It's Chutzpah to Blame Trump for Syria
President Trump's withdrawal of 2,000 U.S. Special Forces from Syria elicited a chorus of self-righteous denunciations from the foreign policy Establishment, as well as expressions of concern from his supporters. Coming from the neo-conservatives, that is chutzpah, a Yiddish-Aramaic word that connotes unmitigated gall. It was the neo-cons, not Trump, who created the present mess in Syria that Trump must address as best he can.
Trump's impulsiveness serves him well on many occasions, but this was not one of them. It humiliated not only Defense Secretary Mattis but also National Security Adviser John Bolton, who stated clearly that U.S. troops would stay in Syria until Iran leaves. Not just the decision to remove troops, but the sudden turnaround in U.S. policy, hurts U.S. credibility. Israeli Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser to PM Netanyahu, commented:
Another issue is US credibility. Alas, the US president is following the path of his predecessor, who explained that “credibility” has no importance. In my opinion, both Obama and Trump are mistaken. A superpower without credibility loses part of its capabilities. The US, which is abandoning the Kurds to their fate and exposing them to the revenge of the Turks, the Syrians and perhaps even the Iranians, will be perceived in the region as having lost credibility. The US will be viewed as abandoning its allies, and therefore in future potential allies will think twice about relying on and partnering with the US.
In my opinion, it will soon be evident in more than a few countries that they feel stabbed in the back by the US. The first to feel this backlash will be Jordan, which is also the closest to the frontlines and will now be directly facing the Iranians.
America has no stronger or more vocal ally than Gen. Amidror. When our best friends admonish us for actions against our own interest, we should listen. There is a reasonable case to remove American troops, but the way it was done maximized damage.
That said, the troop withdrawal offers advantages to our allies as well as disadvantages. Gen. Amidror observed that Iran will indeed achieve its goal of creating a land corridor to the Mediterranean, but added:
From Israel’s point of view, there are two possible benefits arising from the President’s decision. Once the US has left the region, there will be one less player that Israel must consider when planning its operations in Syria. In general, an equation with fewer variables is easier to understand and deal with. Without the Americans, whose interests had to be considered in every operation, the decision-making process in Israel will be simplified. And the US will no longer constrain Israel’s operations. The US withdrawal gives Israel almost complete freedom of action.
The withdrawal of the US leaves Israel as the strongest and most stable country in the region and the only serious player with which the main Arab countries can cooperate in the confrontation with Iran and ISIS. The extent to which Israel’s position is strengthened as a result of the vacuum left by the Americans is difficult to assess, but the potential is significant.