- The American Conservative - http://www.theamericanconservative.com -

Trump’s Misguided Plan for ‘Stabilizing’ Syria

The Trump administration’s plan [1] for Syria appears to be based on an awful lot of wishful thinking:

The Trump administration is seeking to assemble an Arab force to replace the U.S. military contingent in Syria and help stabilize the northeastern part of the country after the defeat of Islamic State, U.S. officials said.

John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, recently called Abbas Kamel, Egypt’s acting intelligence chief, to see if Cairo would contribute to the effort, officials said.

The initiative comes as the administration has asked Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to contribute billions of dollars to help restore northern Syria. It wants Arab nations to send troops as well, officials said.

The U.S. should remove its forces from Syria as quickly as possible, but it is fanciful to think that regional clients are going to put up the soldiers and funding to replace them. It is fitting that Bolton’s idea is little more than a revised version of something Rubio was proposing several years ago [2]. Egypt’s military has enough of its own security problems at home, and it would be ill-suited to a foreign mission like this. For that matter, the current Egyptian government has expressed some support for the Syrian regime in the recent past, so it would be bizarre for them to occupy territory in order to deny Damascus control over it.

The Saudis and Emiratis remain bogged down in Yemen, and the Saudis in particular can’t afford another prolonged military mission abroad. I assume that this proposal would be a non-starter in both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. Given how poorly the coalition has performed in Yemen, they would probably not be very effective in securing territory. It would be surprising if they were willing to offer more than a token amount of money to the effort. Qatar might very well provide some funding to win favor with Trump, but given the current rift between them and the other three states plus Bahrain I don’t see how they could work together effectively. The bigger problem is that all of these governments are responsible to one degree or another for contributing to Syria’s instability by arming and funding Islamist and jihadist groups. Putting them in charge of stabilization efforts in Syria is like putting the proverbial fox in charge of the chicken coop.

The Trump administration is going to great lengths to avoid the obvious solution, which is that the Syrian government should be the one to control Syrian territory. The refusal to accept this shows the degree to which Trump’s Syria policy is still as inflexible and ideological as any pursued by his predecessors. Trump should give up on trying to conjure up a new occupation force from unwilling governments and simply bring U.S. forces home as soon as possible.

13 Comments (Open | Close)

13 Comments To "Trump’s Misguided Plan for ‘Stabilizing’ Syria"

#1 Comment By Captain P On April 16, 2018 @ 10:58 pm

Shhh, don’t tell Trump – maybe he’ll be more likely to order our troops out of Syria if the thinks these phantom Arab replacements will show up

#2 Comment By CharleyCarp On April 17, 2018 @ 2:31 am

My second thought here — after ‘what a wacky timeline’ — is that Bolton is playing Trump. Dangle an easy solution, let Mattis and the adults shoot it down, then frustrated Trump is left having to go to the war that Bolton wants.

Crazy, yes. But not in the top 10 crazy things that have happened so far this week.

#3 Comment By Realist On April 17, 2018 @ 2:50 am

The people who control Trump are not trying to stabilize Syria.

#4 Comment By Christian Chuba On April 17, 2018 @ 7:32 am

Trump and the U.S. public, we are odd birds. We don’t want to spend any money to reconstruct the damage caused by our own bombs (Raqqa) and we are looking for someone else to take over our illegal occupation. But we always have money to bomb other countries at the blink of an eye.

What did the missile attack cost, $200M?

There was a news story that haunts me. A boy was trapped under the seat of an SUV, he called 911 and was able to describe where the car was parked but through a series of screw ups, the police were not able to find him and he died. Emergency services still cannot geolocate someone based on their cell phone but we have $700B to rebuild our badly depleted military.

#5 Comment By ScentCom On April 17, 2018 @ 7:43 am

“The Trump administration is seeking to assemble an Arab force to replace the U.S. military contingent in Syria and help stabilize the northeastern part of the country after the defeat of Islamic State, U.S. officials said.”

Turkey will love that suggestion, won’t it? I can just see the mighty “Arab force” deploying in NE Syria only to realize that they’re looking north at Turkey, east at Iran, south at Iraq, and west at Assad, Hezbollah, and the Russians. Oh, and there’s Israel, waving encouragingly!

Bolton is an idiot. Get him out of there before he makes any more moronic suggestions like this one. “Arab force”!!! Right …

#6 Comment By James On April 17, 2018 @ 11:55 am

“The Trump administration’s plan for Syria (or any other aspect of domestic and foreign policy) appears to be based on an awful lot of wishful thinking….”

#7 Comment By kevin on the left On April 17, 2018 @ 11:56 am

“Turkey will love that suggestion, won’t it? I can just see the mighty “Arab force” deploying in NE Syria only to realize that they’re looking north at Turkey, east at Iran, south at Iraq, and west at Assad, Hezbollah, and the Russians.”

I’d really like to see how the Trump administration proposes that Arab force manage logistics…

#8 Comment By jk On April 17, 2018 @ 1:58 pm

Ah yes, old bait and switch. Bolton sells it as the Arabs stepping up and assuming responsibility as the arab “allies” debate and “resource” about taking over the mission. During this indefinite time period, the “big boys” run the show and escalate and Mr. Short Attention span goes back to his legal investigations or more “deal-making” by nearly bluffing enough to almost start another war.

#9 Comment By jk On April 17, 2018 @ 7:02 pm

US destabilizes Iraq, thus destabilizing other countries in the ME. Now Iran seeks to stabilize Syria, which the US has to prevent since it would entail more relative power for Iran.

Thus creating the conditions for further interventions in the future to reverse the results of this one.

Just like how US invaded Afghanistan to stop the Taliban which it created for short term gains.

#10 Comment By rayray On April 17, 2018 @ 8:28 pm

And here’s my dumb question…if in fact Trump and whoever should get their wish to see Assad step down…who runs Syria?

Honestly, who do they see as a viable option here? I know that Trump has the sophistication of a grumpy 11 year old…but someone must’ve pitched something to him…

Right?

#11 Comment By b. On April 18, 2018 @ 1:59 pm

avoid the obvious solution, which is that the Syrian government should be the one to control Syrian territory.”

In this, Trump is the continuation of Obama with other means. The US could have taken the decision to rally the community to influence the Assad regime when Arab Spring combined with bad harvests and migrations from farms to urban centers to a period of unrest in Syria.

Instead, the Obama administration chose to choke the population – collective punishment of captive population is at the core of any attempt at regime change – to bring down Assad, to “look forward not backward” when Gulf regimes financed Sunni islamist rebellions in Syria, to facilitate the transfer of Libyan arms caches – from Benghazi – to Syrian rebels, and to train and arm proxy forces and interven directly with “covert” operations and bombing missions.

The civil war is at least partially a consequence of that “meddling” in the internal affairs of Syria, and it served as a pretext for every escalation. In consequence, the US had neither the opportunity nor the interest to provide humanitarian aid to the population it is trying to “liberate” at gunpoint, and so had no leverage whatsoever with the Assad regime, and no moral standing to get UN approval for any kind of intervention.

US power projection in Syria depends on Assad’s success. The only effective proxy of the US – the YPG – was recruited when the Syrian rebel factions proved more interested in fighting each other, and when the largest faction – IS – drove the Kurds to the brink of disaster. Now, the stronger Assad becomes, the more “need” there is for the US to decide to stay in Syria. Once the Kurds come to an arrangement with Assad – likely brokered and guaranteed by Russia – the US will experience the greatest “need” at a time when it lost its only competent proxy, and has to once more attempt to outsource the dying to the weakest factions of a civil uprising that never had a chance to result in a stable Syria, simply because The People in Syria are not – they are fragmented, in disunity, and more likely to fight each other than the “oppressor” that is competing with US hegemony in what passes as the “hearts and minds” of the DC interventionist elites and Great Gamblers.

#12 Comment By b. On April 18, 2018 @ 2:01 pm

If the US wanted a sovereign Syrian government in charge of Syrian territory, Obama would have never started “meddling” in Syria.

#13 Comment By Brian M On April 18, 2018 @ 10:30 pm

b. Thank you for the cogent summary.

The “Cruise Missile Liberals” I know who are eager to demonize (the admittedly awful) Assad all forget the role we played in setting up this deathtrap.

“Bomb Assad’s Palace…he is a murderer of children” I am told. When asked why we should not be calling for the bombing of US for our long litany of crimes….he falls silent.