It seems yes unless Americans are kicked out by force
Russia avoided the Syrian quagmire despite dire predictions. Putin minimised his footprint, his war is almost over, ISIL has been defeated. Trump could also exclaim “Mission is completed!” – and fly home. But it seems he is eager to rush in where angels fear to tread. Trump does not mind doing for the Israeli Prime Minister what his predecessors, whether Democrats or Republicans, refused, namely, fighting Israel’s war by indefinitely extending the hostile and illegal occupation of Syria.
He should have learned by now that foreign policy is not his forte. His liberal opponents at home effectively neutralise every move he does. Worse, his steps are counterproductive. He would achieve more if he were to forget about the world at large for a long while, and let the world forget about him.
Take, for instance, the Iranian protests. They appeared so dangerous for the regime, when the crowds called for resurrection of the late Shah and for withdrawal from Syria. They could have become dangerous, but they dissipated thanks to the timely intervention of President Trump. He had promptly expressed his support for the protesters.
Even the more pro-American segments of the European body politic have learned by now that the real American establishment never agrees with the real President Trump, and refused being drawn into human rights rhetoric and condemning Iran. We may quietly cheer the obnoxious Nikki Haley, who had succeeded in annoying the international community so much during the Jerusalem vote that her attempt to call the Security Council to arms miserably backfired.
In Palestine, the steady genius of Trump achieved the near-impossible feat of forcing the Palestinian leadership’s withdrawal from the Oslo Accords. These miserable accords, blessed by the US and EU, and condemned by the late, great Edward Said, had been the basis of apartheid perpetuation in Israel/Palestine. As long as they were preserved, one couldn’t expect much change; they were the Iron Dome of Israeli politics, quipped an Israeli wit. Now they are dead and gone, and the new rules will be laid down, presumably with Russia’s participation.
The US-North Korean stand-off looked perilous, and the nuclear war appeared imminent. But Trump’s obvious insanity restored some sense to the troubled soul of South Korean president Moon. He understood that he was likely to become the president of incinerated Seoul, and called his North Korean counterpart for a friendly chat. The two Korean leaders exchanged virtual cigars and agreed to provide a joint team at the Olympic Games, to great disappointment of war-mongering Trump. This breakthrough encouraged the Russians and the Chinese so much that they refused to visit the Vancouver gathering; without them, the meeting had very little meaning, if any.
In Syria, the Russians came under the Attack of the Drones, which coincided with the government army offensive in the rebel-run Idlib province. The drones also came from Idlib, where the last act of the civil war is being played. Turkey was supposed to keep peace in Idlib, and the Turks were upset by the offensive. They said peace negotiations with the rebels were the only way to restore order; this suits the Russians who generally prefer to negotiate rather than fight. But Damascus does not believe in negotiations with the Islamist radicals; these radicals, a new reincarnation of al Qaeda, make impossible demands like “Assad must go”, and use the negotiation time to entrench. Confrontation between the Turks and ‘their’ rebels on one side, and the Russians and ‘their’ Syrians over Idlib was been looming and threatening.
Things could have become uncomfortable for the Russians, but here again, the US helped by declaring that they were arming and training a new rebel army in Syrian Kurdistan. Nothing spurs the Turks into action as fast as Kurdish moves. Just recently they succeeded in defeating Barzani’s attempt at creating an independent Kurdistan in Iraq, and now, Kurdistan Take Two, this time in Syria. Erdogan promised to drown the new Kurdish army under American leadership in rivers of blood and began gathering troops on the border of Afrin, the smaller Kurdish-held enclave. Even Erdogan was not sufficiently imprudent to confront both Russia and the US at once, and he patched up his relations with Putin. The Attack of the Drones has been re-assigned from the Turkish-supported rebels to the US-supported ones, as a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon patrol plane had been in the air in that area at the right time. Thus the big danger of Russia-Turkey quarrel was averted, while US-Turkey enmity quickly rose.
If until now, the official US position was that they came to Syria to defeat ISIS and then go home when the mission is completed, now we were disabused. Americans are not going anywhere. They will stay put forever, or until kicked out; another part of Syria, besides the Golan Heights, will be occupied.
“The US will maintain a military presence in Syria… We will not repeat the 2011 mistake of pulling out from Iraq. We shall strive for the diminishment of Iranian influence — the northern arch will be denied, and Syria’s neighbours [read: Israel] will be secure. [We will stay until] Syria is free from weapons of mass destruction… The US will not withdraw until Assad is gone”.
Thus, Sergey Lavrov’s assessment given last week, that Americans intend to dismember Syria, became true. “A course was set for the partition of Syria,” the Russian minister of foreign affairs said. Now this prediction turned into reality.
Well, what else is new? Americans never leave voluntarily. Whenever they come, they try and stay forever. They came to Philippines in 1898, and they are still there, despite many demands to get out. They came to Cuba in 1898, and they still stay there, despite many promises to leave blood-soaked Guantanamo. In 1945, they occupied Germany and Japan, and they are still there, only their puppets change. They came to South Korea, and they still stay there. They conquered Afghanistan in 2001, and they are still there.
It is difficult, but not impossible. The Vietnamese did it. It took them many years, five million of their own dead, fifty thousand dead American soldiers, ruination of their economy, destruction of forests, cities bombed, My Lai burned and raped, but they succeeded in dispatching the Yanks home.
The Lebanese did it. Just one successful suicide driver had got through the gate of the Marines’ encampment, and killed over two hundred Marines. The US gunboats bombarded unprotected Lebanese villages in the mountains, but afterwards the Yanks sailed home.
The Somalis did it. They downed a couple of Black Hawk helicopters and in a single day-long battle killed two dozen of America’s best. Afterwards, the Americans went home.
The question is how many dead bodies will Trump need in order to understand that there is no place like home, and that American presence in Syria is unwelcome. The Israelis will be upset if the Yanks leave. From the Israeli point of view there is nothing as good as an American military presence in Syria next door. But President Trump was elected by the Americans, and he has to make the right choice, the sooner the better.