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US Withdrawal from Syria Might be Exactly What Isis Is Hoping for
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American armoured vehicles with their Stars and Stripes flying were patrolling today close to the Turkish-Kurdish frontline west of the Euphrates River in northern Syria. But how long will they go on doing so in the wake of the decision by President Trump to pull 2,000 US troops from Syria, claiming there is no reason for them to be there after the defeat of Isis? And when they do go, will this open the gates to a new and possibly very bloody phase in the seven-year-long Syrian war?

Turkey says it will invade and destroy the quasi-independent Kurdish enclave, which the Kurds call Rojava, once it is no longer under American protection. They say the Kurdish militants who rule the enclave “will be buried in their ditches when the time comes”.

The main Kurdish population centres are in cities and towns on the Turkish border which are within artillery range of the Turkish regiments massing on the other side of the frontier.

If there is a Turkish invasion of this vast chunk of Syria, it will provoke a mass flight of the 2 million Kurds in the area who live in terror of a Turkish incursion. When Turkey invaded the Kurdish region of Afrin at the start of the year, half the population fled and has yet to return.

The Kurds in Syria provided the foot soldiers for the US war against Isis whose “Islamic state” once stretched in 2014 from the outskirts of Baghdad to the Mediterranean.

The Kurdish-US de facto alliance began during the Isis siege of the Kurdish city of Kobani at the end of that year when US airstrikes enabled Kurdish fighters to defeat a ferocious Isis assault.

The US had found what it had long been looking for in Syria – a reliable hardfighting military force on the ground which could call in American airstrikes as it advanced and occupied Isis strongholds.

No wonder the Kurds now feel utterly betrayed by the US. Their fighters belong to the People’s Protection Units (YPG) which provide the main fighting units of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that also contains units drawn from local Arab tribes.

Mr Trump’s tweet announcing his decision to withdraw came after the SDF captured Hajin, which was the last town in Syria held by Isis.

The Kurds in Rojava might now look for a deal with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, in the hope of getting the Syrian army between them and the Turkish forces. The US departure will make it easier for the Kurds to look for protection from Mr Assad.

But how much is that protection worth since the Syrian army is not strong enough to stop the Turks even if it wanted to? Would Russia, the crucial supporter of Mr Assad, go along with such a move? It would be politically difficult for the Kurds to pivot away from cooperating with the US to working with Mr Assad, who the US is supposedly trying to overthrow.

As for Russia, Kurdish leaders say President Putin will always give priority to maintaining his good relations with Turkey regardless of what happens to the Kurds.

The Syrian Kurdish leadership will be hoping that the US will not totally abandon them. They know that much of the US political, military and media establishment, along with allies like the UK and France, want the US to stay in Syria. They know that Mr Trump’s policies have been diluted or reversed before when facing such wideranging opposition.

Turkey has been making menacing threats to invade Syria in recent weeks, and Turkish television has shown reinforcements being rushed to the border. Mr Trump’s decision may have appeared to come out of the blue, but it is more likely to have been taken because of this Turkish escalation.

Mr Trump does not want to teeter on the edge of a war with Turkey into which he might be dragged if US soldiers were killed by Turkish troops advancing into Syria. He will be able to revive the US alliance with Turkey as a major Nato power once US soldiers are no longer fighting alongside the YPG, who Turkey denounce as terrorists on the grounds they are a branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has been fighting a guerrilla war in Turkey since 1984.

So long as Turkey, Russia and Iran are working in coordination, it will be difficult for Mr Trump to pursue his principle policy in the Middle East, which is to isolate and confront Iran.

Abandoning the Kurds may seem to the White House to be a reasonable price to pay in order to improve relations with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

There is another cost for President Trump, as he pulls US troops out of Syria saying Isis is defeated and Isis was the only reason for US soldiers being there.

But to what extent is this really true? It is correct that Isis, which four years ago controlled a vast territory in Syria and Iraq, no longer does so. It lost Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria after long and bloody sieges in 2017. Its fighters have suffered devastating casualties. Isis no longer rules a state with a powerful army controlling, at its height, some 6 or 7 million people.

However, Isis still has potential as a guerrilla force led by skilful commanders, and this potential will be far greater if it is no longer fighting the SDF, backed by US airpower. And even if US airstrikes still happen, experience shows that to be truly effective it needs ground troops able to identify targets and occupy territory – but, according to US officials, the order to withdraw also signifies an end to the US air campaign against Isis.


Isis has always wished that its great array of enemies, called into being by its cruelty and violence, would one day turn on each other and once again create the conditions for an Isis resurgence. This may now be happening. A Turkish invasion of northern Iraq would lead to chaos, mass flight by millions, and conflict between the local Kurdish and Arab populations: it is in such anarchic conditions that Isis was born and has always flourished.

President George W Bush paid a famously heavy political price in 2003 by prematurely claiming “mission accomplished”. Mr Trump will open himself up to a similar accusation if he declares Isis dead, and buried and this turns out to be untrue. His decision to withdraw has ended the stalemate in Syria, but it will not bring an end to its multiple conflicts.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump, ISIS, Syria 
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  1. Hail says: • Website

    American armoured vehicles with their Stars and Stripes flying were patrolling today close to the Turkish-Kurdish frontline

    That feeling when we secure the Turkish-Kurdish border, at great expense, while leaving the U.S.-Mexico border open.

    • Agree: Ace
  2. utu says:

    The neocon Cockburn.

    • Replies: @anonymous
    , @notur
  3. anon[297] • Disclaimer says:

    If there is a Turkish invasion of this vast chunk of Syria, it will provoke a mass flight of the 2 million Kurds in the area who live in terror of a Turkish incursion.

    great, their friends in israel can take them in

    • Replies: @Sowhat
    , @RobinG
  4. DFH says:

    His decision to withdraw has ended the stalemate in Syria, but it will not bring an end to its multiple conflicts.

    Is it America’s obligation to end every conflict in the Middle East?

  5. dvorak says:

    If there were any doubt that Cockburn is the Golden Globes version of CIA mouthpiece David Ignatius, this dispatch puts it to rest.

  6. anonymous[340] • Disclaimer says:

    And the similarities to the latest from Mr. Buchanan are striking.

    • Replies: @utu
  7. “Drumpf and his …”


    … withdrawal of troops from opaque, undeclared foreign wars!”

    This is hilarious. The Left is out of arguments.

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  8. notur says:

    exactly. his reaction is the giveaway.
    everybody with real local knowledge of syria is happy about this.

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  9. Sowhat says:

    The NEOCONS in control of the U.S. Senate and their Globalist brethren in the U.S. House will invite them to the U.S. Sanctuary for Freedom Fighters. Adams II had good dvice not to export Democracy. It wasn’t heeded.

  10. There has never been a reason for the US to defeat

  11. RobinG says:

    Would like to LOL and AGREE at the same time.

  12. This is complete necon BS. The CIA funded ISIS and American troops are there to protect them from the Syrian government. Same with the Kurds, whose army invaded from Iraq. Let Turkey and Syria kill and expel them.

    This propagandist wrote: “The US had found what it had long been looking for in Syria”.

    Yes, non-Arabs with no jobs willing to fight as mercs to fufill the goal of a Greater Isreal.

    It was great to see that crazed neo-con warmonger Mattis left. He doesn’t give a damn about working Americans or the dangers of US troops in Syria. He was just having a grand time playing ruler of the world. Now all the necocons from both political parties are filling their necon airwaves with praise for mass murdered Mattis.

    90% of Americans want all troops out of Syria and Afghanistan, and Trump knows this going into the elections. If Biden obeys orders and continues to attack Trump for this, he will surely lose, just like Hillary Clinton.

    • Replies: @RobinG
  13. I have had my doubts about Patrick Cockburn for a while now but this article confirms them. This is neocon BS.

  14. Evidence is overwhelming that ISIS is an American/Israeli/Saudi/UAE creation. Common knowledge at this point America and Israel are the biggest sponsors of terror in the world

    Not good!

    ‘Organ traders, terrorists & looters’: Evidence against Syrian White Helmets presented at UN
    Praised in the West as humanitarian rescue volunteers, in reality the ‘White Helmets’ work with Islamist militants in Syria, harvest organs from the victims they pretend to be “rescuing,” stage false chemical weapons and other attacks for cameras, and loot the bodies and homes of Syrians killed and injured in the war, according to Maxim Grigoriev, director of the Russia-based Foundation for the Study of Democracy.

    Grigoriev presented the results of the Foundation’s research into White Helmets at the UN headquarters in New York on Thursday. Russia’s envoy to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, said the evidence shows the group is dangerous.

    “The White Helmets deserve to be on the United Nations’ designated terrorist list,” Nebenzia said.

    Rather than volunteers, almost all the members of White Helmets were paid staff, Grigoriev explained. There is also “undeniable evidence” that the group has been taking written orders from Jaysh al‑Islam, an Islamist militant group most notorious for its occupation of Douma.

    Many local residents interviewed for the research spoke about people “rescued” by the White Helmets ending up dead, with their internal organs missing. One of the witnesses interviewed was a former member of Ahrar al-Sham, who testified that his commander Shadi Kadik, also known as Abu Adel Al-Halabi (of Aleppo), acknowledged the organ harvesting. The total number of cases involving organ theft is “at least several hundred” in Aleppo alone, Grigoriev testified.

    Instead of rescuing civilians and children, the White Helmets looted homes damaged in the fighting and bodies of the dead, while forcing the children out of schools and kindergartens to set up offices there.

  15. anon[395] • Disclaimer says:

    Do you know what the F** you are talking about because I dont and can’t figure it out.? Yes ISIS might reappear but how will it succeed without the support of Israel Saudi US ? How will it make inroads without the support of BBC Guardian NYT FOX whose support for the astro -turf manufactured cries for democracy was so pivotal for ISIS to find the location to strike the ISIS was looking for? US’s role in defeat of ISIS is zero in Syria. It has actually protected and sometimes has allowed them to escape with guns mortars tanks and money ( check BBC it will tell Sometimes it tells the truth ) . In Iraq, role of US in defeating ISIS is overblown . I am waiting to see any proof of that beyond the claims of FOX and NYT .

  16. No news organization in the USA reported what happened in Raqqa, Syria. What remained of ISIS was surrounded in that city. The USA arranged a ceasefire so that 4000 armed ISIS fighters could form a hundred vehicle convoy and peacefully escape in broad daylight! This makes no sense unless one knows that ISIS was created and funded by Saudi Arabia, Israel, and our CIA.

    In July of last year, the great “Saker” explained at

    “…if we look at the people around Trump it is pretty clear that the only intelligent and rational person in the White House is Rex Tillerson. The rest of them are lunatics, maniacs and imbeciles – the current US what shall I call it—“actions” (can’t call it a “policy”) towards Syria clearly prove that the Executive Branch is completely out of control. We now can clearly see that Mattis and McMaster are not these military geniuses presented to us by the Ziomedia but that, in fact, they are both phenomenally incompetent and that their views of the conflicts in Syria and even Afghanistan can only be characterized as totally lacking anything remotely resembling any kind of vision. Yet these two “geniuses” seem to be in charge.”

    Not in charge anymore.

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  17. Anonymous [AKA "dempster"] says:

    I find it amazing that you never mention Israel, which is the one that has been playing the Kurds and Isis. and the US has been following like a puppy dog. The US has been playing both sides of the Isis game in order to control Syrian oil. Maybe the US military will officially leave, but their special force and the CIA’s spooks surely wont.

  18. anon[395] • Disclaimer says:

    US has been reported of saying through multiple orifices that it intends to stay in Syria and Iraq even after ISIS were defeated.

  19. RobinG says:
    @Carlton Meyer

    Yes, and 3 cheers for Trump. Tonight the PBS talking head was babbling on how this will do it, that his un-named well places Republican says this is the beginning of the end (for Trump). I couldn’t believe it. I guess he hasn’t seen this tape of hair-on-fire predictions, to know how ridiculous he sounded –

    “Donald Trump is Finished” | Super Deluxe Super Cuts

  20. Anonymous [AKA "Smiling Dirigible"] says:

    I don’t know if ISIS was hoping for it, but I was certainly hoping for it. Up next—Iraq and the rest of the Berzerkerstans.

  21. headrick says:

    keep track of who likes who
    Turkey likes el-nusra terrorists hates kurds
    kurds like Israel and hate turkey
    syria (assad and the saa) likes russia and iran(hezbolah)
    isis likes israel

    israel likes isis
    isis fights kurds but not with much determination.
    israel hates iran with a burning passion.
    hezbolah hates israel a lot

    el nusra likes mostly the us and sdf
    sdf hates saa and assad

    oh crap- lets leave!!

    • Replies: @anon
  22. My response to Mr. Cockburn is “bollocks!”

  23. @notur

    I have no real local knowledge of Syria and I’m happy about this. Of course, Trump’s decision will be undermined, and the neocons will find a base to replace Benghazi (I here there’s a thriving slave slave market there; congrats Blood Queen Clinton) and ship weapons to Isis or to whatever Al Qaeda calls itself now in order to keep the carnage and death going in Syria.

  24. @The Anti-Gnostic

    No more arguments; just more chaos.

  25. @Carlton Meyer

    Yep. The headchoppers of Isis unwittingly serve the interests of Israel and the U.S.; it is a creation of Saudi intelligence.

    • Replies: @JLK
  26. utu says:

    Buchana has another take. He points out that leaving ISIS Trump is dumping them on Putin. ISIS are Suni and enemies of Assad.

    • Replies: @anonymous
  27. Renoman says:

    Considering America was the one who sponsored and trained ISIS and Russia Iran and Syria were the ones that put the boots to them I can’t help but laugh at America’s complete and utter failure in the Middle East. I also believe that Trump’s getting out is a shrewd political move because no one in America wants to be there. The only reason to be there is to satisfy Israel and EVERYONE hates them.

  28. anonymous[340] • Disclaimer says:

    I appreciate most of your comments, but am unclear about this one. If you’re so inclined, please weigh in under Mr. Buchanan’s “Will Trump Hold Firm on Syrian Pullout?” column.

  29. anon[284] • Disclaimer says:

    and all of them hate US ,but wouldn’t mind using it . Well , none of them mind using one against another.

  30. If the US was truly fighting ISIS, Russia wouldn’t have needed to finish them off. Furthermore, the Europeans wouldn’t be letting ISIS fighters back into their countries and Israel wouldn’t be giving them medical treatment.

  31. anonymous[739] • Disclaimer says:

    It’s real politics in this area.

    The main powers are:

    Turkey with neo-Ottoman Empire ways of thinking and acting – sort of Islam but willing to protect others was a big key to Ottoman Empire Power.

    Iran – main power of the Shiite Islamists and gets great credit for being the best at standing up to Israeli, Zionists, USA/Neo Conservative/Zionists.

    Russia/Secular Arabs in Syria

    The United States is just sort of all over the map, invading, arming, mouthing off, pulling out, threatening everybody’s leader as Hitler.

    Vladimir Putin said it best when he said words to the effect:

    “It’s tough to deal with American diplomatic elites as they don’t seem to know the difference between Austria and Australia”


  32. anonymous[739] • Disclaimer says:

    Politics certainly makes for …..

    Strange bedfellows.

    The reality is that Saudi Arabia Sunni Islamist royals, ISIS and Israel, the US Israeli Lobby, Neo Conservatives are all on the same side and have virtually identical military, political and especially mass migration policies.

    This seemingly insane, impossible alliance was best symbolized by the sham marriage of New York Mayor to be/not be, texting pervert

    Anthony Weiner


    Hillary’s Saudi Arabian born, controlled chief of staff

    Huma Abedin

    (Strong case for birth control there!)

    Both Saudi Arabia and Israel took exactly ZERO Syrian war refugees. But Saudi Arabia, Israel and the American, European Jewish Diaspora have pushed extremely hard that Western Europe, Scandinavia, USA – the White West MUST accept virtually unlimited numbers of Syrian, Muslim war refugees or just any low IQ uneducated Muslim young man that wants to migrate to Cologne Germany, get drunk and rape young German/Swedish women.

    That’s reality.

    And exactly who do we have opposing all this SH**?

    Sometimes Donald Trump and Ann Coulter and some marginalized blog writers in the Alt Right.

    • Replies: @anon
  33. JLK says:

    it is a creation of Saudi intelligence.

    The capability doesn’t exist in either sense of the word.

  34. anon[284] • Disclaimer says:

    Marriage between alt Right and Zionism mirrors the marriage between ISIS and Zionism.

    IQ is the new escape hatch for those caught into love for racism and attachment to colonialism .It gives fresh leaf of hope without being called low IQ freeloaders ,carpetbaggers , and losers.

  35. I have no idea what the consequences will be. But what I do know is that you have engaged in some very sleight of hand gymnastics to cover a deeper and more problematic scenario. That all of these scenarios are the result of toppling Iraq.

    And the same advocates of that nonsense are the same ones who tippy toed the presidents including the current executive into conflicts that upon examination have not led to a more democratic, prosperous middle east, nor eastern Europe for the matter.

    ISIS is the direct result of the invasion of Iraq as the civil war between Sunnis and shias broke out immediately. And has existed in varying states of conflict throughout the country. Of course the Sunnis reconsidered their faith and thought that perhaps their fate was the result of not being religious enough and turned to more extreme practice. Being the only real protection the Sunnis had against the Shia, it is no shock they were tolerated or even looked too as protectorates.

    They advanced their agenda across the middle east, but it is not as if they were alone.

    Not having enough troops to subdue more passionate competitors is why Iraq eventually fell apart and is now largely run by conservative Shia who are not going support any invasion of Iran — small wonder that.

    So if ISIS comes back largely subdues by Syria and her allies as we parlayed them into supporting regime change, how much we are responsible for their diminution is questionable, has yet to be known. But whatever problems their existence — it is owed not to this president, but the presidents before him and those that supported war for regime change.

    The reason to vacate Syria is that we have no business being there period. It’s hard to make a case about national sovereignty if you are about violating that of other states.

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