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Home/Daniel Larison/The Illegal War in Syria Isn’t Ending Anytime Soon

The Illegal War in Syria Isn’t Ending Anytime Soon

Two Air Force F-22 Raptors fly over Syria, Feb. 2, 2018, while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott

Trump’s talk of withdrawal from Syria is proving to be just that and nothing more:

According to a senior administration official, Trump agreed at a US National Security Council meeting late on Tuesday to keep US troops in Syria a little longer, and did not approve a specific withdrawal timetable. “We’re not going to immediately withdraw but neither is the president willing to back a long-term commitment,” the official said.

Trump’s replacements for Tillerson and McMaster, Mike Pompeo as secretary of state and John Bolton as national security adviser, both advocate finishing off Isis but are even more hawkish on deterring Iran.

Senior officials say they will use the argument that a US pullout from Syria would leave the region open to further Iranian advances.

When U.S. forces are going to stay in a place “a little longer,” we know that means that they won’t leave that place for years or decades. If there is no timetable for withdrawal and Trump is agreeing to keep U.S. forces in Syria for the time being, that means that the U.S. will continue to have an illegal, unauthorized military presence in Syria for the foreseeable future. That is consistent with previous statements from administration officials that said that the U.S. forces would be there indefinitely.

As I feared, Pompeo and Bolton are going to use the president’s Iran obsession to make sure that U.S. forces stay in Syria for a long time. Pompeo’s confirmation hearing would be a good opportunity for members of the Foreign Relations Committee to grill him on why he and the president support continuing illegal U.S. wars in Syria and Yemen.

Keeping U.S. forces in Syria is a serious mistake, and in addition to that it is a violation of international law and the Constitution. The Pentagon may have been able to get away with pretending that U.S. forces haven’t been introduced into hostilities in Yemen, but there is no way to get around the fact that U.S. forces are fighting and suffering casualties in Syria without any authorization from Congress to be there. U.S. forces don’t have the Syrian government’s permission to be there, and there is no mandate from the U.N. to be in Syrian territory. Max Boot and the other hawkish worriers can rest easy for now. The illegal, unnecessary war in Syria won’t be ending anytime soon.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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