We know the pull of the Israeli lobby is strong in D.C. We also know that Donald Trump’s foreign policy has centered around Israel’s security.
But what we didn’t know for certain was just how far Trump is led around by the whatever AIPAC wants. Until Sunday morning.
However Trump’s invoking Iranian influence as a rationale for staying further contradicts his prior December statement that the defeat of ISIS was “the only reason” he was in Syria in the first place.
MARGARET BRENNAN:How many troops are still in Syria? When are they coming home?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: 2,000 troops.
MARGARET BRENNAN: When are they coming home?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They’re starting to, as we gain the remainder, the final remainder of the caliphate of the area, they’ll be going to our base in Iraq, and ultimately some will be coming home. But we’re going to be there and we’re going to be staying—
MARGARET BRENNAN: So that’s a matter of months?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have to protect Israel. We have to protect other things that we have. But we’re- yeah, they’ll be coming back in a matter of time. Look, we’re protecting the world. We’re spending more money than anybody’s ever spent in history, by a lot. We spent, over the last five years, close to 50 billion dollars a year in Afghanistan. That’s more than most countries spend for everything including education, medical, and everything else, other than a few countries. —CBS “Face the Nation” Feb.3 interview transcript
It seems that the panic in D.C. over Trump’s desire to pull out of Syria got everyone activated. Nothing unites the Beltway cocktail circuit and lobbying myrmidons like the threat of peace in the Middle East.
With $4 billion in aid every year and a few hundred nukes the idea that we have to occupy a border crossing between Iraq, Jordan and Syria to protect Israel against Iranian weapons is frankly, ludicrous.
Iran is a bigger threat to Israel now because after seven years of war in Syria, begun by a blatantly aggressive move by a U.S. coalition to oust President Assad, is simply blowback by another name.
Clinton and Obama put together the dream team coalition to destroy Syria — U.K., France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Turkey — by backing various head-chopping animals to wreak havoc and overthrow the government.
It failed when it caused the counter-move by Russia, China, Iran and Hezbollah. After the British parliament heroically stopped David Cameron from joining Obama’s coalition to invade in 2013 the plan was doomed to fail.
Putin stepped in, brokered a ceasefire and the removal of Assad’s chemical weapons. But we didn’t stop. To believe the U.S. media ISIS is one of the few known examples of parthenogenesis, springing up out of nowhere to take over vast stretches of the Levant.
But that was the Achilles’ heel of the entire operation. Because Putin’s military intervention made it easy to expose the whole rotten mess, including Israel’s giving aid and comfort in the Golan Heights to ISIS, while we dropped bombs in the desert because we couldn’t find them.
We can read license plates from space but we can’t find the Toyota Hilux it’s mounted on?
Trump inherited this mess but he’s done nothing substantial to improve it. All he’s done is empower Israel to be even more brazen in attacking Syria, killing and displacing Syrian civilians while claiming attacks on Iranian weapons depots.
It’s all nonsense and Trump looked like he’d had enough of it.
Trump’s Chaotic Mess
On the other hand, it is refreshing to see some honesty in our public officials. We’re overthrowing Maduro in Venezuela for oil and we’re staying in Syria for Israel.
Maybe this is what Trump meant when he talked briefly about not lying to the American people. Or maybe that was just another ‘big ask’ from someone that has become little more than Barack Obama in bronzer.
Trump went for broke in December on two major planks of his campaign — The Wall and the Middle East. I voted for him on the basis of criticizing our foreign policy and wanted the troops out of central Asia.
The Swamp is filled by the runoff from the overseas Empire.
He shutdown the government for more than a month while simultaneously going to the mat with his cabinet over Syria. And since then he’s done nothing but backtrack and step down expectations.
In doing this he was always vulnerable to a counter-attack on both fronts. He made Syria vulnerable because he has to get a deal done on the wall in the next two weeks or he’s back to square one.
It seems Thursday’s Senate rebuke of Trump’s plans in Syria was followed up by some weekend arm-twisting of the president. Trump made another one of his ‘big asks’ Art-of-the-deal style, only to be ground down to an ineffectual reorganizing of deck chairs on the foreign policy Titanic.
Don’t think that Senate rebuke wasn’t part of the Wall negotiations, because it was.
McConnell and Rubio were saying loud and clear, “If you want our support on the Wall you have to give up pulling out of Syria.”
This is why I wasn’t convinced by Trump’s tweets (here and here) after that vote on Friday, saying “Certain people must get smart!” It looks like Trump is the one who has to smarten up and realize that he cannot attack on every front all the time and think the chaos is his friend.
I never thought for a second that Trump was pulling the troops out of Iraq or that most of the force we have in Syria wouldn’t be repositioned there. I knew that Trump was looking for a way to keep a campaign promise with his Syria announcement while not truly changing anything.
Putin smartly went along with this narrative because it stopped a wider conflict and led to the current relative peace we have now.
Russia, and Putin, did the one thing that makes this whole thing look like a frame job, it accepted the narrative of Israeli malfeasance in the interest of stopping a wider conflict by accusing and/or attacking a NATO member, France.
Flores (at Fort-Russ.com) makes the salient point that the S-200 friendly fire scenario is highly unlikely. That, in fact, France shot down the plane, was prepared to accept blame (which it did by preemptively denying it was involved) and destroy what was left of Russian/French relations.
Now Russia can use the excuse of Israeli betrayal as justification for upgrading Syria’s air defenses. Citing the very thing that caused the tragic death of their soldiers, antiquated air defense systems which didn’t properly identify friend from foe.
This is why I think Trump fired Nikki Haley from her post as U.N. Ambassador. She was involved in some way.
And it’s also why he pushed so hard to pull our troops out of Syria three months later, after the Russians had delivered and were spinning up S-300’s stabilizing the situation near Israel.
The board state is pretty clear near Damascus. Israel has lost its safe zone of flying F-16’s over Lebanon to attack Damascus.
This gave Trump room to end the balkanization efforts of Bolton et.al. east of the Euphrates river. The Kurds will make a deal with Damascus. While Trump tacitly admits President Erdogan in Turkey isn’t going to lift one finger to help the U.S. provoke regime change in Iran.
Security After Withdrawal
Trump’s analysis of this is correct. It is his spirit that is weak. The realities in D.C. are that it can’t happen since Israel is now calling in all of its markers to prevent this from occurring.
Netanyahu needs this from Trump to assist his re-election in a few weeks. But this is incredibly short-sighted for all involved. Israel is not made safer in the long run by constantly running behind the U.S.’s skirts and crying “Get ‘em Don!”
One of the undercurrents of Trump’s election was Israel First fatigue that is more pervasive in the American electorate than anyone wants to admit. We’re tired of fighting all across central Asia for undefined goals. Israel is part of that fatigue. And no amount of screaming “Anti-Semite!” will quell it.
Without the threat of ISIS, transitioning then to “Iran, Iran the Bogeyman for Israel” isn’t going to play well in 2020.
It’s the best Alt-Right recruiting tool there is, sadly. And it does no one any good to keep the conflict locked along these lines when there is the real threat of a wider conflict occurring.
Iran will leave Syria when the U.S. does. Since Trump has made it clear that we aren’t leaving because Israel doesn’t want us to, nothing will change. But, every day our position grows weaker while opposition to it grows stronger.
Trump is right to talk about the money. $50 billion in Afghanistan a year. For what? Neocon dreams of overthrowing Putin. Playing outdated games of Risk with opponents who are rapidly changing the rules of the game and raising the costs even higher.
The war of attrition playing out in Syria continues and weakens everyone who keeps playing it out to the bitter end. Whether Trump is the architect of this or not is irrelevant. It’s obvious he’s powerless to stop it.