U.S. President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw troops from northeast Syria has quickly resulted in a victory to American adversaries, the New York Times said on Monday.
Trump, relying on instinct and his relationships, ignored the consequences of this move, it said.
Former U.S. president Barack Obama and then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton had created a vacuum when they got out of Iraq, leading to the emergence of ISIS, the article quoted Donald Trump as saying in a presidential debate in 2016.
Even Trump’s allies can see the parallel, it said.
“If I didn’t see Donald Trump’s name on the tweet, I thought it would be Obama’s rationale for getting out of Iraq,” long-time supporter of the president, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham had told Fox News on Oct. 7.
On Oct. 6, President Trump had a phone call with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and later announced the withdrawal of a small group of U.S. troops in the Kurdish-held northeastern region.
Two days later, Turkey launched the Operation Peace Spring against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a long-standing U.S. partner in Syria that Turkey considers to be a terrorist organisation.
The SDF has since reached an agreement with the Syrian government and President Bashar Assad, who the United States has called a war criminal in the past as Sanger noted, and that the Syrian army would take on border security in their territory.
Within a week, a successful five-year-long American project was abandoned, and bloody carnage ensued, the article said.
Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and ISIS won a sudden victory, it added.
Armed Services Committee member and Democratic Senator Jack Reed said Trump failed to articulate a strategy to prevent an ISIS re-emergence and provide for the safety of the Syrian Kurds, the NY Times article said. “This is another example of Donald Trump … benefitting Russia and the Assad regime,” it added.
President Trump has threatened to “destroy and obliterate” Turkey’s economy if it crossed a line. He has also threatened Turkey with sanctions, which are reportedly ready to be imposed any time, but President Erdoğan continued with his plans.
The Turkish army in Syria opened fire on U.S. troops on Oct. 10, and the Pentagon struggled with how to respond in case it happened again, the article noted.
In light of the developments, the U.S. state and energy departments reviewed options to evacuate the nuclear weapons stored in the İncirlik Air Base in southern Turkey, which are “essentially Erdoğan’s hostages,” as Sanger quoted a U.S. official as saying. Removing them would signal the end of Turkish-American alliance, but to keep them would perpetuate a nuclear vulnerability, it wrote.
It is impossible to know whether Erdoğan would still have sent his troops to Syria if Trump had not failed, the NY Times said, referring to an essay by Trump’s envoy for Syria, James F. Jeffrey.
It is also debatable whether ISIS victories in Iraq could have been prevented if U.S. troops hadn’t completely withdrawn, Jeffrey had written. “Iraqi sectarian divides, which ISIS exploited, run deep and were not susceptible to permanent remedy by [U.S.] troops.”
Trump could use a similar argument for Syria, it said, but for the time being he has given up most of his leverage.