Virginia State Senate and retired U.S. Marine and Army JAG officer Richard H. Black, and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss a dangerous week’s escalation in Syria, and US President Trump’s opportunity to break free of Deep State and neocon influence, and finally put an end to a war seeded by George W. Bush and started by Barack Obama.
Via The New York Times…
As Syria’s seven-year civil war enters a climactic phase, the Trump administration is grappling with how to address the emerging political dynamics. President Bashar al-Assad has retaken control of most of Syrian territory, and experts said there is almost no chance that rebel groups will topple him or change the course of the war.
But this week, Russia and Turkey proposed a demilitarized zone to stop a military offensive that Mr. Assad had planned against Idlib Province, the last major rebel enclave in Syria. Even a delay in the rampage would buy time for the United States to help draw up new strategies for dealing with Syria if it definitively falls under Mr. Assad’s rule.
At next week’s meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, heads of state and top diplomats are expected to discuss how to protect Idlib’s residents from Mr. Assad and, ultimately, end the civil war. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who has opposed Mr. Assad and deployed Turkish troops to Idlib, is scheduled to speak at the annual forum on Tuesday, as is President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, one of the Syrian government’s most loyal allies.
President Trump will also address the world body that day. He has repeatedly threatened to withdraw American troops from Syria, where they are fighting the Islamic State in the country’s east. But in April, Mr. Trump for the second time ordered airstrikes to punish Mr. Assad for using chemical weapons. The Trump administration is also clinging to a mostly stalled peace process that was begun under President Barack Obama.
“The reality on the ground in Syria has drastically changed, and the United States’ strategy for Syria should shift as a result,” foreign policy scholars wrote this month in an analysis for the Brookings Institution.
There are few easy answers for the United States as it weighs how to shape a potential end game in a war that has killed at least hundreds of thousands of Syrians, has displaced millions more and has shattered the country into competing areas of control. Here are some of the main questions.
The Brookings Institution is advising that the United States should initiate a 10-degree shift in it’s strategy towards Syria.
Neocon Washington think tanks cannot concede that Syria is a sovereign nation with a right to self determination, insisting instead on advising POTUS Trump to foster a “long game” regime change plan that keeps the “Syrian government” weak and off balance, while bolstering Al Qaeda “moderate rebel” controlled provinces, in cooperation with Turkey.
And American troops in Syria…they are advising Trump to keep them right where they are, illegally occupaying Syria.
Via The NYT…
Will the U.S. maintain a military presence in Syria?
Yes, at least for the foreseeable future. This month, the American military flew 100 Marines to Tanf, a small outpost in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border. The small deployment of troops was intended to signal to the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies that the American military was digging in..
Tanf is more than 200 miles from Idlib. But the Russian military twice warned the Pentagon this month — on Sept. 1 and again on Sept. 6 — that it would attack what it said were Islamic State militants in the stretch of desert near the small outpost where American Special Operations forces have been training local militias.
At some point, Mr. Assad will undoubtedly have to address the American presence in northeastern Syria, where United States troops have built a constellation of bases and airfields.
In early September, a State Department envoy, James F. Jeffrey, told reporters in Washington that “the new policy is we’re no longer pulling out by the end of the year.”
He said he was “confident” that Mr. Trump was “on board” with the American military taking a more active role in Syria.
Here are the chief elements of the “shift” as proposed by the DC “foreign policy scholars” at Brookings:
- Recognizing what is increasingly obvious: that President Bashar Assad will not be displaced or replaced through the current Geneva peace process. Instead, the United States should work over time to persuade his cronies and allies to convince him to step down in favor of a successor who is largely of his choosing. Other Syrian groups and the international community should have a say in the formation of additional elements of a new Syrian government, as a precondition for the provision of substantial reconstruction aid to and through the central government.
- Threatening and, if necessary, conducting limited reprisal air strikes against Syrian aerial assets, in retaliation for any future regime barrel bombing, particularly around Idlib. Washington should adopt a similar strategy toward Iran should its proxies attempt attacks against the United States or its allies.
- Promptly providing humanitarian and reconstruction aid to those parts of Syria not under government control, with U.S. forces remaining in roughly their current number and location to supervise the process and help train provisional local security forces (more like police than opposition forces bent on Assad’s removal). The aid should be provided more locally than regionally, in part to discourage the formation of a single, strong Kurdish zone that would exacerbate Turkish fears of secessionism.
- Working with Turkey to weaken extremist elements in and around Idlib, including with limited military action if need be, and continuing U.S. military action against residual pockets of ISIS elements in the country’s east until the battlefield defeat of ISIS is complete.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.