The commander of the US Special Operations Command, Gen. Raymond Thomas, has dropped a bombshell in an interview reported by Newsweek.
According to Thomas, his forces operating in Syria are in violation of international law and Russia has the legal high ground:
Here’s the conundrum: We are operating in the sovereign country of Syria. The Russians, their stalwarts, their backstoppers have already uninvited the Turks from Syria. We’re a bad day away from the Russians saying, ‘Why are you still in Syria, U.S.?’
If the Russians play that card, we could want to stay and have no ability to do it.
This admission comes right on the heels of the revelation that US President Trump has ordered the CIA to cut weapons and training programs to Syrian rebel factions.
The US and other western powers, along with Arab Gulf state monarchies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have been backing a radical Islamic insurrgency in Syria since 2011.
Russia meanwhile, intervened in the war in 2015, using its air force to help the moderate secular Syrian government headed by President Bashar al-Assad push back the Islamist rebels including ISIS, which grew out of the anarchy created in Syria and Iraq by the US and its allies.
At the same time Turkey has intervened in pursuit of it’s own regional power aspirations, backing some rebels and attacking others (namely the Kurds).
While Russia’s operations in Syria are at the invitation of the internationally-recognized Syrian government of President Assad, the US is present in the country without any invitation and with the dual goal of supposedly combating ISIS while trying to topple the Syrian government.
That at least, was the policy heretofore. At a press conference with Donald Trump on July 13th, French President Macron stated that the removal of Assad was no longer required for peace in Syria.
With this latest statement by Gen. Thomas, coming as it does from the commander of all US special forces in Syria, it could be a signal that the Pentagon and US military top brass are getting on board with Trump’s view that cooperation with Moscow in Syria is the best way forward to ending the horrific 6-year conflict.
On the other hand, maybe the truth just slipped out in an unintentional moment of honesty as Thomas spoke off the cuff.
Either way, there can be no doubt about his point – if the Pentagon and CIA insist on continuing to pursue their current strategy in Syria, they will do so with a very weak hand. Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad hold all the good cards.