Peace In Northern Syria, Civil War, The Kurds, and Russia
President Trump drew fire for his decision to pull out of Northern Syria. Democrats, Republicans, and corporate media combined against his decision. How could we abandon our allies, the Kurds, who fought by our side against ISIS for so long? This was even the sentiment among Progressive sources, like Democracy Now! and Libertarian think-tanks like the Cato Institute. These organizations are traditionally against intervention. Yet, Democracy Now! published headlines like, “After Trump Abandoned Kurds, Turkish Invasion Raises Fear of Kurdish Genocide & ISIS Resurgence.” Meanwhile, the Cato Institute published “Yes, Donald Trump Dumped the Kurds (And We Should Not Be Shocked).” That was the common Syrian civil war narrative. As such, it was hard for non-interventionists to stay firm in their convictions by supporting this move.
Yet, within a few days, Russia brokered a deal with the Assad regime to ensure the safety of the Kurds, according to various news sources. This is a good outcome.
Greater Regional Stability With a Lower Cost to the United States
To many Westerners, Bashar Hafez al-Assad is a despot. He has been the President, and Commander-in-Chief of Syria and the Syrian Armed Forces since July 17, 2000. A U.K. trained optometrist, he disappointed the world when he followed in his father’s footsteps, using violence and intimidation to silence dissent. The al-Assad family ruled over the people of Syria with an iron fist. Nevertheless, they are the most stable governing force in the region. According to the New York Times, the Syrian Army reached an agreement with the Kurds. Within hours, they moved into the region along the Turkish border that was under attack.
The Syrian Civil War vs. The Hong Kong Protests
The so-called abandonment of the Kurds only resulted in a shift in the power dynamic, not the genocide of the Kurdish people. Consider the Hong Kong protests. It is a much different situation than the one in Syria, but there are some attributes to compare and contrast. People in Hong Kong waved U.S. flags in the streets, and have asked for our help. Yet, rightfully, the U.S. has not intervened, most likely because of the power dynamic with China. Why should Syria be any different? The Syrian Army will take on this fight, and the U.S. will no longer spend blood and treasure to protect the region.
No Change in the Balance of Power Between the US and Russia
It’s indisputable that the U.S. effectively gave up its position in Northern Syria to Russia. But what did it lose, other than a swath of land that was more of a liability than an asset? The answer, of course, is that the U.S. lost nothing. Russia has had influence in Syria since 1944, and the US will no longer risk American lives in the Kurdish region. Russia will continue to have influence over Syria. This is true, regardless of whether the U.S. continues to spend its resources on yet another Middle-Eastern war. Historically, these wars produced the deaths of non-participatory civilians, destroyed property, and the United States’ influence over the region did not increase. As for the spread of radical Islamist terrorism, Syria has been a more secular nation under the rule of Assad.
Contrary to the accepted narrative about this move, when the US removes troops from Syria, people in the region will have one less reason to resent the West. The people of Syria will determine the outcome of the Syrian civil war. Turkey, Russia, and Syria have always influenced the region. Therefore, it is rational to let them take the lead in internal matters. Historically, U.S. entanglements in the region have only led to failure.
Next Steps: Pressure on Turkey
E.U. foreign ministers agreed to ban arms sales to Turkey. This is part of their strategy to put pressure on Turkey’s offensive posture in the region. According to Turkish officials, their goal is to establish a peace corridor through the region, in order to protect their own border. This served as their justification for advancing into the Kurdish territory. Regardless of the delivery method, a peace corridor could serve the interests of all local groups. If they negotiate the terms peacefully, there will be less bloodshed and more trade. The question, of course, is whether such a peace-corridor is just cover for the territorial expansion of Turkey, or if they really want to find a peaceful solution. We might learn the answer to this question if Turkey and Syria forge a deal to create a safe zone that puts fighting in the region on pause.
Does Trump Get Credit if This Succeeds?
The Trump administration undid work done to improve peace in the region when it pulled out of the Iran Deal and appears to have been ineffective in establishing a new agreement. Contentious domestic politics during the 2016 election aggravated partisanship. One might interpret this as an appeal to his base of Republican supporters, along with other Republicans in the House and Senate. Consider that the goal was not to establish peace, or to reduce costs, but to win against the Democrats. However, when the U.S. withdraws from Northern Syria, it will appear to be the result of a deal brokered between the U.S. and Putin’s Russia.
The Democrat narrative was that the Trump administration had ties to Putin. According to this argument, Russia interfered in the U.S. elections, and Trump reaped the rewards. If this is true, then one can reasonably assume that Trump’s relationship with Putin made this deal possible. By contrast, Obama and Putin were adversaries. Regardless, Putin had his back. Just one day before the deal with the Kurds, Putin stated that he did not blame Trump for the stagnant relations between Russia and the U.S.
Win, Lose, or Draw?
It appears that the Trump administration won, and there may one day be peace in Syria. Moreover, it could be a win against crony capitalism, and the military industrial complex. As such, the American people could see lower costs, less debt, and therefore, lower taxes. Will it mean an end to the Syrian civil war, and peace in the middle east? Probably not. Unless Trump can make a new deal with Iran, his foreign policy in the region is a wash. We lost one deal, but may have won another to replace it. Today, it’s a win.