The discussion, if one might even call it that, regarding the apparent President Donald Trump decision to withdraw at least some American soldiers from Syria has predictably developed along partisan, ideologically fueled lines. Trump has inevitably muddied the waters by engaging in his usual confusing explanations coupled with piles of invective heaped upon critics. The decision reportedly came after a telephone call with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but what exactly was agreed upon and who else might have been present in the room to report back to the intelligence community remains uncertain. Trump clearly believed that he had obtained some assurances regarding limits to any proposed Turkish military action from Erdogan, who almost immediately launched air attacks followed by ground troop incursions against the former U.S. supported Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
It should be observed that the Syrian incursion by the American military, which was initiated by President Barack Obama and his band of lady hawks during the so-called “Arab Spring” of 2011, was illegal from the gitgo. Syria did not threaten the United States, quite the contrary. Damascus had supported U.S. intelligence operations after 9/11 and it was Washington that soured the relationship beginning with the Syria Accountability Act of 2003, which later was followed by the Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2015, both of which were, at least to a certain extent, driven by the interests of Israel.
When American soldiers first arrived in Syria the U.S. War Powers act was ignored, making the incursion illegal. Nor was there any mandate authorizing military intervention emanating from any supra-national agency like the United Nations. The excuse for the intervention was plausibly enough to destroy ISIS, but the reality was much more complex, with U.S. forces in addition seeking to limit Iranian and Russian presence in Syria while also bringing about regime change. The objectives were from the start unattainable as Iran and Russia were supporting the Syrian Army in doing most of the hard fighting against ISIS while the regime of President Bashar al-Assad was not threatened by a so-called democratic alternative which only existed in the minds of Samantha Powers and Susan Rice.