Donald Trump’s seemingly unexpected decision to withdraw two thousand American servicemen from Syria wreaked havoc among the European and Middle Eastern allies of the United States. The Kurds that are part of the so-called “Western coalition” were the first to panick: left without the US cover, they would be unlikely to withstand the onslaught of the Turkish military machine and would be destroyed in a matter of days.
However, under the pressure from his opponents, the US president was forced to backtrack on his hasty decision and introduce an amendment that reduces the number of servicemen to be evacuated and extends the evacuation timeline. Under the new plan, 400 American servicemen will stay in the area bordering on Turkey, while the rest will be transferred to the al-Taif base in Syria, at the junction of the borders with Iraq and Jordan. In addition, the Pentagon has not set a specific deadline for these manipulations. But all the military will stay on the Syrian territory.
Nature abhors vacuum, they say. The same is true about Syria, with neighboring Turkey is eager to invade the country under the pretext of ensuring security of its southern borders. President Erdogan is overwhelmed with desire to establish control over one third of the Syrian territory where the bulk of hydrocarbon reserves, water resources, irrigated arable land, aerodromes and other strategic military and civilian facilities are concentrated. But to do this, it is necessary to overcome the resistance of Kurdish military groups, which are still allies of the United States. And Ankara does not have enough trump cards against Washington. Moreover, the consequences of such military confrontation could be unpredictable for Turkey…
Americans do not want to get into a serious quarrel with Turkey either, it being their most reliable and strongest ally in the region, despite its certain rapprochement with Russians and Iranians. Washington is only too aware of that. The Pentagon tried to persuade monarchies of the Arab peninsula to allocate troops for deployment in the northern part of Syria so as to at least pretend restricting Erdogan’s attempts at seizing the region. The legal framework for the establishment of inter-Arab “deterrent forces” could be adopted at the level of heads of government and state of the League of Arab States. All the more so, as Syria’s membership in the organization has been suspended.
But… The Arab world in general and each country in particular are in a deep political crisis, which is unlikely to fade away in the near future. Arab monarchies are bogged down in a war against militants in Yemen and cannot spare troops for presence in Syria. All other countries, with the exception of Jordan, perhaps, are busy with the exhausting fight against international terrorists spread across the region and solving domestic political problems.
So Washington had to give up the idea of using Arabs in Syria.
However, it would undermine trust in the United States if it let its former allies of the “Western coalition” be destroyed. In this situation, it needs to convince its European NATO allies of the need to replace Americans in Syria and to enter the country as “multinational troops” as was done in the Lebanon in 1984. In northern Syria, there are small forces of the French and British armies and several tens of experts from other countries. Finding someone in Europe willing to please Americans in this area is like shooting fish in a barrel. Notably, certain East European countries that have acquired a new status will be only too willing to do this.
But the decision to deploy multinational troops in any country of the world must be made by the UN Security Council, with adoption of a relevant resolution, which goes against the interests of Syria, and also of Russia and Turkey. Therefore, the American idea to involve NATO in containing Turkey in Syria seems another reckless scheme that will never be carried out.
In the current situation, Washington’s policy in Syria is inevitably moving to a deadlock, which can be broken only by complete withdrawal of all US military from the country’s northeastern region. Back in 2013, leaders of Syrian Kurds were warned about the potential negative impact of their cooperation with the Pentagon. But they did not arrive at proper conclusions.
The current state of relations between leaders of this Syrian community and the central government can be described as “non-existent”: the Kurds want to get de facto political, administrative and economic independence from the state. All attempts of Russia to persuade them to take a more restrained approach have so far failed. But Moscow continues with the private dialog, since there are sensible leaders within the Kurdish community who are able to compromise in order to assert the hopes of their people for a better life without security guarantees from the foreign military.