Tags: Donald Trump | Iran | ISIS/Islamic State | Israel | Middle East | Syria | kurds

US Sabotaging Itself With Syria Withdrawal

gen james mattis outgoing us secy of defense

Outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis. (Alex Brandon/AP)

By Wednesday, 26 December 2018 05:47 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Straight up, it's clear that the withdrawal of 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria will have an effect, not only on the people of Syria and the greater Mideast, but also on the United States.

Polite and political disclaimers aside, President Donald J. Trump's decision to remove the troops was the final straw for the U.S. secretary of defense. While Gen. James Mattis did not draw the link between cause and effect, his letter of resignation certainly hinted at it.

He made no mention of the U.S. withdrawal from Syria.

He made no mention of the president's declaration that the war against ISIS was won.

He didn't have to.

The timing of the president's announcement and subsequent submission of the letter says it all. When reading the letter, it also becomes obvious that while Mattis' decision was not of the moment, it was part of a process that was long in the making. This was not simply a disagreement over the role of the U.S. in Syria. It was much more serious than that.

It was about a Defense Secretary whose voice and advise were not being seriously considered.

In his letter Mattis explained that his philosophy of keeping American safe includes supporting regional allies.

He wrote that America First does not seem to go well with his strategy of protecting allies. In his own words, "You have a right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours . . . One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships.

"While the U.S. remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies."

When we look at Syria and the totality of U.S. defense and foreign policy throughout the world, we clearly understand what Gen. Mattis is saying.

Syria serves as the perfect illustration.

There are definitely winners and losers in the U.S. withdrawal from Syria.

Now, to the scorecard:

ISIS is one of the biggest winners. Considering that the U.S. withdrawal was predicated on defeating ISIS what sounds preposterous and improbable is actually, very, and very sadly, true.

ISIS will bask in the satisfaction of knowing that they — albeit diminished — are still standing in the region while the U.S. has left.

Until every single fighter has been killed ISIS will continue to claim victory.

And they will always have the ability to bounce back.

Russia is another big winner. With America out of the area and out of their proverbial military and diplomatic hair, Russia will be without a counter balance in the entire region.

The entire region — not simply Syria. By leaving, America has handed over the reins to Russia. The U.S. will cede their air and sea power to Russia. The ability to monitor the skies over Syria will be in Russia's hands and only Russia's hands.

As for Syria, it's shouting hallelujah.

Syria was never happy that the U.S. had forces and influence in their country. The U.S. wanted to oust Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and that, quite naturally, never sat well with him.

Finally, the last of the big winners is Iran.

Anytime the U.S. leaves anywhere it is a huge success for Iran. And because the United States is leaving, the responsibility for all things Western now falls squarely on Iran's nemesis — on Israel.

Iran has already spun this withdrawal into one in a series of failures on the part of the established U.S. defense department and its foreign policy makers.

As for the losers, the Kurds are very big losers. The immensity of their loss exceeds the big wins of all other countries combined. They are in big trouble. They have lost their big brother protector.

The most important roles the United States played in Syria was to protect the Kurds and to give the Kurds military training. Turning their backs on the Kurds is nothing new for the United States.

Despite all the good they have done the Kurds, the U.S. has made a habit out of betraying the Kurds. With the United States gone from Syria, it will be easier to hunt and murder Kurds.

That is not open to contradiction, it is a hard, cold, fact.

Israel's loss while large, is not at all as large as the Kurds'.

Although there were only 2,000 U.S. soldiers in Syria, their very presence in the region lent Israel great support. in many ways. The very fact that the United States cared enough to be in this part of the Mideast was a tribute to Israel.

And whenever high level visitors came to visit the troops in Syria, a visit to Israel to lend insight and analysis was an almost mandatory stop on their itinerary. In withdrawing his troops, President Trump is signaling that he no longer sees threats in the region and that is a vision Israel does not at all share — no way, no how.

Neither the Kurds or the Israelis, however, are the biggest losers in the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal from Syria. The biggest loser is the United States of America.

The U.S. is sabotaging itself, removing all ability to gain real information on the ground not only in Syria, but throughout the Mideast.

The United States is no longer a player in the region. There's no going back.

Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. To read more of this reports — Click Here Now.

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Neither the Kurds or the Israelis are the biggest losers in the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal from Syria. The U.S. is sabotaging itself, removing all ability to gain real information on the ground.
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Wednesday, 26 December 2018 05:47 PM
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