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Ignore the hawks, Trump’s Syria withdrawal is bold and brave

It makes a conflict with Iran less likely

December 20, 2018

5:18 AM

20 December 2018

5:18 AM

Warmongers on the Left and Right are united in their fury at President Donald Trump’s extraordinarily bold and brave decision immediately to begin withdrawing all US troops from Syria. For those of us who prefer peace, it is a sure sign that Trump deserves our unconditional support and gratitude, no matter how we view the rest of his presidency. After all, the only other time Trump united the neocons and liberal hawks was when he launched a futile cruise missile barrage last year at an empty Syrian airfield in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack against civilians.

It is a sad reflection on the state of the Western media that it is only by unleashing deadly weapons against a sovereign Arab country that – in the infamous words of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria at the time – the Commander-in-Chief can appear ‘presidential’. A year later, we still have no incontrovertible evidence that a chemical attack had in fact been carried out or, if it was, who was responsible. Now Zakaria is whining that Trump’s latest decision to remove troops from Syria feels worse than the moment former President George W. Bush announced the end of major combat operations in Iraq – an invasion, incredibly, Zakaria’s lies helped pave the way for.

For those of us living in the real world, Trump’s decision to remove the military from the Syrian quagmire is the bravest and most logical decision in the Middle East by an American president since Eisenhower ordered Britain, France and Israel to withdraw from Suez. After all, US troops – unlike those from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, who were invited to fight Isis by the Assad regime – were stationed there illegally, and served no discernible strategic American interests. Worse, they were fighting an Islamic State partly armed by the Obama administration, which had recklessly backed other Sunni terror groups in an effort to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

During the election campaign, Trump was uniquely eloquent in pointing out all this. He was also alone in highlighting the disastrous consequences of earlier military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. This, then, is one of those moments those of us not fond of death and destruction can once again celebrate that Hillary Clinton – who championed the Libya campaign, wickedly joked about Gaddafi’s murder and supported regime change in Syria – never made it to the White House. In stark contrast, by withdrawing US troops from Syria, Trump is guided by a rational and humane assessment that Western military intervention in the Middle East always ends in disaster so should be avoided wherever possible.

President Bashar al-Assad thus becomes the first Arab leader to survive an attempt at regime change coordinated by the West, Gulf Arabs and Israel since Egyptian strongman Gamal Abdul Nasser emerged unscathed from the Suez debacle back in 1956. That will make Western powers much more cautious in the future when it comes to launching such criminal military campaigns. It also means that Syria has cemented historic ties with allies Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, the real reason the pro-Israel neocons are up in arms. However, since it was the heroic sacrifices of the latter on the Syrian battlefield, along with the Syrian Arab Army, that was the real reason Isis and other Sunni terror groups were defeated, it is only just that they should reap the spoils of victory.

But just as crucially, Assad’s survival also means a US or Israeli attack on Iran – a country that, like Syria, poses no threat whatsoever to the West – becomes far less likely. Despite his bellicose rhetoric, Trump has repeatedly made it clear that he is willing to meet with Iran’s leaders to renegotiate the nuclear deal. Let’s hope that he again defies the hawkish advisers he has inexplicably surrounded himself with by pulling off that diplomatic triumph as well.


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