News from the Arab Press

The Mess Trump Created

By Asaf Zilberfarb | The Media Line

December 24, 2018

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Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, December 22

The White House’s announcement of the pullout of all of U.S. forces from Syria caught most pundits by surprise. The practical implications of this move is that more territory – and, thus, more political power – will be handed over to Russia and Iran. The messages coming out of Washington are as confusing as the pullout decision itself. While the Pentagon reaffirmed the need to maintain U.S. boots on the ground, Trump, in a series of tweets, announced his plan to return all forces back to the United States. The resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis in response to the President’s decision further complicates the messages coming out of the White House. Granted, the number of U.S. soldiers stationed in Syria was never large to begin with. At its peak, the American force in Syria reached some 2,000 personnel, including CIA and State Department employees. However, what was important about this force was its symbolic presence; not its magnitude. America’s presence in Syria sent a message to Iran that it isn’t free to do as it pleases in the region. It also posed a direct threat to the Islamic State and helped push many of its members into hiding. Therefore, I believe that one of the first implications of the move will be the resurfacing of the terrorist group. This will severely undermine U.S. interests in the region. More specifically, it will undermine President Trump’s recent announcement about the defeat of ISIS. It remains unclear what guided the president in his decision. Perhaps it is domestic considerations and an attempt to gear up for the next presidential elections, which are set to take place in just two years. Yes, it is true that President Trump has done more to curb Iran’s activity than any other U.S. president, especially his predecessor, Barack Obama. That said, the president’s current announcement spells out more fighting and bloodshed for the region. It empowers Russia and Iran, which are two of America’s worst enemies. Above all, it will prolong the Syrian War and come back to haunt Washington in years to come. –Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed

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