I do not often say that I agree with Bernie Sanders. But on the issue of Trump's foreign policy, especially abandoning the Kurds
, I whole heartedly agree.
In making any decision, the President of the United States, any and every President of the United States, must take into account the best interests of the United States and make decisions that reflect those interests.
The decision that President Donald J. Trump made to abandon the Kurds in Syria is a strategic mistake. As opposed to thinking about the Kurds and their slaughter, or about how the United States has thrown their one-time allies under the bus — and done so repeatedly for decades, let's approach this decision from the point of view of the best interests of the United States. And to best do that, let's look at it from the point of view of other U.S. allies in the region.
The Saudis are stunned. They see this move by the United States as a one-two-punch. It is the second instance in succession of the U.S. either not taking any action at all, or of acting against the interests of the region. The first example is the decision by the United States to not come to the defense — maybe even rescue of — Saudi Arabia after their gas and oil infrastructure was attacked by Iran. And now, this.
The region is, simplistically speaking, divided into two groups. There are the bad guys and there are the good guys. The bad guys include Iran and their minions, the Russians and Islamic extremists and terrorists. The good guys are those aligned with the United States. The group is comprised of Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab countries, Israel and the West. It is not a question of Western outsiders versus Middle East locals.
Saudi Arabia still does not understand why Washington made the decision not to respond to the bombing of their oil and gas infrastructure. They do not understand why Washington did not respond to the downing of their own sophisticated drone. In Saudi eyes this U.S. withdrawal is a present to Turkey and a gift to Russia who has wasted no time in stepping into the vacuum left by the departure of the United States. And it is, to put it mildly, a slap in the face to the Kurds.
When responding to the critique leveled against them for not rising to the challenge in defense of the Saudis and their drone, the United States has been quick to issue a disclaimer — proclaiming that they attacked Iran using a cyber strike which paralyzed them. But to the Saudis and to others monitoring and dependent on U.S. actions and behavior in the region, a cyber-attack is ethereal. It is as if the United States did nothing. The region is all about image, machismo, ego and power. An attack that no one in the region sees and that was, understandably, hardly covered by the media is equivalent to no attack at all.
If the United States is not committed to exerting serious influence — which includes military support or even action — then the "bad guys" of the region will not stop from perpetrating their dastardly deeds. They will not stop until they are stopped.
A phone call from U.S. President Trump to Turkish President Erdogan outlining what he expected from Turkey was a start. But it should have been clear after their initial phone conversation on October 6 that the Turks were not about to stop their advance into Syria which, we all know, is diplomatic-speak for a war that will eradicate the Kurds.
Sending Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Pompeo to the region was a more serious move on Trump's part, even if the Turkish president earlier indicated that he would not meet with Trump's highest level emissaries. Sanctions, however, speak volumes, sanctions mean this is serious. Had President Trump not withdrawn the handful of U.S. troops still in Syria, none of this would have been necessary.
During his flash trip through the region, Secretary of State Pompeo will get an earful from Israel. Jerusalem sees this decision by the United States to be a major abandonment of the region. And it is. So much so that Israel's chief of staff met with Benny Ganz, the former Israeli Chief of Staff and now head of Blue and White, the political party opposing sitting Prime Minister Netanyahu. Why? To underscore that the threat of an attack against Israel by Iran has, since Donald Trump abandoned the Kurds, risen dramatically. And to make it just as clear that Israel is ready to respond — or even to be the first to strike.
U.S. Secretary of State is aware of this and has informed the U.S. president. And like Israel, Pompeo fully understands that had President Trump not removed the small number of troops, 1,200 to 1,500 U.S. troops that were in Syria, there would have been no need for this conversation.
The region could explode at any moment. Not because of Iran, or Syria, or Muslim extremists. Because of a decision made by the President of the United States that, while it appeared to be in the best interest of the United States, was not that at all. Like any other country, the United States needs allies. Right now, the United States is acting against their allies' interest.
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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