The Unraveling

The situation in Syria seems to be unraveling quickly, and I can’t say I understand it all. Here is something just published at WaPo:

Syrian government troops began moving into towns near the Turkish border Sunday night under a deal struck with Syrian Kurds, following a chaotic day that saw the unraveling of the U.S. mission in northeastern Syria.

Hundreds of Islamic State family members escaped a detention camp after Turkish shellfire hit the area, U.S. troops pulled out from another base and Turkish-backed forces consolidated their hold over a vital highway, cutting the main U.S. supply route into Syria.

By the time Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper appeared on Face the Nation to announce that President Trump had ordered the final withdrawal of the 1,000 U.S. troops in northeastern Syria, it was already clear that the U.S. presence had become unsustainable, U.S. officials said.

The announcement by the Syrian Democratic Forces that they had reached an agreement with the Iranian and Russian-backed government of President Bashar al-Assad further undermined the prospect of any continued U.S. presence in the country. The deal brings forces loyal to Assad back into towns and cities that have been under Kurdish control for seven years.

It sounds as if everything that had been accomplished since about 2011 has been undone in a week, thanks to Trump’s cowardice and stupidity.

I understand the remaining U.S. troops had to be withdrawn quickly because they were in real danger from the Turkish assault. Trump, of course, is still making excuses. Last night he was interviewed by whackjob Jean Pirro on Fox News:

The interview, which aired around 9:30 p.m. ET on Fox News, featured the president saying the Kurds — Syria’s defensive fighters — have “some very good people and some very bad people” and “maybe they’ll get somebody else to go in and fight with them… but we want to get out of the endless wars.”

“It’s 7,000 miles away from the United States. I want to protect our borders,” Mr. Trump told Pirro. “We defeated 100% of the ISIS caliphate … we’re not going to stay in these areas forever.”

He added that if Turkey “does something out of line,” he will take action.

“It’s like some people go to lunch. They [Turkey] fight with the Kurds, it’s what [Turkey] does,” he said. “We spend a lot of money on the Kurds… but it’s time for us to go home.”

What he really meant to say was that it’s time to send another 1,800 troops to Saudi Arabia, which the Pentagon announced yesterday. Trump is still saying that he “might” slap some sanctions on Turkey if it gets out of line.

Be sure to read 12 Hours. 4 Syrian Hospitals Bombed. One Culprit: Russia. in the New York Times.

The Russian Air Force has repeatedly bombed hospitals in Syria in order to crush the last pockets of resistance to President Bashar al-Assad, according to an investigation by The New York Times.

An analysis of previously unpublished Russian Air Force radio recordings, plane spotter logs and witness accounts allowed The Times to trace bombings of four hospitals in just 12 hours in May and tie Russian pilots to each one.

The 12-hour period beginning on May 5 represents a small slice of the air war in Syria, but it is a microcosm of Russia’s four-year military intervention in Syria’s civil war. A new front in the conflict opened this week, when Turkish forces crossed the border as part of a campaign against a Kurdish-led militia.