US President Donald Trump has declared victory over Daesh in Syria.
After historic victories against ISIS, it’s time to bring our great young people home! pic.twitter.com/xoNjFzQFTp
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2018
The American media has contacted sources at the Pentagon who have confirmed their readiness to withdraw troops from Syria. According to the Bloomberg agency, Trump has already ordered the full withdrawal of US troops.
Getting out of Syria was no surprise. I’ve been campaigning on it for years, and six months ago, when I very publicly wanted to do it, I agreed to stay longer. Russia, Iran, Syria & others are the local enemy of ISIS. We were doing there work. Time to come home & rebuild. #MAGA
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2018
Previously, American politicians, including the US special representative for Syria, James Jeffrey, said that Washington had three goals in Syria: Victory over Daesh, the withdrawal of the Iranian military and political transition.
Ankara has already reacted to the news of the withdrawal. Turkey postponed the launch of operations against YPG forces in Syria to the east of the Euphrates River until the US troops have completely withdrawn from the region, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.
Erdogan said that his American counterpart, Donald Trump, decided to withdraw US troops from Syria after their December 14th telephone conversation. Erdogan pledged to finish the cleansing of Daesh from Syria after US withdrawal and claimed much warmer relations with the US. According to Erdogan, Turkey does not claim or desire any Syrian territory, but will not make concessions on national security issues emanating from Syria.
At the same time the Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, known as “mad dog”, resigned his post as head of the Pentagon. Prior to his appointment, he operated with US Central Command which is responsible for the Middle East and Central Asia. In general, US officials consider the decision controversial and as an unexpected decision from Donald Trump. The US president stressed that despite the disagreements, Mattis will quit the service “with distinction” at the end of February.
A Reuters source explained that Mattis personally appealed to Trump to reverse his stance and tendered his resignation on December 20th. In his letter, Mattis explained that the president needs a defense secretary whose views would be closely aligned. Mattis is a representative of the circle of “generals” formed around Trump. They are not representatives of the liberal “swamp” or populists like Steve Bannon, nor are they neo-conservatives. Mattis, being very consistent on US foreign policy, managed to enter this close-knit circle, but clearly it is not easy for him to work with the unpredictable President. Trump also demands complete loyalty on his policy decisions. Democrat Mark Warner, an opponent of Trump, called Mattis’ resignation frightening, and that he, in Warners’ opinion, an “island of stability” in the current administration.
In essence, the policy and personnel changes taking place in recent months are the completion of a serious shift in the White House. Syria and Afghanistan served as trigger for Mattis, since Trump largely gave the circle of generals free rein to operate there without much interference. In both regions, the “generals” increased their military presence yet failed in their desired objectives. Announcing the completion of operations in Syria, Trump showed willpower and his pre-election image of a populist. All other participants (“generals” like Mattis, neocons, and even pro-Israel populists) have opposed the military withdrawal. Trump was able to recognize that in Syria, Americans have nothing more to do there.
US, stuck in its swamp
According to Trump, the Syrian withdrawal was not unexpected, and the US was only there temporarily. He added that it’s time to return home and the US does not want to be the policeman of the Middle East.
However, these are statements, and the question of the actual withdrawal from Syria remains open – no clear dates or actions have been specified. Firstly, pro-American companies and provocateurs like the “White Helmets” may remain in the territories. Secondly, hawks will hardly abandon the idea of controlling some degree of leverage in the Middle East. Even if the troops withdraw, with artificial provocation (for example, the oft-referenced “chemical weapons”) Washington could send them right back into Syria.
Meanwhile, Trump hasn’t rejected any of his other plans, including the construction of the Mexican border wall, for which funds have already been allocated with the permission of Congress.
A design of our Steel Slat Barrier which is totally effective while at the same time beautiful! pic.twitter.com/sGltXh0cu9
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 21, 2018
In fact, Trump is now a populist “against all”, and this will become a new challenge for the US president. Besides the pre-election promises, there are other factors at play, including his ability to switch the containment policies of North Korea, Russia, and China. The Americans have already spoiled any goals they aimed for in Syria, but the US, stuck in its swamp, has unwillingly acknowledged the success of the Astana format, and the Turkey-Russia-Iran axis.