A political firestorm ignited when President Donald Trump decided to pull American troops from Syria ten days ago has rapidly intensified and become a raging inferno. That decision was announced shortly after an October 6th phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The step cleared a path for his Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) to invade Northern Syria and proceed with Operation Peace Spring. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the aim was to “prevent the creation of a terror corridor” on the border. Turkey said its plan was to create a “safe zone” cleared of Kurdish militias which will also house Syrian refugees. The U.S. previously aimed to link with Turkey and play an active role in supervising that new safe zone. But President Erdogan was unable to be swayed.
This remarkable reversal of course could potentially have severe implications far and wide. Several civilian casualties were disclosed as a result of the invasion. Plus an estimated 150,000 civilians were displaced by the clash. With a number of nations now jockeying for prized position in that region. Namely Russia along with Iran. Russian soldiers currently allied with The Syrian Arab Armed Forces led by President Bashar Al-Assad. Russia holds an important stake in the security of that domain. As well as other veiled but vital strategic interests. What kind of return would they ultimately expect on such a risky investment? Iran seems to be stuck in more of a sticky situation. The Islamic republic must balance a lucrative trade alliance with Turkey in addition to keeping long-standing geopolitical ties with Syria. Which means they really need to tread lightly. Despite all of that Iran’s army launched unannounced military drills in the northwest of the country bordering Turkey, Iranian state media reported.
There is added reason to be alarmed by the recent shift in U.S. foreign policy. At least 750 people with suspected links to Islamic State have reportedly fled a displacement camp in north-east Syria. This occurred as the U.S. ordered all 1,000 US troops to withdraw “as safely and quickly as possible” from the region after learning that the Turkish operation was likely to extend further than Ankara’s proposed 20-mile (32km) “safe zone” on the border between the two countries. A great cause for concern as critics believe a renewed instability in the region may empower ISIS to rise again. One of them being the prior U.S. Secretary of Defense General James Mattis. Who stressed that view to NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. Mattis even asserted “if we don’t keep the pressure on, then ISIS will resurge. It’s absolutely a given that they will come back.” The chilling message given by a leading expert and former head of United States Central Command.
U.S. commandos had been a constant presence in the war-torn area since 2014. The U.S. military backed a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) coalition created in 2015 to defeat the radical Islamic State (ISIS). The SDF largely composed of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia fighters. Then following nearly five years of fierce combat the faction finally conquered ISIS. While taking back precious land that was lost from the insurrection. Since American personnel deserted them, SDF officials recently disclosed they cut a deal with President Bashar al-Assad’s government to allow Syrian troops to deploy along the border with Turkey to stave off a military offensive by Ankara.The pact was brokered by Russia.
Many believe this directive issued by President Trump in effect jilting the Kurds was a horrible mistake. That sentiment also expressed by his own party people in the Senate. As they soon relented quickly falling into line behind the president. The Trump administration has tried to make it clear they did not endorse or welcome any hostile action from Turkey. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated as much with an appearance on “PBS NewsHour” last week. Trump later lobbed threats implying he intended to impose crippling sanctions on them. A first wave included executive orders freezing negotiations on a $100bn US-Turkey trade deal. And the reinstatement of a 50% tariff on Turkish steel. Beyond that numerous additional economic measures might be considered to escalate matters if needed. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) plans to propose a bill to that end on Thursday. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley are scheduled to brief the Senate Armed Services Committee on Syria and “the wider region” behind closed doors Thursday.
Trump pleaded with Erdogan to stop the incursion on Monday. On Tuesday he revealed that Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will depart Wednesday for Ankara, Turkey. In essence to put the screws on Turkish President Erdogan. This news arrived around the same time reports emerged that Russia has units patrolling between Turkish and Syrian forces in northern Syria. A dizzying sequence of events to be sure. How can this problem ever be solved?