ANALYSIS: How Trump aided Iran, Russia, Turkey and ISIS in Syria

If US forces leave Syria, Russia and Iran will fill the vacuum.

Yochanan Visser,

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

Much has already been said and written on President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out all US forces from Syria where, he claims, Islamic State has been defeated.

Trump’s claim isn’t correct, however, as a recent Pentagon report made clear.

The organization succeeded in maintaining a significant force of 30,000 armed terrorists who are in control of less than one percent of the territory of the self-proclaimed Caliphate in both Syria and Iraq, but it is “re-emerging as a guerrilla force that is returning to its insurgent roots,” according to the US Department of Defense.

Last week, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported ISIS killed hundreds who were held in the eastern Syrian town of Hajin over the last two months.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces finally succeeded in liberating ISIS’ last stronghold in Syria at the beginning of December, but the Jihadist organization is far from defeated.

Trump’s decision, furthermore, flies in the face of his own stated policy towards Iran which was announced by White House security adviser John Bolton last September.

“We’re not going to leave as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders and that includes Iranian proxies and militias,” Bolton said at the time.

It is the second time in one year Trump reversed his policy in Syria.

In December 2017 the President indicated US Special Forces would leave Syria soon after he asked Saudi King Salman for $4 billion which would be used to train and equip local militias.

He later walked back on his decision after facing opposition from his military brass and from administration officials such as Nikki Haley, the outgoing US ambassador to the United Nations.

The decision to leave Syria will also have far-reaching consequences for the Kurds who now control a third of Syria’s territory and have established an autonomic region along the 500-kilometer long border with Turkey.

US Special Forces have been supervising and training the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which were the leading force in the battle against ISIS and were now prepared to halt Iran’s entrenchment in Syria.

The Kurdish YPG militia, which is the largest force within the SDF, will probably turn its focus from battling Iran and ISIS to the Turkish army which is preparing to launch an attack on Rojova, the Kurdish cantons along the Syrian Turkish border.

The Turkish army is one of the strongest militaries in the Middle East and is currently amassing troops along the Syrian border, Reuters reported on Sunday.

Experts expect the Kurdish leadership will now try to reach a deal with the Iranian-Russian-backed pro-Assad collation to avoid Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan carrying out his threat to crush what he calls “the terrorists”.

Erdogan last week promised that Turkey would postpone the long-anticipated second incursion into Syria in order to remove the YPG from the Turkish border region but his deeds indicate he’s not going to keep his pledge.

The Turkish tyrant, who again started an ongoing war of words with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu last week, claimed his army would finish off ISIS in Syria after he initially aided the Jihadist organization and other Islamist militias in the embattled country.

“We will be working on operational plans to eliminate Islamic State elements,” Erdogan said during a speech in Istanbul.

Another effect of Trump’s decision to end the American presence in Syria will most likely be that the Russian army and the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) will try to fill the vacuum left by the U.S.

The Russian military in Syria has already begun to build a base near the isolated al-Tanf border crossing on the Iraqi Syrian border, home to a contingent of US soldiers who prevented the Quds Force from completing its land bridge from Tehran to the Israeli border on the Golan Heights and the Mediterranean Sea.

Then there is Israel which wearily accepted the decision of Trump and claimed that the IDF would be able to deal with the Iranian entrenchment in Syria without the U.S.

Netanyahu and Gadi Eisenkott, the outgoing Chief of Staff of the IDF, say that Trump’s decision is significant but that the Israeli army and air force would continue actions against the Quds Force unabated.

However, as we will see, the rapidly changing situation in Syria has already negatively influenced the operational freedom of the Israeli military in the war-torn country.

First of all, the IDF and IAF have significantly reduced activities against Iran in Syria since a crisis with Russia erupted over the downing of a Russian IL-20 reconnaissance plane in September and since the Syrian army took over their side of the Golan Heights last summer.

Secondly, since the Russians delivered the S-300 anti-aircraft missile shield to Assad’s army, the IAF has refrained from carrying out airstrikes against Iran-related targets in Syria. Instead, the IDF used missiles to destroy weapons convoys bound for Hezbollah and targets related to the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

The sharp reduction in Israeli military activity in Syria seems also to be related to a change in the rules of engagement by both Russia and the Assad regime.

Damascus has warned Israel that any attack in Syria will now be answered by an attack on a target in Israel, while Russia indicated that it will frustrate Israeli actions against Iran by stationing Russian military personnel on bases and facilities belonging to the Quds Force.

Veteran war correspondent Elijah J. Magnier reported last week thatRussia has informed Israel that there are Russian officers present at every Syrian or Iranian military base and that any strike against Syrian or Iranian objectives would hit Russian forces as well. Putin will not allow his soldiers and officers to be struck down by Israel’s direct or indirect bombing”.