The notion that the United States is in Syria – albeit illegally – to bring “stability” to the nation by chasing out remnants of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) fighters is just plain nuts.
Just in recent days, the Islamic State has seized 700 hostages in a part of Syria controlled by US-backed forces and are executing some ten a day until unspecified demands are met.
How could that be, if the US insists it has IS on the run? Going back to the Obama administration, the US has a history of protecting such jihadi fighters. The intent is to create a Sunni enclave inside Syria to impede any western Iranian or Shia militia advancement into Syria.
Those high-level officials of the Trump administration including National Security Advisor John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and soon-to-depart US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley espouse this crazy narrative of being in Syria to defeat IS as a cover for more nefarious reasons than they will ever admit.
The Syrian government never invited the US into Syria as it did with Russia and Iran, both of which had IS on the run before the US ever made its presence in Syria.
According to Brett McGurk, US special envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the US now will remain in what he has called a “new phase” to focus on the “stabilization and sustainment effort” to bring about permanent stability.
But that’s laughable, since the Trump administration recently cut some $230 million in stabilization funding to northeast Syria, relying instead on contributions from Saudi Arabia and other members of the US-led “anti-ISIS global coalition,” the very same countries that introduced the world to IS, Al-Qaeda and other jihadi Salafist militant groups in the first place.
The more nefarious reason these neoconservatives, or neocons, such as Bolton, Pompeo and Haley look at Syria as a last-ditch effort to give any relevance to US influence in the Middle East and maintain some presence is to carry out their more ideologically-driven effort for regime change in Damascus.
Yet, these Trump administration officials in pursuing their crazy notion of occupying eastern Syria where US Special Forces now have the ultimate goal of partitioning an eastern third of the country and turning it into a Sunni enclave is meant not only to protect radical Sunni militants but to halt any growing Iranian influence that Israel believes poses a threat to its own survival.
The McGurk comment of keeping US troops in Syria for “stabilization” purposes has been reinforced by Bolton’s comments that the US will remain in Syria so long as Iranians are there.
Despite what Trump has stated in the past on the limited role of US troops in Syria to eliminate IS and then leave, Bolton has raised the ante by declaring they will remain, as long as what he says are Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, or even if Iranian forces remain in Syria.
“We’re not going to leave as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders, and that includes Iranian proxies and militias,” Bolton said. He even came up with a bizarre theory that it was Iran which was “really the party responsible for the shooting down of the Russian plane” – the Russian Il-20 reconnaissance plane which was hit by a Syrian ground-to-air missile during an Israeli bombing attack inside Syria, said to be aimed at Iranians.
Bolton’s fingerprints are all over a more aggressive and ideologically-driven Trump administration foreign policy. It encompasses keeping US troops in Syria; to Iran where he convinced Trump to pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran nuclear agreement. That action will allow even more stringent US sanctions to kick in, although Tehran was in full compliance with the agreement.
Now, Bolton has spearheaded a successful effort to get Trump to announce that the United States will pull out of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987 by then President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev.
Bolton’s zealousness to pull out of the INF treaty came despite opposition from the Departments of State and Defense. He has Trump claiming Moscow is in violation of the treaty through the development of a new cruise missile, but the treaty doesn’t prohibit research and development, only deployment.
The US problem, however, may be less with Russia than with China which isn’t even a signatory. China is developing medium range missiles but the US can’t. So, the leveraging begins.
This announcement could be just a Trumpian ploy to get a “better deal,” since exit from the treaty has a six month notification requirement.
All of this comes even though Trump has stated on numerous occasions that he wants US troops out of Syria, with no intention of regime change.
Trump even offered to talk to Iranian leaders without condition but that notion wasn’t acceptable to Israel, or the neocons. Bolton and Pompeo replaced Trump’s offer of unconditional talks with the Iranian leadership with a list of 12 conditions that are not realistic, but are meant to discourage any notions of US-Iran negotiations.
All of this reflects that that there is a Trump foreign policy and a Trump administration foreign policy run by these neocons, but never the twains shall meet.
In effect, what is emerging is the increasingly high prospect that Donald Trump is not in control of his own administration’s foreign policy.