Old America’s Race Against Time ... How is the US Preparing for its Withdrawal from Syria?
Nearly twenty months have passed since Trump announced for the first time that he would withdraw his troops from Syria; that was on December 19, 2018. At the time, the US Secretary of War, Jim Mattis, announced his resignation in protestation of the decision, and the announcement of the withdrawal subsequently fluctuated between a complete and an immediate withdrawal, to a gradual and partial one, and as a result, only repositioning was actually carried out.
This declaration of withdrawal was repeated several times thereafter and in different formats, but the most obvious was on October 7, 2019, when US troops actually withdrew from the border areas with Turkey, allowing for a fierce battle between the Turks and SDF, which Russia was able to stop at minimal chaos by reaching agreement with the two sides.
The Lying Shepherd
The consecutive false statements about the withdrawal left the Syrians, and all those following the Syrian situation, with a feeling that the US will not withdraw from Syria for many years. The US envoy James Jeffrey and his team worked to perpetuate and instill that feeling through feverish media activity, which seeks to ensure that “Washington is remaining and expanding”. It has become difficult for many to believe that the US will withdraw from Syria in the near future, as if its behavior resembles that of the popular fable about the lying shepherd. We claim that it really resembles that story, where the lying shepherd suddenly falls into the evil of his works at the end.
To take the discussion to a tangible level supported by data, we will address the issue from three angles: withdrawal from Syria as part of the US withdrawals around the world; withdrawal from Syria in connection with the domestic situation in the US; and withdrawal from Syria within the Syrian coordinates.
Pondering the US talk about withdrawing from or staying in Syria in isolation from US behavior around the world will necessarily lead to the wrong results. Thus, it is necessary to expand the viewing angle to see the withdrawal from Syria in the broad context of US withdrawals.
In this context, we can conjure up the following events to help us form a broad picture of the US withdrawal issue worldwide:
March 10, 2020: The withdrawal of US forces from two military bases located in Helmand and Herat, in southern and western Afghanistan, respectively.
March 19, 2020: Handing over “Al-Qaim Base”, located in Al-Anbar Governorate, near the Iraq-Syria border.
March 26, 2020: Handing over “Al-Qayyarah Base”, located in southern Mosul.
March 29, 2020: US forces vacated the “K1 Base” in Kirkuk and handed it over to the Iraqi security forces.
April 4, 2020: “Al-Taqaddum Base”, also known by “Al-Habbaniya Base” in Al-Anbar Governorate, was handed over.
July 14, 2020: Pentagon spokesperson, Jonathan Hoffman, announces that the US has, to date, completed its withdrawal from 5 of its military bases in Afghanistan and has reduced its troops.
July 25, 2020: The US-led international coalition forces handed over the “Basmaya Base”, located in the southeast, to Iraqi security forces hours after being attacked by 4 Katyusha rockets.
July 29, 2020: Trump announces his decision to withdraw approximately 12,000 US troops from Germany, half of whom will return to the US and the other half will be relocated to Italy and Belgium.
The picture is not complete without looking at the domestic reality in the US, especially the economic and social aspects. The current crisis in the US, despite desperate attempts to link it to the Coronavirus exclusively, in an effort to suggest that it is temporary and will disappear with the disappearance of the virus, is nevertheless further and deeper than all that is being said.
In this context, too, we cite the following facts (a few of many):
- The US economy shrank between April and June at an annual rate of 32.9%, the sharpest drop in US history. Moreover, “pessimistic” US estimates that previously said the Chinese economy will surpass US economy sometime between 2025 and 2030 have become old, because the probability that China will surpass the US by the end of 2021 has become a very high possibility, keeping in mind that China has already surpassed the US, according to the GDP (PPP) scale, by more than $4 trillion. The GDP (PPP) measures the gross domestic product in terms of its purchasing power in the local market, that is, the value of real goods that it indicates.
- The decline in US GDP during the first six months of 2020 amounted to 11%, which is close to the decline in Russian GDP during the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
- On July 18, the number of workers claiming continued unemployment benefits increased to 17 million.
- Millions of workers’ wages are estimated to have dropped by two-thirds, from an average of $921 a week to $321 a week.
- 70% of workers who returned to work in June suffered from this loss of income.
- On July 21, about 30 million Americans reported that they did not have enough food.
- The wealth of the wealthiest of the super-rich Americans increased by 20% during the epidemic by at least $565 billion.
- Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s wealth has grown nearly $74 billion since the beginning of 2020, to $189.3 billion.
- Elon Musk's net worth has tripled since the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak, to $74 billion.
- Despite all that, Bezos and Musk are leading a campaign to force workers to work in warehouses and factories without providing health protection supplies.
If the aforementioned facts revolve around the socio-economic aspect, then it is not difficult to anticipate their political effects, which are still in their early beginnings, despite the continued enormous tension in the US.
The picture is not complete without looking at the behavior of international opponents of the US on the one hand, and the behavior of its allies on the other. However, in order to leave enough space to discuss the issue within its Syrian dimension, we will limit our discussion to a quick look at the following main points in this context:
- The Eurasian belt, road, and project, and the accompanying escalating displacement of the dollar from intra-regional exchanges and an increasing dedication to energy decentralization, as well as the gradual substitution of an alternative global financial system that will dispense with the dollar permanently.
- The deep divisions in the camp of allies close to the US, whether among or within the countries, (American-European, British-European, American-German, US with Australia and New Zealand, American-Turkish, etc.)
- The steady tendency towards the gradual improvement of Russo-Chino relations with the “traditional allies” of the US: Turkey, the Arabian Gulf, Japan, Germany, and others.
We claim that an in-depth reading of the previous facts is sufficient, even without considering the Syrian issue, to reach the clear conclusion that complete US withdrawal from Syria is forthcoming.
However, more concretely, among the direct factors driving this conclusion are the US withdrawals from Iraq in particular. US presence in Syria, in the logistical militaristic sense, is an appendix to the presence in Iraq, and it cannot last for one day if US presence in Iraq ends or significantly diminishes, and this is exactly what we are witnessing in 2020.
In any case, the forced US withdrawal from Syria and the region, and the processes of regression and repositioning around the world, are necessarily accompanied by attempts to preserve the previous influence with new tools.
US presence in any place in the world, especially in our region, has always been accompanied by tension, civil wars, weak national independence or sovereignty, and weakness and subordination of economy.
In order to maintain the subversive role of the US using other tools, the areas the US leaves must explode or erupt. The most important tools to achieve that are those inherited by the US from the old colonizers, and from the British in particular: sectarian, national, religious, and tribal fissures that were consecrated by Sykes-Picot, the border issues, problems of the economy of poor productivity linked to maritime trade with the West, etc.) Undoubtedly, the Zionist entity has its overt roles, and its hidden roles that have an even greater influence.
One cannot miss the US rush to imply an agreement has been reached between the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) and the Kurdish National Council (KNC). However, a closer look also would not miss that the US aim is to reach the consecration of the existence of several conflicting powers, but that are weak at the same time, in the northeast. Among those is SDC, the KNC and its new allies, as well as emerging alliances and councils that are currently being invented by claiming that they represent Arab tribes, and extinct and inconsequential names are being summoned and used for this purpose, such as Riyad Hijab, who was sent recently, and met with Rayburn on July 31.
The US quest does not stop at the limits of pushing for an internal conflict among the forces in northeastern Syria. A conflict like this can be contained regionally and internationally, but Washington also seeks to perpetuate conflicts into which Iraq and Turkey slide, as well as Russia as a result. Jeffrey’s words still stand: “My job is to make Syria a quagmire for the Russians.”
The Good News
The good thing in all of this is that the US’ dwindling fitness and breathing difficulties make its running after the deadlines imposed on it by the objective reality a hopeless process. The amount of international and regional accords, and perhaps more importantly, the local Syrian accords, which are being worked on, are moving much faster than the US.
Nevertheless, the race is still ongoing, and therefore the Syrian-Syrian consensus processes must be accelerated, especially through the Constitutional Committee, and through other parts of UNSC Resolution 2254, the full and speedy implementation of which has become a mandatory passage to cut off any US hopes to again detonate Syria and take it towards complete destruction.