Trump’s Syria Exit Destroyed the Slim Chances of Brokering an End to the War

Trump’s Syria Exit Destroyed the Slim Chances of Brokering an End to the War
Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Presidential Palace for talks on the Kurds and Syria, in Ankara, Turkey, Oct. 17, 2019 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

After eight years of chaos, it is hard to know which moment in the history of Syria’s brutal civil war-turned-proxy-conflict will ultimately stand out as the most egregious. There can be little doubt, though, that President Donald Trump’s sudden decision last week to pull U.S. troops out of Syria and abandon America’s Kurdish allies in the militia known as the Syrian Democratic Forces—their most reliable partners on the ground in the campaign against the Islamic State—will rank as one of the most spectacular failures in the history of American foreign policy.

The White House’s turnabout by tweet in Syria has not only shredded the last bit of America’s credibility as a trustworthy ally and security guarantor in Middle East; it has also effectively destroyed the already slim chances of brokering an end to the war and some kind of sustainable peace, possibly for years to come. With fewer American boots on the ground and relations with Syrian Kurdish leaders fractured, the U.S. has little room now to influence outcomes in Syria. What started as a policy of equivocation about the indispensability of American leadership in the Middle East under the Obama administration in 2012 is now, seven years later under Trump, a policy of American capitulation to Russian aggression and appeasement of Turkey’s worst authoritarian impulses.

Any hope that the U.S. might be able to positively shape the outcomes of the multiple, interlocking proxy wars in Syria all but evaporated as Russia rushed to fill the vacuum left by a hasty exit of U.S. Special Forces from northern Syria and as Turkey appeared determined to wipe out a sizable portion of Syria’s Kurdish population. The White House will now have a much harder time convincing members of the U.N. Security Council and exiled Syrian opposition groups still pushing for an end to the war that Washington’s word is bond when it comes to brokering an equitable political settlement with Bashar al-Assad’s resurgent regime.

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