Despite his eagerness to remove American troops from Syria, US President Donald Trump has given up on doing so immediately for reasons including the war against jihadists and regional politics.
– Mission accomplished? –
While Trump used the winding down of the war against the Islamic State group as justification for his desire to quickly withdraw US forces from Syria, allies as well as US officials have pushed back.
“Our mission isn’t over, and we’re going to complete that mission,” said Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the international anti-IS coalition.
And the jihadists are not completely defeated: “We see the return of fighters,” and if the coalition is not careful, there is a real threat that IS could “regain ground,” a European diplomat warned recently.
Trump has now promised that the US mission in Syria would come to a “rapid end,” but did not give a timetable.
– The Assad issue –
In January Rex Tillerson, then secretary of state prior to his dismissal by Trump, said that “the United States will maintain a military presence in Syria.”
He linked the issue with ending Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, though this is not an official objective of the mission.
“A total withdrawal of American personnel at this time would restore Assad to continue his brutal treatment against his own people,” Tillerson said, while “the departure of Assad through the UN-led Geneva process will create the conditions for a durable peace within Syria and security along the borders.”
This process, however, is at a standstill. In the meantime, the US administration has also stressed the need to stabilize areas “liberated” from IS rule.
“Of course there is a military role in this, certainly in the stabilization phase,” said General Joseph Votel, the commander of US troops in the Middle East.
– Countering Iran –
Tillerson also warned “US disengagement” from Syria would provide Iran — which is backing Assad — with “the opportunity to further strengthen its own position in Syria.”
This is a major concern for experts, at a time when the Assad regime and its Iranian and Russian allies increasingly appear to be on the path to victory in Syria’s brutal seven-year civil war.
Trump has repeatedly taken aim at Iran’s conduct and threatened to withdraw from the international agreement aimed at preventing Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, criticizing it as too lax.
“Containing the spread of the Iranians, their proxies and the development of their military capability in Syria should be the Trump administration’s focal point,” former diplomat Denis Ross wrote in The Washington Post.
“But it is not, with Trump making clear that he wants to ‘let the other people take care of it now,'” Ross said.
– Trouble with Turkey –
Turkey is also a significant source of concern for Washington. Turkey is a western ally that backs Syrian rebels.
But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has joined Russia and Iran in a Syria peace process on the margins of the UN-led one.
Mainly, Ankara has launched an offensive in northwest Syria against Kurds allied with the United States against jihadist forces but accused of terrorism by the Turks. Turkey fears the formation of a Kurdish state on its border.
This operation, which the United States has failed to contain, now threatens Manbij, where American troops are based.
For now, the Americans seem inclined to strengthen their positions in the Manbij region.
Australian diplomat tells Bill Barr’s anti-Russia prosecutor he wasn’t part of any secret plot against Trump
As the impeachment proceedings continue into President Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr is hard at work on trying to discredit the Russia investigation and potentially prosecute federal officials involved in it, as U.S. Attorney John Durham helps him conduct a criminal probe into how the FBI began looking at the Trump campaign.
But if Barr is hoping that this investigation helps his boss, he may be in for a disappointment. According to the conservative Washington Examiner, Durham recently interviewed the former Australian diplomat whose warnings to U.S. officials triggered the Russia investigation, and his response did not support the GOP narrative.
Trump trying to fire inspector general is a confession he ‘did something criminal’: Nicolle Wallace
MSNBC anchor Nicolle Wallace on Tuesday explained why President Donald Trump attempting to fire inspector general who validated the White House whistleblower complaint.
"We’re back with breaking news from The New York Times that could have implications for Donald Trump’s impeachment," Wallace reported. "Donald Trump, based on a new report in The Times has considered firing the inspector general -- the one who looked at the whistleblower’s complaint on Donald Trump’s Ukraine conduct and deemed it credible and urgent."
Wallace read from the new report.
"President Trump has discussed dismissing the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson, because Mr. Atkinson reported a whistleblower’s complaint about Mr. Trump’s interactions with Ukraine to Congress after concluding it was credible, according to four people familiar with the discussions," The Times reported. "Mr. Trump first expressed his dismay about Mr. Atkinson around the time the whistleblower’s complaint became public in September. In recent weeks, he has continued to raise with aides the possibility of firing him, one of the people said."
Russian official mocks Trump for wanting to go back to Syria for the oil
President Donald Trump withdrew from Syria abruptly and against the advice of those on the ground in the region. It left American Kurdish allies high-and-dry as Turkey began a bombing campaign against them.
Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov mocked Trump for the move and then his bizarre decision to go back into Syria "for the oil."
“We’re keeping the oil — remember that,” Trump told a group of Chicago police officers last month. “I’ve always said that: ‘Keep the oil.’ We want to keep the oil. Forty-five million dollars a month? Keep the oil.”