Christmas came early in Syria. Donald Trump’s surprise tweet heralding the withdrawal of US troops neatly indicated the winners and losers in the murderous eight-year Syrian war. While the US never had much leverage in Syria – thanks to Barack Obama’s disastrous 2013 decision not to act following the Ghouta chemical attacks – Trump has managed, in a 16-word message, to embolden Islamic State, Moscow, Damascus, Hezbollah and Iran. In a sense, he has abandoned any western influence over Syria and handed the territory to dictators, murderers and terrorists.
First up is the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, who began “engagements” in Syria in 2015 – relentless campaigns that targeted civilians. For Putin, US withdrawal represents a green light to remain in Syria as long as he wishes, to consolidate his power base and pursue his personal Syrian agenda without meddlesome threats from Washington.
For the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, it means more time to finish off a war that began as a peaceful demonstration of people calling for their freedom: a war that now involves gulags, unimaginable torture, ethnic cleansing and the chemical gassing of civilians.
In a strange example of camaraderie, turning a blind eye to grievous human rights violations in Syria is one of the few areas where Trump and Obama meet. Still, having the US involved – even minimally – complicated Assad’s scorched-earth campaign against the Syrian opposition. All he needs now is the north-western city of Idlib and the country is his (except that he has to share it with Russia and Iran). [Continue reading…]
— Mutlu Civiroglu (@mutludc) December 25, 2018