Trump Recalls Troops from Syria; Dem/GOP Hawks Call for More War; Russia Winds Down Attacks

December 20th, 2018 - by admin

Jason Ditz / & World BEYOND War & Common Dreams – 2018-12-20 00:55:16

White House Announces Full Withdrawal From Syria

White House Announces Full Withdrawal From Syria
Trump declares victory over ISIS,
says that was only reason to stay

Jason Ditz /

(December 19, 2018) — In a surprise move, President Trump has declared victory over ISIS in Syria, and the White House has confirmed that a complete withdrawal of US military forces from Syria has been ordered. Officials also say the State Department will be withdrawn in the next 24 hours.

This would see an estimated 2,000 US troops pulled from Syria, which comes after many months of Pentagon officials positioning the military presence as a very long-term one. No one seems to have anticipated this announcement.

In the immediate lead-up to the announcement, however, the Trump Administration has been telegraphing a post-war mindset a bit, with special envoy James Jeffrey confirming earlier this week that the US accepts Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is staying in office.

That’s a big shift after years of demanding regime change at the end of the war. Now, US officials are just insisting that no reconstruction aid will be provided unless the Assad government changes substantially.

The announcement is expected to start a lot of arguments, with a number of Congressional hawks already positioning themselves as vehemently opposed to the pullout. Hawks within the administration will likely oppose the plan as well, and the Pentagon seems to have planned to just stay in Syria permanently.

British Defense Minister Tobias Ellwood issued his own statement rejecting Trump’s announcement, saying he “strongly disagrees” with the assessment that ISIS is defeated. It is unclear if Britain intends to keep attacking Syria on their own.

The biggest impact of a US pullout is likely to be in Syrian Kurdistan, where Turkey is threatening an invasion, and the Pentagon has been warning that would be “unacceptable.” President Trump spoke to the Turkish president just a few days ago, and if a pullout was imminent then, they presumably would’ve discussed the matter, and the implications. This may explain President Erdogan having the impression that Trump endorsed his invasion.

It’s not clear how long it will take for the US to get 2,000 troops out of Syria, and some military officials may drag their heels on the matter, hoping that they can talk the president out of ending the war. For now, however, there is reason to hope that the American involvement in the war is about to be over.

Trump’s Syria Pullout Fuels Backlash Across DC
Hawks, many liberals furious after surprise shift on Syria deployment

Jason Ditz /

(December 19, 2018) — President Trump’s announcement of an immediate withdrawal of US forces from Syria seems to have taken a lot of people by surprise. Such big news is fueling both a predictable backlash from hawks, and angry criticism from political rivals who are portraying the announcement as a reckless shift from the open-ended military engagement everyone was expecting.

Trump presented the move as a natural response to he defeat of ISIS, which is leading a lot of hawks to deny that ISIS is really defeated. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) compared this to the 2011 withdrawal from Iraq, and said Congress must make Trump explain the policy.

Still, since the war has been spun as being sort of about Iran, analysts are still predicting anger among Iran hawks, both in the cabinet and in the party leadership. Charles Lister from the Middle East Institute said it might plant the seeds for rebellion among Republicans to not be in the war.

Hillary Clinton advisers said the move would “strengthen Russia,” and CNN’s Jake Tapper quoted an unnamed Pentagon official calling the end of the war a Russian victory. Yet Russia has also been very public in drawing down its own war effort.

Indeed CNN was broadly critical in its coverage of the move out of Syria, generally focusing on liberal opposition to the change. The opposition appeared primarily built around it being a Trump policy.

MSNBC was also critical in its coverage, quoting former CIA Director John Brennan and multiple analysts reiterating the narrative that underpins the long-term presence in Syria which the rest of the administration had been parroting up until today.

The Pentagon had been positioning the US for a permanent presence in Syria, coming up with additional military goals beyond the defeat of ISIS, centering on demanding all Shi’ite militias leave Syria, and ensuring ISIS-like groups never reemerge at any point in the future.

While unachievable goals make for a permanent war, it would be difficult to justify this with the Syrian government not authorizing the US presence, and the US no longer demanding regime change. ‘Still, the Pentagon’s focus now is shifting away from those secondary goals they invented, and now they’re simply arguing that ISIS is not defeated, and that the war is not over. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) claimed this was a function of “arbitrary political deadlines.”

Yet there doesn’t appear to have ever been a public deadline. Trump, rather, has long expressed interest in ending the war, and it’s only been intense pressure that’s kept him from doing so before now.

Whether it’s Iran or Russia that’s the excuse, a number of senators seem to be lining up to issue brief statements opposing the end of the war. It seems after so many years of war, many believe this will be the safer position to take.

Russia Cuts Military Flights Over Syria by 99%
Defense Minister: Only 2-4 flights happen per week

Jason Ditz /

(December 18, 2018) — Another sign that the military operations in Syria are winding down, Russia’s Defense Ministry has reported a vast reduction in the number of military flights carried out over Syrian airspace by their planes in recent weeks, a 99% drop from the war’s peak.

Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said that Russia was carrying out 100 to 110 flights per day at its peak. Now, they do no more than 2-4 flights per week, chiefly for reconnaissance purposes.

Though most of Syria’s major enemies are already defeated, there are few left to airstrike at this point, with Russia and Syria laying off the Turkey-backed rebels in the far north, and the limited ISIS presence in the east a focus of US airstrikes. ‘

Either way, Russia is clearly dialing back its intervention in Syria, though it is likely to maintain a presence going forward, particularly with the US having committed to a more or less open-ended operation in the country, and Turkey threatening invasions.

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ACTION ALERT: Get ALL Troops out of Syria
Tell Trump to Actually Get US Military
Out of Syria, Not Just Promise to

World BEYOND War

Donald Trump recently told a cheering crowd: “We’ll be coming out of Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now.” In the next breath he claimed that “we” would be “coming out” just after “taking back” all of the land.

The United States never owned Syria, and so cannot actually take it back, and also cannot take it at all, and such an action would be immoral and illegal even if it were possible. But the “coming out” part is perfectly possible and necessary.

ACTION: To Donald Trump
From: [Your Name]

We demand that you actually follow through on getting the US military out of Syria, including the skies above Syria. We insist that, for a small fraction of the cost of continuing the war making, the United States instead provide massive humanitarian aid and assistance.

We insist that this be the immediate first step as recently promised, to be followed by the similar withdrawal of the US military from Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya.

Moreover, the United States must withdraw its hundreds of thousands of military personnel stationed on 800 to 1,000 bases in countries around the world.

To sign petition, click here.

Anti-War Voices:
Of Course Trump Should Withdraw US Troops From Syria
. . . and Afghanistan and Yemen and Iraq and . . .

Jon Queally / Common Dreams

“The US has been waging endless war for a generation, wasting trillions of dollars and costing countless lives, and we’re no better off for it.”

(December 19, 2018) — Even as the Pentagon stammered and the retired generals, ex-CIA chiefs, and war hawks from both major political parties took to the cable news to warn against the prospect of less war — or at least US involvement in them — peace groups on Wednesday afternoon applauded news reportingthat President Donald Trump has ordered the withdrawal of US ground forces from Syria.

“President Trump is absolutely right to withdraw US forces from Syria,” said Paul Kawika Martin, senior director for policy and political affairs at Peace Action, in response to reporting from the New York Times and others.

“President Obama deployed US soldiers to Syria in violation of international law,” he said, “and the ongoing US presence there only serves to prolong the war and fuel the risk of confrontation with Russia, Iran, and other parties to the conflict.”

A troop withdrawal, Martin added, does not mean the US cannot have a role in helping the Syrian people or securing a better future for the nation. “The US can and should pursue a more active role in negotiations aimed at securing a political solution and a lasting peace in Syria, and should step up funding for humanitarian aid,” Martin said.

“President Trump should also rethink his administration’s callous, discriminatory refugee policies and immediately increase the number of refugees allowed into the United States rather than continuing to shut our doors to Syrians fleeing a war that the US has played such a significant role in.”

The anti-war and human rights group CodePink also applauded the prospect of all US troops leaving Syria.

“We believe the US withdrawal from Syria is a positive contribution to the peace process,” said the group’s co-founder Medea Benjamin. A withdrawal, she added, also “decreases the tensions between the United States and Iran that could have escalated the dangerous proxy wars that have been victimizing the Syrian people.”

Putting focus on the war’s countless victims, Benjamin said her group is calling “on all foreign powers that have been involved in Syria’s destruction, including the United States, to take responsibility for rebuilding this nation and providing assistance to the Syrian people, including the refugees, who have suffered so tragically for over seven years.”

Benjamin said she further hopes that the decision will also mark the start of further reevaluation of US troops stationed around the world. “This is particularly true in Afghanistan,” she said, “where some 16,000 US soldiers are engaged in a war that is beginning its 18th year, and in neighboring Iraq, where the US says it will maintain its presence with 5,200 troops stationed in the country. President Trump should continue to stand up to the neocons and the military-industrial complex that profit from endless war by bringing these troops home as well.”

Martin agreed.

“As long as Trump is rethinking the US role in Syria, he should also move to withdraw US forces from the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan, and from the catastrophic Saudi-led war in Yemen,” Martin said.

“The US has been waging endless war for a generation, wasting trillions of dollars and costing countless lives, and we’re no better off for it,” he concluded. “We need a security strategy rooted in peace and cooperation rather than death and destruction. In the coming year, the new Congress should move to reclaim its long-lost authority on war so that these critical decisions are vetted by the people’s representatives instead of left in the hands of one person.”

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