Modern Australian

Trump decision to withdraw troops from Syria opens way for dangerous Middle East power play

  • Written by Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University
Trump decision to withdraw troops from Syria opens way for dangerous Middle East power play

US President Donald Trump’s precipitate announcement he was withdrawing American forces from northeast Syria to enable Turkey to assert its authority along the border risks wider regional bloodshed – and further destabilisation of one of the world’s most volatile corners.

If implemented against a furious pushback from his own side of politics, the Trump decision threatens a region-wide conflagration. These are the stakes.

Trump has given contradictory signals before on the same issue. It remains to be seen whether he gives ground again after what appears to have been a hasty, certainly ill-considered, decision following a phone conversation with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Now under enormous stress from his own side, Trump is resorting to bombast. He tweeted:

Leading the charge against the Trump decision is his close ally, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. He has threatened to introduce a Senate resolution opposing the administration’s decision, describing the move as a “stain on America’s honour”.

Like plucking a thread from a finely woven Turkish rug, the administration’s announcement effectively to abandon a Kurdish militia could lead to a complete unravelling of that part of the Middle East in which various forces have collided since the Syrian civil war broke out in March 2011.

Read more: Iran and US refusing to budge as tit-for-tat ship seizures in Middle East raise the temperature

America’s Kurdish allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia arm (known as the YPG), would be at the mercy of a Turkish thrust across the Syrian border into territory the Kurds now control.

Turkey has made no secret of its intention to create what it is calling “safe zones” up to 30 kilometres inside the border in northeast Syria. This would enable it to relocate tens of thousands of Syrian refugees among the 3.6 million on Turkish soil.

In the face of such a Turkish move, the YPG would be hard put to hold sway against both Turkey’s military and Islamic State fighters seeking to take advantage of militia weakness in the absence of US support on the ground and in the air.

The ABC reports that something like 70,000 members of Islamic State or their supporters are being held in camps in SDF-controlled territory. Around 60 people of Australian origin, including children, are in this situation.

Thousands of IS militants are being held in prison camps in SDF-controlled territory. These fighters have already sought to stage mass breakouts from prison facilities.

Turkey views the YPG militia as cross-border allies of Kurdish separatists – and it regards the Kurdish separatists as terrorists.

The situation along the Turkish-Syria border is, by any standards, an explosive mix.

At the same time, Syrian forces of Bashar al-Assad, backed by Iran and Russia, would inevitably be poised to take advantage of chaos and regain territory lost in the civil war. This is a highly destabilising scenario.

In other words, Trump’s announcement could hardly portend a more worrisome outcome in a part of the world riven by years of conflict.

The US announcement also sends a disturbing signal to the wider Middle East that the Trump administration is intent on pulling back from its commitments in an unstable region.

Confidence in American steadfastness is already precarious due to Trump’s repeated statement that America wants to remove itself from “endless” wars in the Middle East.

In a Twitter message early this week that amplified a White House announcement, Trump said it was time for the US to withdraw from “these ridiculous Endless Wars”.

Trump also attacked European allies over their failure to take back their nationals among IS fighters held in SDF-run detention centres in northeast Syria. Some 10,000 prisoners are being detained.

This is a situation ripe for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The latter is seeking to reassert itself in a region it regards as its own sphere of influence. Moscow’s support for Damascus is part of this regional power play.

Read more: Twenty-five years after the Oslo Accords, the prospect of peace in the Middle East remains bleak

These are telling moments. Signs of an apparent American lack of commitment might well encourage Iran and Russia, as well as Islamic militants such as IS and al-Qaeda. These groups have been biding their time.

None of America’s regional friends, including Gulf states and Israel, will draw any comfort at all from the Trump decision – if implemented – to head for the exit.

By any standards, this is a mess of Trump’s own making.

Authors: Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

Read more http://theconversation.com/trump-decision-to-withdraw-troops-from-syria-opens-way-for-dangerous-middle-east-power-play-124784

NEWS

Indonesia was in denial over coronavirus. Now it may be facing a looming disaster

HOTLI SIMANJUNTAK/EPAAlmost no one thinks Indonesia is handling the COVID-19 pandemic well.Until early March, the government claimed it had no cases of infection, something the eccentric health minister, Terawan Agus...

5 big environment stories you probably missed while you've been watching coronavirus

ShutterstockGood news: COVID-19 is not the only thing going on right now!Bad news: while we’ve all been deep in the corona-hole, the climate crisis has been ticking along in the...

Lack of help for local councils in coronavirus package undercuts industry support

The Warrick Lane redevelopment is a major construction project overseen by local government.Blacktown City Council/FacebookLocal governments are not eligible for the JobKeeper Payment, while major industries like construction are. Although...

it isn't all about technology

Archives of Ontario, CC BYIf you’re working from home for the first time, you might be asking yourself why you didn’t get to do this years ago.The benefits of remote...

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

Quotation slips for the first Oxford English Dictionary. Owen McKnight/Flickr, CC BY-SAWhen a literary luminary such as Thomas Kenneally declares so early in 2020 that he is certain a...

Traffic jams are contagious. Understanding how they spread can help make them less common

Traffic jams may have disappeared from our roads as people stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we can be confident they will be back. Scientists have studied traffic and...

Scott Morrison indicates 'eliminating' COVID-19 would come at too high a cost

Scott Morrison has made clear his view that any attempt to eliminate COVID-19 entirely in Australia would carry too high an economic cost, while Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy says...

No, 5G radiation doesn't cause or spread the coronavirus. Saying it does is destructive

ShutterstockA conspiracy theory claiming 5G can spread the coronavirus is making the rounds on social media. The myth supposedly gained traction when a Belgian doctor linked the “dangers” of 5G...

The jury may be out on the jury system after George Pell's successful appeal

Shutterstock/sirtravelalotThe High Court today quashed the conviction of Cardinal George Pell, who had originally been found guilty on a number of charges by a jury of 12 people.His defence counsel...

For older people and those with chronic health conditions, staying active at home is extra important – here's how

ShutterstockFitbit recently released data showing a global decrease in physical activity levels among users of its activity trackers compared to the same time last year.As we navigate the coronavirus pandemic...

as culture moves online, regional organisations need help bridging the digital divide

Museums, galleries and artist collectives around the world are shutting their doors and moving online in response to coronavirus. But engaging with audiences online requires access, skills and investment. My...

there was no time to make it perfect

ShutterstockNo Australian government has ever spent A$130 billion so quickly. Last Tuesday, when the Prime Minister announced the government would subsidise six million jobs for six months to the tune...

Popular articles from Modern Australian

DIFFERENT TIPS FOR YOUR SITTING ROOMGet Through Lockdown with Retail Therapy: Buying Your First Designer Bag OnlineBright Ways to Cut The Costs of Business Travel Why polished concrete floors are warmer and more comfortable than you thinkAustralia limits alcohol use during coronavirus pandemicHoneymoon Planning: 6 Tips for Creating the Trip of Your LifetimeEffective and Time-Saving Fitness Tips Every Working Mom NeedsSafety First: Tips & Tricks for Your First Road Trip8 Essential Woodworking Tools You Need in Your ArsenalThe Future of Gambling Sponsorship in Australia5 Common First Aid CoursesSafety Tips for Operating Your Wood HeaterANZ Access Advantage card reviewBeyond Beauty - 5 Ways Cosmetic Procedures Can Improve More Than Just Your AppearanceHow to Make Extra Cash From Your Assets