The Trump administration appears to be in no hurry to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria:
US President Donald Trump’s top security adviser said Sunday that US troops would remain in Syria as long as Iran continues to “menace” the region, seemingly reversing a promise by the White House to pull out sooner.
It is always possible that Trump could contradict what Bolton said, but if Bolton speaks for the administration this suggests that the Iran obsession takes priority over everything else. Bolton’s exact words tell us that the administration intends to keep U.S. forces in Syria for a very long time to come:
But I think the president has made it clear that we are there until the ISIS territorial caliphate is removed and as long as the Iranian menace continues throughout the Middle East [bold mine-DL].
The Iranian “menace” isn’t going to go away anytime soon because Iran has no intention of ending its involvement with its regional allies and proxies, so U.S. involvement in Syria remains an open-ended, unnecessary mission.
It bears repeating that U.S. forces are in Syria illegally. There is no Congressional authorization for U.S. forces to be in Syria, there is no international mandate for them to be there, and the Syrian government does not want them there. The U.S. has no business keeping an illegal military presence in Syria, and it certainly shouldn’t be conditioning the continuation of that presence on Iran’s involvement in the wider region. There is no compelling reason why U.S. forces should still be in Syria in 2018, and no vital American interests are served by keeping them there. The president has indicated in the past that he wants to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, but the withdrawal keeps being put off for bad reasons. Macron managed to talk Trump into maintaining a “strong and lasting footprint” there. I have assumed that his hard-line advisers would use the Iran obsession to prevent this from happening. Unfortunately, it seems that the Iran obsession has won out once again.