Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Religion and Global Security, University of Tokyo
President Trump’s decision to withdraw from northeastern Syria was confusing in its implementation and presentation. While initially endorsing Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria, when Erdogan actually sent forces into Syria, Trump threatened to “destroy and obliterate” Turkish economy and slapped sanctions.
Trump’s letter to Erdogan was in the most frivolous style and it appeared to have been cut and pasted from Trump’s tweets. He asked President Erdogan in this letter not to be “a tough guy” and “a fool”. It was surrealistic this letter had a White House letterhead and Presidential signature.
US Congress has passed a bipartisan condemnation of Trump’s decision with overwhelming majority. Analysts, lobbyists and consultants in Washington DC accused Trump unanimously.
We might, however, wonder whether all these accusations are from sincere motives. For Democrats, this poses another opportunity for impeachment. For the former officials and advisors who were fired by Trump, this is a chance for revenge and vindication. For Lobbyists, consultants and hired experts, there are variety of motivations to show to their clients how they have resisted President Trump’s “insane” decision.
But we should remember that the US has been increasingly in a difficult and irrelevant position in Syria. It has neither ability nor will to change the dominant balance-of-power structure in Syria based on Russia-Iran-Turkey trilateral axis from which the US is alienated.
It has been expected that the call for Kurdish independence increases as time goes by and might become insurmountable even though there’s not much hope for a sustainable Kurdish state in the east of the Euphrates. There’d be going to come a moment when the US can’t deliver on its tacit promise to support Kurdish independence.
Trump’s decision to abandon the Kurds was cruel and treacherous one, but it was an inevitable decision which eventually a future US president would have to make.
US setback in Syria was justifiably embarrassing for the American public. There started usual finger-pointing and most fingers are, for the moment, pointing to Mr. Trump. Obviously, as the president of the United State, he is responsible for what entailed his decision and certainly the way he presented it to the public was, to say the least, bizarre.
But the unfavorable position in which the US forces were situated in Syria was not of Trump’s own making but his predecessors’. His successors might secretly thank him for his decision to cut ties with it once for all, against all accusations.