The Syrian Swamp

It is understandable that Pres. Trump, not known for his carefully considered opinions, said a few days ago that he wants US troops out of Syria, since they have now defeated IS.  But, others with more expertise might argue otherwise.  I am sure his new security adviser John Bolton would be shocked to have Trump do the same thing as Obama.  Tell the enemy that you are leaving soon and then do it.  That would be a another disaster.

Yes, Syria is a swamp, a veritable imbroglio, a total disaster.  At least ca. 600,000 Syrians have been killed and about 5 million people displaced during the vicious civil war over the past 8 years, during which the Assad regime, bolstered by Iran and Russia, has fought back against the insurgents and has gradually recaptured most of Syrian territory.  It’s pointless crying over spilt milk, but Obama basically left the field of battle to America’s enemies and they have taken advantage of the vacuum.  Whereas Obama wanted to get rid of Assad, and railed against his use of chemical weapons (remember his red line) he nevertheless did nothing effective to pursue this objective.  It would be weird if now Trump, who supposedly wants to make America great again and has a greatly enhanced military, made the same mistake.

Russia is an enemy of the US, but Russia’s defense budget is one tenth that of the US, and the Russian military is stretched thin, fighting in both Eastern Ukraine and Syria, as well as keeping his own people under control.  Also, Iran is a paper tiger, threatening to take over the Middle East, but capable of doing so only if there is no effective opposition.  It is in this respect that one must view yesterday’s attack on the T4 airfield in central Syria that destroyed armaments and killed some people, at least some Iranians among them.  Although Syria at first blamed the US for the raid, which denied it, now they have blamed Israel.  Israel has not officially commented, but is on record as not allowing the Iranians to establish a military foothold in Syria, a platform from which to attack Israel.

I would be very surprised it Bolton and ultimately Trump would not do something to both support Israel’s action and decided to keep US troops in the region to deter both Russia and Iran from benefiting from their support for Syria.  Syria itself is a shadow of its former self.  It poses no threat to Israel, but the Iranians do.  Where the Russians stand in this is unclear, they support Assad, but not necessarily Iran.  They also understand Israel’s determination to prevent Iran making Syria a platform for its strategy in the region.  The situation is fluid, many people have died, and probably many more will die before any kind of stability is restored.

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