The Quagmire Man and the Pencil Breaker Send their Farewell Letters
Ibrahim Hamidi, a journalist, citing European and Arab sources, revealed that US Special Envoy to Syria James Jeffrey and his deputy, Joel Rayburn, will soon leave their posts. Where Jeffrey will leave his post shortly and Rayburn will replace him in preparation for the latter’s departure upon completion of the formation of the new US administration. Hamidi also revealed that Jeffrey had sent several farewell messages to his European and Arab counterparts, informing them of his departure and that the US policy on Syria would not change. European officials commented that these messages are “a sign that the (US) policy continues at this stage pending the formation of the new administration.”
During Jeffrey’s work on Syria, which was over two years, and far from what he claims, which is being a supporter of the political solution and UNSC resolution 2254, the overall outcome of his country’s policies can be summarized in the following points:
First: Jeffrey’s most prominent task was to combat the Astana track, and to try to destroy it and create fissures within it using various means. He even pronounced it dead twice and was forced to backtrack after it got over the hurdles that Washington tried to put in its path.
Second: In the northeast, he worked hard to isolate it from the rest of the country, and to isolate the political movement there from the rest of the Syrian political movement. At the same time, he worked in deviously and in parallel with Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdistan region and with different forces and currents in northeastern Syria, including Arab and Kurdish forces, to install a highly tense and potentially explosive formula on various grounds (Arab-Kurdish, Kurdish-Kurdish, Turkish-Syrian, and Syrian-Syrian).
Third: The aforementioned work falls within the framework that he himself expressed with utmost audacity on 12 May 2020 during a seminar at the US-based Hudson Institute when he said: “Our military presence [in Syria], while small is important to this whole overall calculation. So we urge the Congress, the American people, the president to keep these forces on. But again, this isn’t Afghanistan. This isn’t Vietnam. This isn’t a quagmire. My job is to make it a quagmire for the Russians.”
Fourth: In the northwest, Washington has worked to delist al-Nusra Front as a designated FTO, and as usual, Jeffrey had a clear and blatant role in this matter, especially in his famous statement early this year in which he said: “We [the United States] recognize that there are terrorists in Idlib. There’s also a very large group, the al-Nusra or Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group, HTS, that is an al-Qaida offshoot. It is considered a terrorist organization, but it is primarily focused on fighting the Assad regime. It itself claims – we haven’t accepted that claim yet, but they do claim to be patriotic opposition fighters, not terrorists. We have not seen them generate, for example, international threats for some time.”
Fifth: With regard to the economic blockade and sanctions, Jeffrey has consistently defended his country’s criminal policies towards the Syrian people under the pretext that sanctions only affect the regime, bearing in mind that the reality of that matter is the complete opposite. Sanctions have turned into a gold mine for the major corruptors, as Kassioun has shown in numerous articles, supported by numbers and statistics.
Sixth: Jeffrey has repeatedly emphasized his country’s priority in “protecting Israel” and its criminality, naturally. During his term, Trump announced his decision to recognize the annexation of the occupied Syrian Golan to the Zionist Entity. Even further than that, Jeffrey engaged in playing on the issue of restoring official Arab relations with Syria by placing them within a basket of conditions, some that are public (which is nothing more than some political and media exchanges back and forth), which other conditions are undisclosed, but whose features started getting exposed lately.
If we want to summarize the results of US action in Syria during the past two years, under Jeffrey’s leadership, we can say that the US has won in the short term by prolonging the lifespan of the quagmire, and that it drained the Syrian people, deepened their suffering, and delayed reaching a political solution. It can also be said that it was able to continue to keep its international opponents preoccupied, especially Russia, with the Syrian file.
However, on the other hand, and on a longer and broader scale, the great loss suffered by the US was its inability to take down the Astana formula. In particular, Jeffrey’s inability to detonate the Russian-Turkish relationship (and, in our opinion, this was his number one mission), is a failure of US policy, and a failure of Jeffrey that he can put in his CV and give lectures about it starting next year.
In short, the profits that Jeffrey made for Washington in Syria are temporary and fleeting, and which had only achieved prolonging the crisis. In contrast, the strategic loss that the US will reap for in Syria and around it, was established precisely through Jeffrey’s policy of pitting everyone against everyone, and by blackmailing all sides, which has resulted in a greater conviction among all these sides (albeit to varying degrees) that there is no solution except through understanding among them, and by removing the US from the equation.