Trump Is Handed a Clue That Syria Is Complicated. Will He Notice?

Trump Maladministration

Of all the times for things to go to hell in Syria, it had to be just as Freaking Lunatic Whackjob John Bolton is taking over as National Security Adviser to Clueless Malevolent Moron Trump. They might as well call in Dick the Dick Cheney to complete the Trifecta of Doom.

James Hohmann:

A year ago, President Trump’s new administration announced that removing Assad from power was no longer a priority of the United States government. Soon afterward, the man known as “the Butcher of Damascus” launched a sarin attack that killed more than 80 Syrians. Seeing gruesome images of murdered children prompted Trump to order airstrikes on the airfield that had been used by planes that dropped the gas.

Fast forward almost exactly one year. During a rally in Ohio the Thursday before last,Trump contradicted and undercut months of public commitments from diplomatic and military leaders that America would not cut and run from Syria. Speaking off the cuff during what was supposed to be a speech about infrastructure, the president declared: “We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now!”

The next day, news broke that Trump had suspended more than $200 million in stabilization funds for Syrian recovery efforts — to the grave consternation of the professionals at Foggy Bottom.

“I want to get out,” Trump added last Tuesday at the White House during a news conference with Baltic leaders. “I want to bring our troops back home. … It’s time.”

This declaration caught military commanders off guard. Top national security aides persuaded Trump not to immediately pull out the 2,000 Americans who are on the ground during a meeting later in the day. Then they crafted a statement in the Situation Room designed to reassure allies in the region. But for Assad and his patrons in Moscow and Tehran, the president’s preferences were crystal clear.

Then, on Saturday night, at least 40 people were killed in another apparent chemical attack on a besieged, rebel-held enclave near Damascus.

It’s a damn shame Trump is too bleeping stupid to make the connection between his own words and their consequences.

Max Boot, remembered for his knee-jerk support of the Bush-Cheney atrocities in the Middle East, is singing a different tune with Trump:

On April 7, 2017, the U.S. armed forces fired 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase to punish Bashar al-Assad for his use of chemical weapons against his own citizens. The Syrian president reportedly celebrated the one-year anniversary of the strike on Saturday by ordering another attack with chemical weapons that opposition activists said killed dozens of people in the city of Douma. This appears to be at least the eighth such attack by Assad this year — and the most brazen. Having seen that the United States would not react to his repeated violations of international laws, Assad has intensified his use of weapons of mass destruction. …

….Since taking a victory lap for his cruise-missile strike, Trump has left Assad, along with his Russian and Iranian backers, undisturbed to continue their meticulous work of mass murder. Trump even discontinued support for rebel groups fighting Assad and instead focused narrowly on the goal of eradicating the Islamic State. Now, with the finish line in sight, Trump appears to have set a deadline of October for the Defense Department to pull our troops out — even though the Pentagon, State Department, CIA, Israel and the Arab states are all telling him that this would be a monumental mistake. A premature departure will risk the success of the anti-Islamic State campaign and hand eastern Syria to Assad and his patrons.

Trump announced today that he would decide “soon” what to do about Syria. He’s treating the crisis like a reality show episode. See also Trump’s real Syria policy is hypocrisy.

Juan Cole provides background on what’s going on in Syria. He adds:

Trump’s response to Khan Sheykhoun in 2017 was a one-off with no real military or political impact. I strongly suspect that any response he makes now will be similar, a fireworks show for his domestic constituency without much downstream consequence in Syria itself.

Obama decided not to bomb Syria in September of 2013 because the British parliament voted against a joint operation and because the Republicans in Congress made it clear that they would not support an Obama strike on Syria. Russia offered to sequester Syrian sarin gas stockpiles, and Obama took them up on the offer. It appears that some 90 percent of the sarin stockpiles were in fact destroyed or removed. Saturday’s attack used chlorine, a common industrial chemical.

Since Trump’s own strike on the Shuayrat base last year did not forestall the Douma gassing, it is difficult to understand why Trump thinks a strike in 2013 by Mr. Obama would have done so.

The big question is whether the mercurial and erratic Trump will now rethink his decision to get out of Syria entirely by next fall. The US special operations troops that would be pulled out are in the Syrian far east, embedded among Kurds, and have nothing to do with the Damascus area.

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  1. bernie  •  Apr 9, 2018 @5:55 pm

    How many times has this veracity impaired individual said he does not let foes know his plans.  I always conclude he says this because has no plan and is ducking the question.  This time, however, he goes out and announces his plan to withdraw troops form Syria.   Of course the dire results he is totally irresponsible for, as he wears a cloak of infallibility. Is it possible he might improve if he wore a tin foil hat?  At this point why not give it a try.

  2. aj  •  Apr 10, 2018 @12:23 am

    It seems calculated, as McMaster was walking out the door and no one was home until Bolton came in on Monday. What does Assad have to lose? And loud mouth says he wants to leave  and leave the Kurds to be stabbed in the back after doing most of the fighting to defeat Isis.  

    There is no policy and no strategy. Never was. Bolton's a self serving ( Mercer money ) loud mouth who wants a war with Iran. God knows what for. All he ever did was sit around weekends in the Maryland National Guard. Typical Chicken hawk. 

  3. LongHairedWeirdo  •  Apr 10, 2018 @1:18 am

    I've been privately defending the Republicans against charges of hypocrisy, on the basis that they aren't actually preaching any standards for living, they're merely making attacks based upon talking points; said talking points are in support of such standards, but only because no better attacks are visible.

    I.e., "don't accuse them of violating the standards that they talk about! They aren't actually TRYING to adhere to those standards in the first place!"

    I'm roughly 30% serious, 70% satirical. The serious side has been rising.  Just sayin'.

  4. elkern  •  Apr 10, 2018 @1:07 pm

    I don't trust the WaPo on Mideast issues, and I'll never consider Max Boot a reliable sources of anything but garbage .  But Juan Cole knows his stuff (fluent in Arabic & several other Mideast languages) and was a rare & courageous voice against the invasion of Iraq, so I generally trust his perspective. 

    I've been very skeptical of the  Gas Attack stories and the rush to respond militarily.  I don't think Assad is a psychopath, and as I see it the Syrian Government has little reason to use gas (it's winning the battle anyway) and big reasons to avoid using it (like, not wanting to get bombed by the USA).  OTOH, the opposition (now completely dominated by jihadi groups) has great motivation to fake the attacks. 

    Juan Cole provides an answer (the battle for Douma is wearing down elite units of the Syrian Army), but I'm not entirely convinced.