January 8, 2019

Update on Syria Withdrawal

Last month, President Trump tweeted, “After historic victories against ISIS, it’s time to bring our great young people home!” See our prior coverage here.
Twitter, The Flip Side

On Sunday, “[National Security Adviser John] Bolton said in Israel that the U.S. would pull out only after its troops had rooted out what’s left of [ISIS] in Syria and after the administration had reached an agreement with Turkey to protect Kurdish militias who have fought alongside Americans against the extremists.”
AP News

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan published an op-ed arguing that “Turkey can get the job done” against ISIS in Syria.
New York Times

See past issues

From the Left

The left is criticizing the President for making rash policy decisions without consulting his advisers, and thinks a quick withdrawal is unlikely.

Tweet first, ask questions later. That’s been President Trump’s approach to a host of issues – think of the transgender troop ban – but perhaps nowhere more so than on Syria… [These] walk-backs underscore the rashness of Trump’s initial withdrawal announcement.”
Washington Post

According to Derek H. Chollet, a Pentagon official under President Barack Obama, “In normal times, you would have a discussion on a proposed decision that would lead to the decision, and you would discuss how to implement one. But now, the process is such that once you get policy guidance from the president in the form of a tweet, you reverse-engineer a process.”
New York Times

“Trump, who espouses a kind of nationalist isolationism, is keen on disentangling the United States from costly military adventures that offer him minimal political returns at home… Leading hawks in Washington, including key figures within the administration, see things much differently… senior administration officials are jetting around the Middle East in a bid to assuage allies that the White House is still committed to their security interests. But so far, they’re mostly betraying the discord within the administration over what comes next.”
Washington Post

“Foreign diplomats, frequently buffeted by the President's Twitter blasts, say they have learned to look past them and call their US counterparts. ‘We ignore the tweets,’ said a diplomat from a close US ally… One Republican congressional aide said that [Bolton’s] stance has been interpreted by some lawmakers as a suggestion that the US military will remain in Syria for the long haul, despite Trump's pronouncements.”

“Decisively defeating the Islamic State is no easy task, but what is far harder to do is to defeat the Islamic State while also limiting Iranian influence in Syria… [These descriptions] of Trump’s Syria withdrawal plan sounds suspiciously like a plan to stay in Syria.”
Washington Post

“If you were the Turks, the Kurds, the Syrians, the Iranians, ISIS, or anyone else in the world, friend or foe, whose words would you take seriously—the president’s or his national security adviser’s?”

From the Right

The right is divided on whether a delayed withdrawal, as seems likely now, is the best approach to Syria.

The right is divided on whether a delayed withdrawal, as seems likely now, is the best approach to Syria.

“I don’t see how a complete U.S. withdrawal can be accomplished without putting the Kurds in serious jeopardy at the hands of Turkey. Turkey regards the Kurdish fighters we’re allied with as separatists and terrorists… If Bolton is serious about protecting the Kurds, and if he’s speaking for President Trump, we won’t be withdrawing from Syria in the foreseeable future.”
Power Line Blog

Some fear that “Bolton’s conditions are designed to make withdrawal practically impossible for the foreseeable future. Staying in Syria ‘until the last remnants of the Islamic State’ are defeated commits U.S. forces to remain for a long time to come. When any group like this has been beaten, there are always going to be a few scattered members that survive. Going after those last few ‘remnants’ isn’t a good reason to keep U.S. troops illegally in a country where they were never properly authorized to go.”
The American Conservative

“It is not just a question of implementing the right policy, but of policy being implemented by the right person. Getting policy right matters, but constitutional and democratic norms must also be preserved… the military is being deployed without the approval of Congress and against the wishes of the American people. The foreign policy establishment has persistently subverted the president’s policy of withdrawal from the Syria conflict. Even if their policy is right, none of the goals of American involvement in Syria are worth shredding the Constitution for.”
The Federalist

Meanwhile, others argue that “leaving southern Syria in the hands of Iran is asking for a regional war… if the US leaves a vacuum in southern Syria, Iran will try to fill it — and Israel will unleash waves of attacks to prevent that from happening. That could very well cause an extremely large boom in the region, one which will eventually entangle the US and Russia and maybe even China.”
Hot Air

Regarding potential disagreement between Trump and Bolton, “it is well known in Washington that over the past two weeks, President Trump has been adjusting his plan to withdraw American troops from Syria in response to feedback from experts, members of Congress, and foreign leaders… Bolton’s statements about conditions for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria were no different than what President Trump told Senator Graham a week earlier.”
National Review

Swedish festival to screen sci-fi film... in a coffin.

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.