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The Dangers of Our Illegal Military Presence in Syria

The U.S. attacked [1] pro-regime forces inside Syria again:

U.S. aircraft carried out rare, retaliatory strikes in Syria’s Deir al-Zor province on Wednesday against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after they attacked U.S.-backed fighters’ headquarters there, U.S. officials said.

The official explanation for the attack is that pro-regime forces launched an assault on U.S.-backed rebels. This is just the latest in a string of clashes between U.S. and pro-regime forces that resulted from our government’s support for rebel groups inside Syria. U.S. special forces are embedded with these rebels, and fortunately so far no Americans have been killed in these clashes. It is probably just a matter of time before that changes.

The military described the pro-regime forces’ attack as “unprovoked,” which is a curious way of talking about a military operation carried out inside their own territory against armed rebels. If it were Syria or Iran sponsoring armed groups in the territory of another country, their military presence itself would be considered a provocation. Our military has no business being in Syria, and as long as we have soldiers there they are being put needlessly in danger in service of a policy that has nothing to do with our security or the security of our allies.

Our forces continue to operate inside Syria illegally, and over the last year our military has repeatedly attacked groups loyal to the Syrian government. U.S. policy in Syria serves no discernible American security interests, our military presence has no legal justification, and the longer our forces remain in Syria the greater the chances that one of these armed clashes could result in the deaths of Americans and possible escalation into a wider war. The ongoing illegal presence of U.S. forces in Syria is a dangerous gamble with American lives that the Trump administration ought to end as quickly as possible.

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8 Comments To "The Dangers of Our Illegal Military Presence in Syria"

#1 Comment By Begemot On February 8, 2018 @ 1:43 am

Let’s call a spade a spade. The US is in Syria because it has invaded Syria. The US is carrying out a war of aggression against a country that has done nothing against the US. While the US presence in Syria is “illegal”, that is too euphemistic a formulation of the reality of the situation.

#2 Comment By order of battle On February 8, 2018 @ 4:12 am

“U.S. policy in Syria serves no discernible American security interests, our military presence has no legal justification, […] “

… and no moral justification either. It’s horrible to have to admit it, but as a result of fighting unnecessary wars and enabling the wars and butchery of others (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel) we are now accountable for more death, destruction, injury, dispossession, and displacement of innocents in the region than Syria can or will ever inflict. The pretense that the US is serving some moral purpose, or that we even have moral motivations, has become a sick joke. What’s really happening is that we’re accommodating client states and perpetuating disastrous messes that we made at the behest of ignorant, stupid elites back in the 00s and before, giving them endless chances to try to turn repeated failure into “winning”.

If we ever want to feel clean again we need to cut our losses and get out of there.

#3 Comment By my plan On February 8, 2018 @ 5:45 am

@order of battle “If we ever want to feel clean again we need to cut our losses and get out of there.”

We also need to rid ourselves of the incompetent and corrupt elites you mention. Their resilience and shamelessness is remarkable, but they are destroying the country and need to go. In 2018 I’m voting against everything in sight.

#4 Comment By Christian Chuba On February 8, 2018 @ 6:42 am

The U.S. has a very low threshold for attacking the Syrian army.
1. For merely approaching Al Tanf and encroaching on a self-declared buffer zone that was occupied by ISIS (ridiculous, we needed ISIS to enforce deconfliction zones?)

2. Shooting down a jet for bombing near SDF forces while the Syrians were fighting ISIS south of their side of the Euphrates.

3. The ‘accidental’ slaughter of about 70 soldiers in Deir Ezzor over a year ago and yesterday’s attack.

But what about the Turks? The Turks have regularly bombed the SDF from both the air and artillery, and we have never struck them. We are not exactly consistent while we play our ‘rules based’ world order card are we.

#5 Comment By Pitcher On February 8, 2018 @ 12:18 pm

“The U.S. has a very low threshold for attacking the Syrian army.”

Well, The Saudis and Israelis certainly want Trump to attack Assad. Assad’s really no threat to us, he can’t effectively respond on his own to our attacks, and the Russians have within certain limits allowed us to cater to the Israelis and Saudis on this one.

“But what about the Turks?”

Netanyahu and MBS would be overjoyed if Trump were to attack Turkey. Israel has worked very hard and for a long time to drive a wedge between the US and Turkey. Turkey isn’t in the Saudis’ good books either. So far, attacking Turkey has been a step too far for Trump, because of Turkey’s abiding strategic utility and the small matter of the NATO alliance. Doesn’t look good to start killing your treaty allies, just as all along it hasn’t looked good for us to be supporting the Kurds over strong Turkish objections. Trump’s undercutting Turkey, like Obama’s before him, has gravely undermined American “credibility” as an ally.

There’s a lot of talk about “no daylight” between us and the Israelis, of its importance to American “credibility”. But Israel is only a client state. Turkey is the real deal, an actual ally. It is mind-boggling that there is any question about what we owe Turkey as it fights terrorists and insurgents on its own borders.

And yet people do question it. They go even further, claiming that we should support a non-state actor, the Kurds, against Turkey, a treaty ally of over 60 years standing. Why? Your guess is as good as mine, but one suspects that “no daylight” isn’t really a policy at all, it’s a sort of bill of attainder, a corrupt arrangement that applies only to Israel, arranged by the kind of American politicians who take Israel money.

“We are not exactly consistent while we play our ‘rules based’ world order card are we.”

No. We aren’t.

#6 Comment By cka2nd On February 8, 2018 @ 12:54 pm

I wonder how the world would react if Syria did something quaintly old-fashioned like declaring war on the United States and moving their forces into position to attack the U.S. forces occupying parts of their country? The Russian and Iranian governments would probably sh*t bricks, and world elites would get a good laugh out of it, but I tend to think that there would be a surprisingly positive reaction among hundreds of millions of people around the world, from the Middle East through our allies in Europe and among those Latin Americans and Caribbeans and Asians who have their own histories of dealing with American occupiers and bullies and murderers.

#7 Comment By b. On February 8, 2018 @ 3:28 pm

“We suspect Syrian pro-regime forces were attempting to seize terrain SDF had liberated from Daesh in September 2017.”
[2]

Between Assad and Ergodan, Russia might well be in position to broker a deal in which Turkey is invited by the Syrian government to provide welcome “assistance” in removing SDF forces from Syrian territory. Depending on how serious Ergodan is about confronting the US over this issue, the Kurdish forces will retreat, if at all, from Turkish pressure to US cover. Assad’s only constraints are to (a) ensure that Turkey seeks permission, instead of following US precedent which is (b) accomplished by ensuring that Turkey will release occupied territory to Syrian troops.

Right now, none of the parties involved in Syria have to become directly involved in the “incidents” between US proxies (and US forces) and deniable forces in support of the Syrian government. While Turkey increases the pressure on the Kurds – the only US proxy of any relevance – the Syrian government can hold back or apply additional pressure. Meanwhile, the Kurds have time to experience another year or two of US “support”.

One day, Trump might wake up as the President who “lost Turkey”, however justified that charge might be.

#8 Comment By 3.5 tours On February 8, 2018 @ 4:27 pm

@b. … “Depending on how serious Ergodan is about confronting the US over this issue, the Kurdish forces will retreat, if at all, from Turkish pressure to US cover.”

Exactly. The American troops Trump and his idiot generals have left with the Kurds are hostages to fortune. Human tripwires.

I’d rather thank them for service on the southern border, which would actually do America some good.