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On a good day, Syria is one of the most complex issues in the Middle East, let alone when the Trump administration announces a rapid U.S. withdrawal from Syria of our troops. The question is: How should we make sense of it?
With hard and fast questions and answers, Clarion Project provides you below with key analysis points to stay up to speed on this developing story:
1. How will the U.S. withdrawal from Syria impact Syria in the next five to 10 years?
Director of Clarion Intelligence Network Ryan Mauro draws a brief visual point for anyone wondering what might come next: “Think of Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal and before October, 2001. This will be worse.”
Iranian-backed Shiite militias are currently operating in the region against Sunni forces. The withdrawal of U.S. troops will inevitably trigger a Sunni uprising against these militias in Iraq, which will likely bring us back to where we started. The situation is ripe to get worse.
2. How might the U.S. withdrawal from Syria impact America?
In a nutshell, expect the Saudis to dramatically increase support to the Salafists in Syria to compete with their enemies: Turkey, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Qatar coalition. You can expect the following things to happen due to this support:
Turkey will crush the Syrian Kurdish protectorate in Syria which they see as a direct threat to them and just another step in establishing an autonomous Kurdish state in the region, something Turkey will do anything to stop. America will cede influence in the region to Iran and Russia.
Iran will build military posts north of the Golan Heights in Israel which they will use to increase the frequency and intensity of attacks against Israel’s northern border. This will deepen the Israeli-Iranian proxy war which has been going on in Syria.
Russia will harden its Syrian air and naval bases in Tartous and Latakia and strengthen its ability to deploy military forces west of the Mediterranean. This is key as Russia’s bases in Syria are its only naval access to the Mediterranean.
3. How does U.S. withdrawal from Syria keep America safer?
The short answer is it doesn’t. Senator Lindsay Graham correctly stated that this is an Obama-level mistake. America’s policy towards ISIS should be similar to a physician’s treatment plan for an aggressive cancer. Stopping treatment in the middle of the disease will only allow it to grow. ISIS is a cancer. It has been (somewhat) pushed into remission, but it has not been defeated.
If we withdraw, it is certain to metastasize – and not only in Syria and Iraq. Left unchecked in the region by a U.S. withdrawal from Syria, ISIS’ current low-level presence in Iran and Turkey will grow.
4. How does a U.S. withdrawal from Syria impact American allies on the ground?
A U.S. withdrawal is a total betrayal of both the Kurds and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the latter of which includes Christians. America will also be abandoning its only reliable ally, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
We can now expect Turkey to control the non-Kurdish rebel areas using rebels loyal to Turkey’s Islamist and fanatical president, Recep Erdogan. Moreover, it’s not a coincidence this withdrawal comes at the same time that an offensive by Erdogan against the Kurds in northern Syria is imminent.
In short, in addition to enabling Iranian and Russian power in the region, the U.S. withdrawal from Syria will bring Erdogan one step closer to realizing his dream of being crowned the caliph of his newly-revived neo-Ottoman empire.