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Tuesday, October 08, 2019

The muddled Syria decision

by digby

Here's the New Yorker's Robin Wright on the subject:

At 3 a.m. on Monday, Middle East time, the commander of American special forces in Syria—whose name is not public for security reasons—held a video teleconference with General Mazloum Kobani Abdi, the Kurdish militia commander who led the war against isis on behalf of the U.S. coalition. The commander had bad news. President Trump had decided—after a telephone call with the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan—that the United States would stand aside if Turkey, as announced, soon invades northeast Syria. U.S. troops positioned in two key posts in Syria on the border with Turkey would immediately be withdrawn. Mazloum and his Syrian Democratic Forces, who lost some eleven thousand fighters in the grinding five-year war against isis, were on their own.

Mazloum recounted the conversation to me a few hours later. “The implications are catastrophic,” he said. “We told the Americans we would prepare for war. The Kurds will defend themselves. There is no place for us to go. So that means a war between the Kurds and Turkey. The Arabs also won’t accept a Turkish invasion, either.” The S.D.F., created under U.S. tutelage, includes both Kurds and Arabs.

There is also the problem, Mazloum noted, of the twelve thousand isis fighters captured by the S.D.F. “This decision increases the hopes within isis of rebooting the caliphate,” he said. “The prisoners in detention centers have good morale now. They hope that they are able to escape.” The S.D.F., which is not a state and gets little foreign assistance, has struggled to cope with the dregs of isis since the caliphate fell, in March. Eighty thousand isis family members, held separately in the al-Hawl detention center, have become more aggressive since Turkey signalled its intent to invade northern Syria, the general claimed. Al-Hawl has become a mini-caliphate, run largely by women shrouded in black niqab robes and veils.

Trump’s bombshell policy reversal was dropped in a six-sentence e-mail, shortly before 11 p.m. on Sunday. Turkey, the White House press secretary reported, would “soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria.” In brashly undiplomatic language, the Administration chastised European allies for not taking back the isis fighters from their countries—and warned that the United States would neither hold them nor pay for their continued detention. (Not that it ever did.) Turkey will henceforth be responsible for all isis fighters in the area who have been captured over the past two years, the e-mail warned.

The crisis has long been brewing. For years, Turkey has wanted to create a buffer zone inside Syria, both for its security and to resettle the more than two million refugees who crossed the border to flee Syria’s eight-year civil war. Even more, Erdoğan has wanted to wipe out the Kurdish militia in Syria which he views as a threat because of its ties to a Kurdish movement in Turkey. Kurds are the largest minority in Turkey and a large voting bloc; a militant faction has sought autonomy or an independent Kurdistan that would unite Kurds across Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. The United States held off Erdoğan as long as it needed Syria’s feisty Kurds to fight isis on the ground, with backup from American air power. All the other U.S.-backed rebel groups failed, disintegrated, or turned into warlords.

Trump referred to this as a "tribal" war that has nothing to do with the US and he just wants to wash his hands of the whole thing.
Good luck with that.

Many in the press think he has the right argument for Real Americans who have all abruptly morphed from flag-waving warmongers who scream "cowardly cut 'n run!!!!" at the slightest hint of a withdrawal of American troops anywhere, to peace loving isolationists who just want everyone to get along.

Remember this?

Jean Schmidt, an Ohio Republican who is the most junior member of the House, told of a phone call she had just received from a Marine colonel back home.

"He asked me to send Congress a message: stay the course," Ms. Schmidt said. "He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: that cowards cut and run, Marines never do."

They have not changed. It's just that they now worship Donald Trump over and above everything else. But I'm not sure why the media thinks that this actually means anything. They are still the same bloodthirsty warmongers they always were --- they are just turning their twisted form of "patriotism" on Latinos at the border for the moment and pretending that they really truly just want everyone to get along in the Middle East.

On the other hand, they almost certainly don't give damn about the Kurds. They figure they're all shithole countries so whatever. But let's not confuse that with a belief that America shouldn't be involved militarily overseas and should "bring the troops home." It wasn't long ago that any suggestion of such a thing was met with "why do you hate the troops so much?"

That is who they really are. This newfound "isolationism" is a function of their Trump worship, nothing more.