US President Donald Trump spoke of his “great and unmatched wisdom” in a posting on Twitter shortly after conversing with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Soon after that telephone call, the US president, in his “great and unmatched wisdom,” released a tweet that brought instant chaos, fear and uncertainty to the political community in Washington and to the Kurds in the Middle East.
In his “great and unmatched wisdom,” Trump had just condemned hundreds, if not thousands, of Kurds to death. It’s as good as though he personally signed their death certificates or as though he pulled the trigger.
In his infinitely “great and unmatched wisdom,” Trump said he would pull out US forces from northern Syria and once again friends and foes are wondering if the United States can be trusted as an ally.
In his “great and unmatched wisdom,” Trump, on a whim, decided, without consulting the State or Defence departments, on a major political decision that would have grave consequences on US foreign policy.
In his infinite wisdom, Trump has undone several decades of efforts by US diplomats to convince the people of the region that the United States can be their friend.
In Washington, the news was received with as much reservation from Republicans as Democrats.
Even long-time staunch supporters of the president, such as US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, voiced concern. McConnell called into “Fox and Friends,” one of the US president’s favourite television programmes, to urge Trump to reverse his move. “A precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran and the Assad regime,” McConnell said.
Officials at the US State Department and the Pentagon said Trump's latest deed caused consternation in Washington. There was even more consternation and fear in the Middle East where the US withdrawal places the Kurds, who have long been the staunchest of allies of the United States, at great risk.
Kurdish forces fought alongside US troops against the Islamic State. They paid a heavy price in casualties.
Pulling out US forces from northern Syria leaves Kurdish fighters at the mercy of Turkish troops, which are waiting near the Syrian-Turkish border. Turkey has long considered the Kurdish fighters “terrorists” and is just itching to cross the frontier and neutralise that force.
Asking Trump to remove US troops from the area paves the way for Turkey to order its troops south to engage with the Kurds. These were the very force that, at great personal risk, supported the US deployment in Syria.
Politicians in Washington are particularly worried that this puts the credibility of the United States in play and will affect policy down the road.
This also plays in favour of Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The Russians have wasted no time in replacing, or at least trying hard to replace the role that the United States used to play in the Arab world. Putin has dispatched thousands of troops to Syria in support of the Assad regime. The removal of US forces leaves even more room for the Russians.
Yet, as soon as US president was off the phone with Erdogan, he decided to bully his Turkish counterpart.
“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey,” Trump said on Twitter.
This “great wisdom” plays into the hands of the regime in Damascus, which recently asked all foreign forces to withdraw from Syria. Of course, that request did not include the Russians or the Iranians who have been helping the regime stay in place.
If you had any doubts as to why Putin would have preferred Trump to be elected president of the United States this should rest your mind. You do not need “great and unmatched wisdom” to figure this one out. Certainly, Trump is the better president — for the Russians, that is.
Furthermore, departure of the US forces and the void that it will create will leave a gap for the Islamic State to return, which is what they are doing.
Claude Salhani is a regular columnist for The Arab Weekly.
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