The world is a complicated place. Except for the mid-east. That’s a simple place with a simple people. Most people in the mid-east eat dates, take camel driven caravans to exotic markets where they trade spices for silk and various knock-off cologne products. But sometimes a president can get confused. And then angry. Sometimes a leader of the free world throws a tantrum and lots of people end up dead. Before that happens, maybe we should all learn a little something about our Syrian friends and the rest of the middle-east. So, simply put:
The Syrian civil war wins the most murderous conflict of the the 21st century. President Trump has been pretty clear about his views on Syria, which is that Syria is Syria’s problem. If Assad and Russia were fighting ISIS, what did we care? Wasn’t that a good thing? The President has in the past tweeted over and over, “Stay out of Syria.” “America First.” “I don’t want to be the president of the world.” Trump gave every indication that we were done getting involved in the muck and mire of the mid-east.
Then a few months into his presidency, he blamed President Obama for following Trump’s own advice, and launched 59 tomahawk missiles at the airstrip that Assad used to launch a chemical attack. Then we all forgot about Syria for a while. Then someone reminded Trump about it again. So he told the world we would be withdrawing. Then Republicans told him that was a bad idea. Then he forgot about Syria again. Then he remembered and said he wanted to withdraw again. Then Sec. of Defense Jim Mattis resigned in protest over the decision. Then Trump forgot about Syria again. Finally, he remembered Sunday night and ordered our troops to leave.
If we leave, we leave our Kurdish allies in the lurch. Turkey will invade Northern Syria and slaughter our Kurdish friends because the Kurds are terrorists as far as Turkey is concerned. So the Kurds may look to Russia and Assad for help. Russia and Iran will gain more influence in the region. The Kurds may let the 10,000 ISIS prisoners they guard escape. That would bring ISIS back from the nearly dead.
WAIT! I thought we were going to keep this part simple? How did we get to a place where we are about to abandon allies, let other allies kill those abandoned allies, and possibly bring back ISIS from the dead? To answer that, simply, We need…
SYRIA SNAPPLE FACTS!
1. A massive drought from around 2007-2011 resulted in more than 1.5 million Syrians leaving their homes and crowding into the cities. This resulted in skyrocketing poverty and misery.
2. In 2011, peaceful protests in Syria broke out after 15 kids were detained and tortured for spray painting support for the Arab Spring. (Remember the Arab Spring? No? Google it).
3. Assad responded by killing hundreds of protesters.
4. Then in July 2011, a bunch of Assad’s military guys break ranks and form the rebel alliance, a/k/a the Free Syrian Army. Their stated goal: Overthrow Assad. The successful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia (did you Google “Arab Spring” yet?) gave Syrians false hope of a pro-democratic government.
5. pro-democracy groups weren’t the only ones who hated Assad though. There were plenty of Islamists who felt the same way.
6. The resulting civil war resulted in, as of last year, 465,000 Syrians killed and about 12,000,000 displaced. That’s about half the country.
As of last year, things in Syria stood as follows:
* Assad’s guys controlled most of the southwest.
* ISIS: was spread out through the middle, with strongholds in Aleppo and Raqqa.
* The Kurds held northern Syria.
* Jabhat Fatah: A Jihadist group with Al Qaeda (remember them?) ties, held small areas north and south of Aleppo.
* Rebel Groups held areas north and south of the Syrian government.
* Turkey had a bit of territory sandwiched between the Kurdish held territories.
* U.S. forces essentially hung around with the Kurds and made sure the Kurds and Turks didn’t kill each other.
Simple! Just a few more things.
Minority religious groups support Assad. Almost everyone fighting Assad were Sunni. Assad and his people are Alawite. Iran and Iraq aren’t crazy about Sunnis, so they support Assad. The U.S. led coalition was there to kill ISIS. The rebels were there to Kill Assad. Assad with support from Russia, Iran, and maybe Iraq was interested in killing rebels and the Kurds. Isis was interested in killing everybody and the Turks were interested in killing the Kurds.
In 2015, Russia commits to bombing the rebels (who are committed to fighting Assad). For Russia, the rebels are terrorists and ISIS can wait. Of course, those rebels had U.S. support, so we weren’t happy that Russia was killing our friends. Bad PUTIN!
To recap the recap, Russia supported Assad. We supported the Kurds and and the rebels. Turkey supported the rebels, but not the Kurds. The Kurds kept fighting ISIS but hated Turkey.
Oh, and then there are a lot of people who were fighting in Syria from other places. Hezabollah (Lebenon) are fighting for Assad. Iranian and Afghan fighters are also on Assad’s side. .
The U.S. has always said “Assad bad” but has been hesitant in backing up its words. Obama’s red line and Congress’s refusal to vote for war etc. A reasonable person, after reading the above, might reasonably conclude that hesitancy wasn’t such a bad thing. Who knows?
Okay, that’s the simple lay of the land, and that leads us to a very simple question:
WHAT THE FUCK DOES ALL THIS MEAN?
Well, since Trump took office, our military, with a LOT of help from our Kurdish friends, pretty much beat ISIS into the ground. Their not dead but mostly forgotten. We drove them out of Raqqa. Then Assad drove the rebels out of Aleppo. Darth Vader could not have done it better. Taking back Aleppo was Assads greatest victory in the war and he used chemical weapons to do it.
While all this was happening, rebel forces frequently fought each other as they jockeyed for power and position. Islamist groups have been gaining ground, which is bad. Then again, everything in Syria is bad.
Kurdish groups have been trying to establish self-government in the north. Turkey hates that. So Erdogan keeps calling Trump and explaining why he needs us to leave so he can kill our allies. Trump has tried, and failed, to work out an agreement where Turkey agrees not to kill everyone. So instead, Trump decided that it was time to just leave and let the chips fall where they may. His own party does not seem to care for this. Even his friends are urging him to reconsider, calling the move a disaster and taking steps to check his power in this area (maybe).
It’s never a good idea to stab your allies in the back, except maybe in board games like Diplomacy. Especially when those allies are guarding 10,000 ISIS prisoners for you.
While no one really wants to be in an endless war in Syria, we really don’t have a lot of assets on the ground there. We’ve been getting a pretty good bang for our buck and some might say a military presence of a few thousand soldiers to protect the Kurds, who have lost more than10,000 of their own in fighting for us, is a worthwhile investment.
But when you have a president who has already solicited foreign intervention in his upcoming election and compromised national security in the process, it isn’t hard to believe he doesn’t care about this. Especially when drawing down troops around the world was a campaign promise.
Why he is doing it now, when he needs the party behind him more than ever, is a mystery to me.