Trump and Syria

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Trump and Syria

Trump and Syria
Trump and Syria: While US military says mission is to defeat Isis, president insists taking oil is fair ‘reimbursement’, but violates rules of war.
US officials are struggling to explain the mission of up to a thousand US troops in Syria, who have mostly taken up positions near oil fields in response to Donald Trump’s orders.

A fortnight after ordering a complete evacuation of US troops ahead of a Turkish incursion into northeastern Syria, abandoning Kurdish partners in the fight against Isis, Trump changed his mind and said some forces should stay but only to “secure the oil”.

So as hundreds US special forces are being flown out of Syria, hundreds of other soldiers, equipped with armoured vehicles, have been driving into the region, heading for small-scale oil patches Der Ezzor and Hasakah provinces, but without a clear idea of what they were supposed to do there.
The unease of US officials implementing the policy became apparent on Thursday when an internal report by the top US diplomat in northern Syria, William Roebuck, was leaked to the New York Times. In the report, Roebuck complains that “we didn’t try” to deter the Turkish incursion, which has killed hundreds of civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands.
“US policy in eastern Syria these days seems to be an attempt at building a plane already in flight,” Kayleigh Thomas, research associate for the Middle East Security programme at the Centre for a New American Security (CNAS), said. Full Story

Trump Syria strikes

What exactly the US military’s new mission is in Syria keeps changing depending on whom you ask.

Following President Donald Trump’s abrupt announcement early last month that nearly all US troops would be withdrawing from northeastern Syria — effectively abandoning America’s Kurdish allies in the region — he reversed course, announcing that US troops would be staying in Syria after all. Only now, their mission was to secure oil fields in other parts of the country.

And Trump was clear about who that oil would belong to: “We’re keeping the oil — remember that,” he told a gathering of Chicago police officers in late October. “I’ve always said that: ‘Keep the oil.’ We want to keep the oil. Forty-five million dollars a month? Keep the oil.”

Unfortunately for Trump, it seems the US military isn’t so keen on that idea — perhaps because stealing Syria’s oil could constitute a war crime. On Thursday, the Pentagon’s top spokesperson told reporters in no uncertain terms that the US would not be keeping any of the revenue from those oil fields.

“The revenue from this is not going to the US. This is going to the SDF,” Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said, using an acronym for the Kurdish-led, US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces.

I checked with others in the government to ensure that was actually the policy. Turns out that it is. “The SDF is the sole beneficiary of the sale of the oil from the facilities they control,” a senior administration official told me. Full Story


Why did trump pull out of Syria?

The news of the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a raid by U.S. special operations forces on Oct. 27 capped a dizzying three weeks in the Trump administration’s Syria policy. The turmoil began on Oct. 6, with President Donald Trump’s peremptory decision to pull back about 100 U.S. soldiers from their positions embedded with Kurdish forces in northern Syria. A few days later, he ordered the withdrawal from the north of the country of the entire U.S. presence of 1,000 troops, and then in late October he partially reversed that decision, redeploying several hundred U.S. troops back into northeast Syria to “take the oil.”

No doubt more news is yet to emerge, and perhaps more policy shifts, too. In the midst of all the breaking developments and about-faces, an important debate has emerged about U.S. policy and force deployments. Trump’s original decision to withdraw was met with scathing criticism across the political spectrum: from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Rep. Liz Cheney, from Sen. Chuck Schumer to Sen. Ted Cruz, from the Center for American Progress to the American Enterprise Institute, and on editorial pages from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal. Many of Trump’s senior officials seemed to disagree with the decision as well, according to their anonymous conversations with reporters, and the Defense Department had long tried to prevent it. Full Story


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