U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement to pull all American soldiers out of Syria came as a surprise. A number of U.S. allies are very uncomfortable with the decision, along with the military establishment within the U.S. Maybe they just have to admit that the civilian authority should have the final word after all.
The Pentagon is obviously in favor of maintaining former President Barack Obama's policy line on Syria. This policy consisted of sending U.S. troops to Syria to fight Daesh and getting new local allies. In this context, the U.S. has picked the People's Protection Units (YPG) and Democratic Union Party (PYD) as partners and decided to use them to create a northern Iraq-like situation in Syria. By doing this, the main objectives of the U.S. were to limit Iran's room for maneuvering in Syria, to protect Israel and to prevent Russia expanding its influence zone in the eastern Mediterranean.
The Obama policy did not work well, as Moscow has progressively strengthened its presence all over Syria. The U.S. tried to build an axis with Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt but neglected Turkey, which finally led the entire situation to an impasse. Russia noticed the weaknesses of Obama's Middle East strategy very early and did everything possible to exploit it.
The U.S. has always justified its presence in Syria by the necessity of fighting Daesh, which has, in a sense, disclosed how and why this terrorist organization surfaced. This group is not comparable to al-Qaida, the Nusra Front or the PKK. In other words, it is not an organization that appeared as a result of sociological or historical circumstances. It seems more like Daesh has been constructed to serve a very specific purpose, which is to justify the U.S. intervention in Syria.
In a sense, Daesh has accomplished its mission. It offered a justification for coalition forces to intervene in Syria and filled the role of the "common enemy" for Russia and the U.S. The international community fought against Daesh for years, but this bloody group remained undefeated somehow. It was interesting that a terrorist organization, which has been attacked by a coalition of the most powerful armies in the world, has been able to resist for such a long time. The world's public opinions seemed to accept the explanation that the coalition forces were sent to Syria to fight Daesh. Now it seems Trump is bored of this game and has decided to put an end to it. He says that the Daesh threat has been eliminated, so there is no point for the U.S. to stay there anymore.
This is a message conveyed to all involved players on the ground. Those powers, who explain their presence in Syria through Daesh, will now have to find another explanation. France, Britain, the Damascus regime, Russia and the YPG were all claiming they are fighting Daesh, and now the world's leading power is declaring that the Daesh threat no longer exists. In other words, there is no reason for non-regional countries to remain.
Trump admitted there still are Daesh remnants here and there, which is true. Daesh hasn't been totally destroyed, even though its militants are cornered in a few small pockets of land. Trump said it is the regional powers' responsibility to clean these pockets. There are two important dimensions in his position. First, Trump is asking for states and not for organizations to fight against Daesh, and second, he is talking about the region's states. By saying regional powers, it is obvious he is not talking about Iran.
In short, Obama tried to keep Turkey out of the game in Syria, while Trump is inviting it in again. He is probably expecting Turkey to become the balancing factor in this complex game involving Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the U.S. and Russia. Let's hope Trump will be able to persuade the U.S.' close allies that this will be beneficial for everyone.
I wish you all a happy new year.
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