to get out of the region until it begins to respect the sovereignty of countries.
US policy is an utter failure. It is in chaos because it is an utter failure.
Syria’s sovereignty has been largely recovered because of the principled and legal intervention by Russia and Iran to salvage that country from a US-backed covert war for regime change. The only viable solution for Syria and for the Middle East is for Washington to get the hell out of the region, not partially, not conditionally – totally.
Trump was elected by US voters because he promised to look after American domestic needs. Well, he better do that instead of continuing to meddle in foreign countries and the Mideast in particular.
Why that eminently reasonable option is not taken is proof that American policy is hellbent on imperialist predation. That’s the criminal reality of US power. No wonder then when a president’s order to withdraw US forces from a region elicits such confusion and mayhem. A leopard can’t change its spots.