US President Donald Trump still faces an investigation into his alleged collusion with Russia. Picture: Brendan Smialowski/AFP
US President Donald Trump still faces an investigation into his alleged collusion with Russia. Picture: Brendan Smialowski/AFP

Trump’s Syria move plays right into Putin’s hands

Of all US President Donald Trump's erratic decisions, withdrawing US troops from Syria is the most confounding.

It one overnight tweet - in which the Trump wrongly declared that ISIS has been defeated - and in subsequent White House confirmation that the withdrawal is real, Trump has altered the landscape of the Syrian war.

It is not for the better.

In one fell swoop, Trump has: given Iran licence and legitimacy to expand and operate beyond its borders and to run riot in Syria; betrayed the Kurds of northeastern Syria; signed the death warrant for the Kurds and Arab forces who fought with the US against ISIS and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; legitimised the regime of the murderous Assad, giving him free rein to attack the Kurds and other anti-regime forces; given Turkey permission to hammer the Kurds, and; handed Russia what it has always desired - that is, the annexation of yet more territory.

US President Donald Trump inaccurately declared that ISIS had been defeated. Picture: AP/Evan Vucci
US President Donald Trump inaccurately declared that ISIS had been defeated. Picture: AP/Evan Vucci

As investigations roll on into Trump's collusion with Russia in the 2016 election campaign, America's exodus from Syria once again reveals his blind spot to Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.

For Putin, having already unlawfully taken Crimea and continually wearing down the resolve of the Ukraine with an unending war in its east, his territorial strength has just been greatly enhanced.

Putin manages the fate of Syria through his hold over Assad. While Syria may not now or ever be officially declared the property of Russia, as was seen in Crimea, Trump has ensured the country is fully under Russian control.

Within that, the ungodly alliance of Russia, Syria, Iran and Hezbollah are free to destroy the Kurds and all remaining anti-Assad forces.

Trump decision to withdraw troops from Syria has legitimised the murderous regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Picture: AP
Trump decision to withdraw troops from Syria has legitimised the murderous regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Picture: AP

It is not yet clear whether the US will continue to arm the Kurds, but there is one thing the world knows about them: they will fight till they have no one left to fight.

It can be expected that more brutal battles lie ahead as Putin's alliance seeks to reclaim Syria in its totality.

Turkey, as well, will take the opportunity to attack the Kurds, whom it regards as terrorists. Should Turkey seize control of land within Syria, this will put it into direct conflict with the Russian alliance.

All this had been kept at bay by the US presence in Syria which, though not sizeable, with about 2000 special forces on active duty assisting the Kurds and other anti-Assad forces, nevertheless played an important role.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s alliance will likely seek to reclaim Syria. Picture: Mikhail Klimentyev/AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s alliance will likely seek to reclaim Syria. Picture: Mikhail Klimentyev/AP

Any direct attack on the Americans was carefully avoided, in order to prevent an outright war between major powers.

Within the war, the US troops kept the antagonists apart. Now the Americans are going, there will be no cop on the beat.

Perhaps Trump's greatest delusion is that ISIS has been defeated. By the reckoning of his own experts in a recent report to Congress, some 15,000 ISIS fighters remain in Syria and another 15,000 in Iraq.

While they have lost almost all their territory, they have slipped into the shadows of Iraqi and Syrian life, where they continue to maintain bureaucratic structures while awaiting to re-emerge.

That time is now. For the Kurds, ISIS will be yet another enemy they must face, along with the Russian alliance and Turkey.

Most likely, they face extinction as a people.

And Trump has once again delighted his dangerous friend, Vladimir Putin.

Paul Toohey is a senior News Corp journalist.



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