Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com – 2018-09-07 01:44:35
Trump Commits US to ‘Indefinite’ Military Presence in Syria
State Dept officials say Trump signs off
on new strategy with more goals
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(September 6, 2018) — According to State Department officials, President Trump has recently abandoned his desire to “get out” of Syria and bring US troops home. He has signed a new strategy, which includes new military goals, and eliminates all timelines for removing troops from Syria.
US troops are in several parts of Syria, mostly in the Kurdish-held northeast. An estimated 2,200 US troops are in Syria, though official numbers are being withheld from the public. Special Envoy James Jeffrey said the old plan was to leave Syria by year’s end, but now the troops are committed to an “indefinitely extended” stay.
The new goals are substantial as well, with the US now focusing on forcing Iran out of Syria and “enduring defeat” for ISIS. Jeffrey says the US is “not in a hurry” and that Trump is now on board with this idea.
Pentagon officials have long presented the operation in Syria as more or less permanent, and have resisted all talk of pullout, including from President Trump. This mirrors their policy in Iraq, where US troops are similarly positioned in unknown numbers on a more or less permanent basis.
Trump, interestingly, has not commented on this fairly dramatic change in his position on US troops in Syria. It is unclear why Trump hasn’t spoken on the matter, but there is no sign such comments are coming in the near future.
Russia Warns US That Syria Offensives
Are Planned Near US Positions
US ‘postured to respond’ militarily to any ‘challenge’
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(September 6, 2018) â€“ While most of the Syrian War is centered at this point around the Idlib Province, the last major rebel bastion, there is also interest in mopping up some of the smaller rebel positions along the Jordan border, especially where ISIS and al-Qaeda are concerned.
This is a raising a dangerous risk of a confrontation between the US and Russia, because Russia and Syria are very keen to chase some of the Islamists off the border in the near future, and Russia has informed them some of these Islamists are relatively close to US military positions in the area.
The US has long been fine with Islamists on the Jordan border, and is warning Russia against taking any action against them, saying the US would view it as a “challenge” and that they would not hesitate to respond militarily if there is any move into the area.
This is all near the US base at al-Tanf, on the corner between Syria, Jordan, and Iraq. The US has long demanded everyone stay away from this base, except rebels of course. The Pentagon is insisting they have the “right of self-defense” to keep their troops in this part of Syria, despite Syria never having allowed them to enter in the first place, and the offensive being aimed at al-Qaeda forces nearby, not the US troops.
The US has long taken this bellicose posture regarding Tanf and other bases around Syria, and in the past has attacked Syrian troops and Russian military contractors for getting too close. With Russia’s military directly involved and giving the US advanced warning, clearly a US attack won’t be taken the same way as those past incidents.
This is likely to be a long-term source of tensions in southeastern Syria, as the US shows no sign of leaving Tanf, and has no real military goals for the troops there, beyond being there to pick fights with other troops that happen by.
Israel Armed, Funded 12 Different Syrian Rebel Groups
Rebels assumed Israel would save them during southern offensive
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(September 6, 2018) â€“ New reports on Israel’s arming and funding of Syrian rebel groups reveals that no less than 12 rebel factions, all in southern Syria, were on the receiving end of Israeli aid. This included weapons, ammunition, money, and even some armored vehicles.
The story about arming Syrian rebels actually broke Wednesday with the Jerusalem Post, though Israeli military censors shut this down quickly. Once the foreign-based Foreign Policy came out with its own version Thursday, Israeli media were quick to follow, suggesting the censors gave up on trying to keep this secret.
Foreign Policy interviewed rebels from the Syrian groups, and suggested that they “feel betrayed” because they had assumed Israel would intervene militarily to save them from the Syrian offensive, and that never happened.
This sense of abandonment has been common among rebels getting foreign subsidies, as they’ve often assumed there was a deep commitment to the rebellion, as opposed to just a brief alliance of convenience. Several Syrian rebel groups have similarly lashed the US for “betrayal” during the war.
One rebel was quoted saying “This i a lesson we will not forget about Israel. It does not care about the people. It does not care about humanity. All it cares about is its own interests.” Israel confirmed it ended funding for rebels in July, when the last rebels in the south lost.
It’s unsurprising that Israel didn’t commit militarily to southern Syria during the offensive, since Russia was backing the attack on the rebels, and almost certainly would’ve moved against Israel if they had.
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