by Omar Ahmed
5 Nov 2019; MEMO: The crocodile tears have ceased now that the world has forgotten about the Kurds again following the collaborative deals made between Russia, Turkey, Iran, Syria and to an extent, President Donald Trump, entailing a win all around situation.
Turkey establishes its safe zone allowing it to resettle Syrian refugees, Syria reclaims further sovereign territory – critically crossing Euphrates for the first time since 2012, Iran sees the Syrian government intact – imperative for its ally Hezbollah, Russia repositions itself as a powerful broker in the region and the international prestige that comes with it, leaving Trump doing the right thing in scaling back US military presence simultaneously adhering to his presidential campaign of bringing home the troops from “endless wars”, even reiterating this intention as President, in April 2018.
Or at least this was the idea. We are now seeing an about-turn in Trump’s decision to withdraw the troops from the northeast. First Trump said some soldiers would remain to protect the oil fields to the east from Daesh, while others will remain close to the Jordan border towards the south, which is on behalf of Israel’s security. Some will be relocated before returning home. Indeed it was anticipated that some withdrawing troops would have stayed in Iraq while on transit, yet the Iraqi government boldly refused this. Earlier this week, it was reported that over 500 US troops with cargo arrived back in northern Syria with some returning to abandoned bases. It is expected that Trump’s decision to protect the oil fields as he sees it, will result in almost as many forces (900) in the country compared to when Trump took office (close to 1000).
However, as unpredictable and maverick as Trump is, I do believe he is genuine about bringing back troops from conflicts that do not concern the US or the American people. As far as Trump is concerned, the reason the forces were in Syria in the first place, a legacy of the previous Obama administration, was to combat Daesh, as naïve as this is. Equally naïve of course is to believe Daesh has now been defeated, even in light of the alleged killing of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. It is, therefore, reasonable to ask; why are more troops heading to Syria?
The answer therein lies with the existence of the so-called Deep State and those in Trump’s administration seeking to subvert his policies and actions. It was once ridiculed as a conspiracy theory by the mainstream media, especially for Trump’s knack of repetitive language, (along with “Fake news”), the New York Times said it didn’t exist in 2017. Yet over time, they have acknowledged its existence, as seen in the same news outlet a couple of weeks ago.
Rather than invoke dark imagery of conspiracy theories to do with shadow governments and the Illuminati, the Deep State in the context of the US is perhaps best understood as to refer to “the administrative state: all the people who make Washington function no matter what who is president. This administrative state is often successful in coopting even presidential cabinet members and parts of the White House staff since they all receive institutional instruction from an army of nonappointed staffers.”
Part of the current confusion as to US forces withdrawal from the north of Syria, yet different build-up at the oil fields in the east, is caused by US officials ignoring their Commander in Chief. “Rather than plan and begin to implement a coordinated withdrawal, the president’s appointed envoy for Syria and the Department of Defense worked to ensure Washington could stay and ignored the reality that Trump would eventually order an American withdrawal”. The modest oil fields are of no real strategic value. It is argued that a US military presence is required to deter Daesh from re-establishing itself. Still, in reality, it is to illegally prevent the Syrian government from access to its natural resources.
Although Trump had gotten rid of the troublesome John Bolton, Ambassador James Jeffery, the “US Special Representative for Syria Engagement” and the “Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIL” is one of those obstacles to Trump’s decision making. Another Iran hawk, he is committed to the “complete withdrawal of Iran” in Syria.
While Trump wanted to wage war on Daesh and believed that conflict to be over, the Deep State is fixated on dismantling the Syrian state and overthrowing Bashar Al-Assad. These objectives are of course on par with those of Israel’s. The US base in Al-Tanf was purportedly established to combat Daesh, which includes the Damascus-to-Baghdad highway, with surrounding areas controlled by the Syrian government. Indeed there is no presence of Daesh there. As Bloomberg reported earlier in the year it is a “hitch” in Trump’s withdrawal plans; Israeli and some US officials argued for a continued military presence there to disrupt Iran’s supply lines to Hezbollah in Lebanon, which is the real reason for the base. Israel has much more to lose in the case of an inevitable US withdrawal in the long-run. In the aftermath of the alleged raid killing Daesh leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has increased the pressure on Trump to re-focus his attention on Iran, nervous about Trump’s reluctance to take direct action against Iran, “Iran’s brazenness in the region is rising, and it’s increasing even more due to the lack of response” complained Netanyahu last week.
Minus the rhetoric, Daesh was never a threat to Israel after all, Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israel’s military intelligence said following Baghdadi’s death who said they are of a secondary risk, which is an overstatement, “we would like to see the U.S. act in a similar way against Soleimani and Nasrallah”, referring to the head of Iran’s Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, and the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah.
Trump spoke of withdrawing from Syria in December of last year during an unscripted phone call to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan but was dissuaded by senior officials within the administration, in fact, Jeffrey’s predecessor Brett McGurk and Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned over Trump’s withdrawal plans in protest.
Although Trump did the right thing in removing Bolton, Jeffrey working within the Deep State cannot be trusted, even at the personal level – he was among those who signed the “Never Trump” statements denouncing the then-candidate for the White House and technically shouldn’t also be in his position, seeing as Trump blacklisted “Never-Trumpers”.
In regards to the increase in US troops in Saudi Arabia, it is business as usual, as much as it is to reassure the royal family that the US is committed to protecting its ally against Iran, the Saudis have to pay for their protection, and Trump made that very clear. There is no economic incentive to keep a few hundred troops stationed in two central locations in Syria surrounded by a hostile environment and Syrian and Russian forces after all. Additionally, the Kingdom still owes Washington $181 million in unpaid bills for refuelling their fighter jets in its disastrous, immoral war in Yemen.
While Trump is the first US President in two decades to not have started a new war; he is surrounded by those in the Deep State determined to sabotage his policies for an ill-advised confrontation with Iran at the behest of Israel. With the upcoming elections, Trump is seeking to bring back the troops and deliver his election promise, putting American interests first. However, the security of Israel is paramount, and that has always been what the conflict in Syria was about at its core, with Iran, the ultimate prize.
This article was originally published in Middle East Monitor on November 5, 2019.
*Opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of UMMnews.