The White House-appointed Syria and anti-ISIL coalition envoy James Jeffrey has asked Syrian Kurdish leaders backed by the United States to hold off on making any deals with President Bashar al-Assad’s government while the Trump administration tries to develop its strategy. As we predicted the longer it takes to withdraw troops, the more time the blob of Washington hawks has to put obstacles in the way of a true and full US pullout.
Meanwhile according to The Wall Street Journal Turkey is putting pressure on the US to provide “substantial military support, including airstrikes, transport and logistics” in support of Turkey’s supposed ISIS fight in Syria. So a mere little over two weeks following Trump’s announced Syria draw down, it appears we could be right back to a square one quagmire.
Or perhaps the US deep state will send things further into a “forever war” indefinite quagmire, the polar opposite of Trump’s stated desire to “bring our youth back home where they belong!” — as the president declaredfollowing the initial troop pullout announcement, per the below alarming commentary from the WSJ:
The Turkish requests are so extensive that, if fully met, the American military might be deepening its involvement in Syria instead of reducing it, the officials added. That would frustrate President Trump’s goal of transferring the mission of finishing off Islamic State to Turkey in the hope of forging an exit strategy for the U.S. military to leave Syria.
But to “frustrate President Trump’s goal” is precisely the point among the many Iran hawks, Syrian regime change promoters, neocons and liberal interventionists alike filling the ranks of the State Department and influential DC think tanks.
This comes just as a senior State Department official reiterated to the WSJ:
“We have no timeline for our military forces to withdraw from Syria.”
So the two key messages now coming out of the administration are “no timeline” and “no vacuum” which can be generally summarized as given any US pullout of northeast Syria, the US doesn’t want pro-Turkish forces to slaughter the Kurds, but neither does the US want the Kurds to strike a deal with Assad to handover territory to Damascus.
I think other people have already covered what a terrible idea this is, so I'll just share an Ottoman ethnographic map from the end of WWI which, ironically, laid claim to both the Turkish and Kurdish inhabited regions (in pink) while writing off the Arab regions (in green). pic.twitter.com/6ZisRasj5P
— Nicholas Danforth (@NicholasDanfort) January 5, 2019
However, it’s likely too late, as the Kurds have already begun inviting Syrian forces into previously autonomous SDF/Kurdish zones.
According to the WSJ, the administration’s Syria envoy has a plan that seeks to mitigate the risks of either a Kurdish slaughter or an Assad takeover. The plan is visualized in a classified, undisclosed map that proposes something officials have described as “Sykes-Picot on acid”:
Mr. Jeffrey and his State Department team have created a color-coded map of northeastern Syria in an attempt to negotiate a power-sharing plan that could avert a costly Turkish-Kurdish fight in the area.
However, keeping their forces apart should Mr. Erdogan’s troops enter Syria could prove difficult. One former U.S. official described the map as “Sykes-Picot on acid,” a reference to the secret post-World War I deal between France and England that carved the Middle East into colonial spheres of influence.
Talks will be held between US and Turkish defense officials next week in Ankara, meanwhile the US envoy “has asked Gen. Mazloum Abdi, the Kurdish commander of Syrian fighters, to hold off on making any deals with President Bashar al-Assad’s government” while the US considers its next move.
But it remains that we’ve gone from Trump’s “full” and “immediate” troop pullout announced two weeks ago to current proposals of “Sykes-Picot on acid”.