Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 21, 2018

Fallout Of Trump's Syria Withdrawal - Why Erdogan Does Not Want To Invade

President Trump's strategic decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria creates some significant fallout. The U.S. and international borg is enraged that Trump ends an occupation that is illegal under international as well as U.S. domestic law. "That's un-American!"

Defense Secretary James "Mad Dog" Mattis resigned from his position effective February 28. He disagreed with the president's decision. It was the second time in five years that an elected commander in chief had a serious conflict with Mattis' hawkishness. President Obama fired him as Central Command chief for urging a more aggressive Iran policy. Mattis is also extremely hawkish towards Russia and China.

President Trump campaigned on lessening U.S. involvement in wars abroad. He wants to get reelected. He does not need a Secretary of Defense that involves him in more wars that have little to none defined purpose.

Mattis is an ingrained imperialist. He always asked for more money for the military and for more meddling abroad.  One of Mattis' little notice acts as Defense Secretary was a unannounced change in the mission of the Pentagon:

For at least two decades, the Department of Defense has explicitly defined its mission on its website as providing "the military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of our country." But earlier this year, it quietly changed that statement, perhaps suggesting a more ominous approach to national security.
The Pentagon's official website now defines its mission this way: "The mission of the Department of Defense is to provide a lethal Joint Force to defend the security of our country and sustain American influence abroad."

The Pentagon no longer "deters war" but provides "lethal force" to "sustain American influence abroad." There was no public nor congressional debate about the change. I doubt that President Trump agreed to it. Trump will now try to recruit a defense secretary that is more aligned with his own position.

The White House also announced that 7,000 of the 14,000 soldier the U.S. has in Afghanistan will withdraw over the next few months. The war in Afghanistan is lost with the Taliban ruling over more than half of the country and the U.S. supported government forces losing more personal than they can recruit. It was Mattis who had urged Trump to increase the troop numbers in Afghanistan from 10,000 to 14,000 at the beginning of his term. There are also 8,000 NATO and allied troops in Afghanistan which will likely see a proportional withdrawal.

The Associated Press has a new tic toc of Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria:

Trump stunned his Cabinet, lawmakers and much of the world with the move by rejecting the advice of his top aides and agreeing to a withdrawal in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week, two officials briefed on the matter said.
“The talking points were very firm,” said one of the officials, explaining that Trump was advised to clearly oppose a Turkish incursion into northern Syria and suggest the U.S. and Turkey work together to address security concerns. “Everybody said push back and try to offer (Turkey) something that’s a small win, possibly holding territory on the border, something like that.”

Erdogan, though, quickly put Trump on the defensive, reminding him that he had repeatedly said the only reason for U.S. troops to be in Syria was to defeat the Islamic State and that the group had been 99 percent defeated. “Why are you still there?” the second official said Erdogan asked Trump, telling him that the Turks could deal with the remaining IS militants.
Erdogan’s point, Bolton was forced to admit, had been backed up by Mattis, Pompeo, U.S. special envoy for Syria Jim Jeffrey and special envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition Brett McGurk, who have said that IS retains only 1 percent of its territory, the officials said.
Bolton stressed, however, that the entire national security team agreed that victory over IS had to be enduring, which means more than taking away its territory.

Trump was not dissuaded, according to the officials, who said the president quickly capitulated by pledging to withdraw, shocking both Bolton and Erdogan.

Trump did not "capitulate". He always wanted to pull the U.S. troops out of Syria. He said so many times. When he was finally given a chance to do so, he grabbed the opportunity. Erdogan though, was not ready for that:

Caught off guard, Erdogan cautioned Trump against a hasty withdrawal, according to one official. While Turkey has made incursions into Syria in the past, it does not have the necessary forces mobilized on the border to move in and hold the large swaths of northeastern Syria where U.S. troops are positioned, the official said.

The call ended with Trump repeating to Erdogan that the U.S. would pull out, but offering no specifics on how it would be done, the officials said.


Erdogan had planned to only occupy a 10 miles deep strip along the Syrian-Turkish border. Some 15,000 Turkish controlled 'Syrian rebels' stand ready for that. He would need some 50-100,000 troops to occupy all of east Syria northward of the Euphrates. It would be a hostile occupation among well armed Kurds who would oppose it and an Arab population that is not exactly friendly towards a neo-Ottoman Turkey.

Erdogan knows this well. Today he announced to delay the planned invasion:

“We had decided last week to launch a military incursion... east of the Euphrates river,” he said in a speech in Istanbul. “Our phone call with President Trump, along with contacts between our diplomats and security officials and statements by the United States, have led us to wait a little longer.

“We have postponed our military operation against the east of the Euphrates river until we see on the ground the result of America’s decision to withdraw from Syria.”

The Turkish president said, however, that this was not an “open-ended waiting period”.

Any larger occupation of northeast Syria would create a serious mess for Turkey. Its army can do it, but it would cost a lot of casualties and financial resources. Turkey will hold local government election in March and Erdogan does not want any negative headlines. He will invade, but only if Syria and Russia fail to get the Kurds under control.

Unfortunately the leaders of the anarcho-marxist PKK/YPK in Syria have still not learned their lesson. They make the same demands to Damascus that were already rejected when similar demands were made for Afrin canton before Turkey invaded and destroyed it.

agitpapa @agitpapa 11:14 utc - 21 Dec 2018
YPG delegation was flown in to Mezzeh yday. Negos were inconclusive because they just repeated their usual line of "SAA protects the border, we control the rest." No army allows someone else allied with an enemy to control its rear and its supply lines. +
+ The YPG leadership is still stuck in its pro-Western rut. It needs to be purged before any deal can be made with Damascus. Their present track will just lead to another Afrin, then another, then another. Thousands of brave YPG/YPJ fighters will have died for nothing.
Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai - 16:31 utc - 21 Dec 2018
#Breakingnews: Private sources : President Bashar al Assad has rejected the Kurdish proposal while Turkey is gathering forces (Euphrates Shield et al) to attack the Kurdish controlled area north of #Syria. #Russia seems holding back president Erdogan for a while. A lot of pressure

It is not (only) Russia that is holding Erdogan back. As seen above he has serious concerns about such an operation. Moreover, he does not have enough troops yet and the U.S. troops have not yet changed their pattern. As of today they still patrolled on the Turkish border and yesterday new U.S. war material was still coming in from Iraq. Erdogan does not dare to attack U.S. troops.

He will most likely want to avoid any additional military involvement in Syria. If Damascus and Moscow can get the PKK under control, Ankara will be satisfied.

Besides the presence of 4,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops and contractors in northeast Syria there also a contingent of 1,100 French troops and an unknown number of British forces. France for now says it wants to stay to finish the fight against the Islamic State enclave along the Euphrates.

But France does not have the capability to sustain those forces without U.S. support. Syria and Russia could ask Macron to put them under their command to finish the fight against ISIS, but it is doubtful that President Macron would agree to that. It is more likely that he will agree to a handover of their position to Russian, Syrian or even Iraqi or Iranian forces. Those forces can then finish the fight.

Posted by b on December 21, 2018 at 18:09 UTC | Permalink

« previous page | next page »

Re b's link @97

4 April 2018
"Syria war: Trump 'persuaded not to pull out immediately'"

He began his tenure as National Security Advisor on April 9, 2018 (Bolton)

Bolton or Mattis. I tend to think Mattis, though Bolton and the rest of the nutcases Trump has surrounded himself with were all for it.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Dec 22 2018 8:07 utc | 101

What happens to these people. Sounds like Greenwald.
Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Dec 22, 2018 2:49:56 AM | 101

Dunno. Puzzles the heck out of me. Getting rich? Becoming so succe$$ful that one starts uncritically believing all of one's own bs?

I've no quibbles with Circe's long assessment of him. His docos were, and will remain worthwhile regardless of his synapse problems.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Dec 22 2018 8:11 utc | 102

Josh | Dec 21, 2018 4:23:57 PM | 35

See: Why is the United States suddenly withdrawing from Syria? By Valentin Vasilescu

Essentially, he argues that it's the S-300s and the integrated air defence system wot did it.

Posted by: William Bowles | Dec 22 2018 8:43 utc | 103

@ chuck 25

Did you know that in British English slang, chuck means to vomit? Perhaps Hasbarollocks Central should rethink your work-name.

Posted by: Rhisiart Gwilym | Dec 22 2018 8:45 utc | 104

From the link above

“The officials said that Trump was willing to tolerate fighting ISIS.....”

But we all know we were not fighting ISIS. Dont we? Trumps not that clueless. LOL

Posted by: Pft | Dec 22 2018 8:49 utc | 105

Good to see things are moving now.
It is interesting to see that a type called "Mad Dog" is seen by western media and politicians as "the stabilizing factor around Trump" "the last person remaining of competence" etc.

I agree with those that the real reason is the impossibility for American Airforce to give support to their groundtroops at al-Tanf,who now become lame ducks for the advancing Syrian army.Trump don't need F22 or F35 crashing for all the world to see.
I suppose the pro-Israel lobby is now pondering assassination or doubling down on destitution of the Donald.

Posted by: willie | Dec 22 2018 9:03 utc | 106

Here in France they speak of about 200 special troops being present,unofficially.In the article it is sais they are 1100.Is that including the troops stationed in Iraq?
The french airplane ca

Posted by: willie | Dec 22 2018 9:06 utc | 107

The french airplane carrier is in dock and the nearest french airbase would be Abu Dhabi,so it is unlikely that they continue their presence on syrian soil,where they are illegally anyways.

Posted by: willie | Dec 22 2018 9:08 utc | 108

chance for trump to restart his presidency

whom he pichs to replace mattis will tell us a lot

Posted by: paul | Dec 22 2018 9:37 utc | 109

- I see a pattern emerging: Before the new Congress becomes active and during the (current) shutdown of the government Trump is going to "shake things up a little bit".
- Announce a reduction of troops in Afghanistan
- Announce the withdrawal of ALL troops from Syria
- ..............
- ..............
- ...............
- (has anyone more suggestions ??)

- I don't think D.a.a.d. Trump has come up with this ideas himself. There must - IMO - someone who has suggested all this to d.a.a.d. Trump.
- But "Corporate Washington DC" is going to be "mad as hell".

Posted by: Willy2 | Dec 22 2018 9:45 utc | 110

Posted by: willie | Dec 22, 2018 4:03:35 AM | 107

"Trump don't need F22 or F35 crashing for all the world to see."

Nor the Zionists. Maybe the F22 and F35 can never be used against any opponent who can fight back, lest they be unmasked as purely worthless boondoggles.

Posted by: paul | Dec 22, 2018 4:37:56 AM | 110

"whom he picks to replace mattis will tell us a lot"

I expect more of the same.

Posted by: Rhisiart Gwilym | Dec 22, 2018 3:45:20 AM | 105

"Did you know that in British English slang, chuck means to vomit? Perhaps Hasbarollocks Central should rethink your work-name."

He's part of the trial truth-in-troll-names initiative.

Posted by: Russ | Dec 22 2018 9:49 utc | 111

- It could turn out to be a "very interesting" few weeks.

Posted by: Willy2 | Dec 22 2018 9:49 utc | 112

As expected here in the U.K. yes the Tory party did implode this week, running scared of holding a parlement vote re- the Brixit deal ! As the year ends, we have nothing! a vacuum! For every 9 Tory’s we have ten opposing view points. The Tory party now is like the cat sat on a toadstool in ‘Alice in wonderland ‘ the cat slowly disapered leaving nothing but it’s smile’ !! They pulled the vote to stop it failing, Labour put up a vote of no confidence, the Tory’s backed there leader ‘dis- May . Not off topic but background info !
Meanwhile Trump announce’s his Syria pull-out, —- a deafing silence from the U.K. ! The hand full of bbc feature’s
neatly side step any mention of a Brit guv new policy !! We’v got a vacuum, a void ! Nothing there but the smile !
The lights are on but no ones home !! After the implosion ! Carry on guys your on your own !
Don’t beleave me ? Google bbc Syria news ? I did.

Posted by: Mark2 | Dec 22 2018 11:03 utc | 113

Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, a pledge he gave to Turkey after a long phone call with Erdogan, was justified he said, "as the fight against ISIS has been won". This is patently not the case, but whatever the real reasons, and irrespective of whether this action will be proven correct in the future, certain disturbing factors are evident. Just as he unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran, the treaty for medium range ballistic missiles, the climate accord, and international trade treaties - so too did he surprise everyone, not least his own cabinet and advisors, by his decision, taken on the advice of the president of another nation!

Is there anybody who really believes that Trump really understands the nuances of foreign policy and international relations? Who formulates US foreign policy, as exercised by Trump, if not his official aides and cabinet secretaries? Can a momentous decision be made without even some prior discussion on the subject? His handling of the North Korea spat, another case that bears his personal stamp of diplomacy, where he went from threats and insults to a 180 degree about-face to compliments and platitudes, while having achieved little to solve the underlying problem, is indicative of the immature and simplistic nature of his foreign policy perceptions.

Now, having annointed Erdogan his national security advisor, he has gone a long way to discrediting the US, and destroying it's international credibility. What lunatic would take such a momentous decision, and give the order for it's implementation, while still on the phone with Erdogan? What might transpire if Putin called? How secure can any nation feel, which has entered into any agreement, treaty, or alliance with the US? His slogan of America First has become one of Trump First. And don't tell me of his campaign pledges. The impulsive twitter president could, and should have, nominally consulted his administration first, whether or not he followed their advice.

Posted by: SPYRIDON POLITIS | Dec 22 2018 12:17 utc | 114

Lets not forget that Trump also is a war criminal. Quite frankly all American presidents since I have been alive have been war criminals san may be Jimmy Carter. Among the many failures of the Obama administration was the failure to prosecute the war criminals of the Bush administration for illegal invasion of Iraq as well as committing acts of state sanctioned torture. We have had no constitutionally declared war since WWII. To think that T-rump has a plan other than dominating the news cycle for his on adulation of being on the TV for the simple minded folks to see.

Posted by: rattlemullet | Dec 22 2018 12:50 utc | 115

Maybe Flynn is available for the job.

Posted by: JARED | Dec 22 2018 13:37 utc | 116

rattlemullet | Dec 22, 2018 7:50:05 AM | 116

Sans Jimmy Carter? I think not, he started the Afghan invasion! See for example:

Posted by: William Bowles | Dec 22 2018 13:58 utc | 117

Evidence that Trump did the right thing.....
"Many U.S. Commanders outraged by Syria withdrawal, sources tell NBC News"

Important components of killing this wrongful forever war thing include lowering morale in the military and discouraging enlistments (already suffering).

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 22 2018 14:09 utc | 118

I don't think D.a.a.d. Trump has come up with this ideas himself. There must - IMO - someone who has suggested all this to d.a.a.d. Trump. willy2 @ 111


Posted by: donkeytale | Dec 22 2018 14:33 utc | 119

In the dreaming up Middle East threats department we have news of a US Navy carrier Group arriving on the scene.

The USS John C. Stennis will spend Christmas in the Persian Gulf after the carrier strike group sailed through the Strait of Hormuz on Friday, arriving during a time of increased threats from Iran and ending an eight-month carrier absence in the region.
The long absence of a U.S. carrier in the Gulf broke the regular flow of carriers to the region since 9/11 and could be the new norm under outgoing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' dynamic force employment policy, meant to show more unpredictability to U.S. adversaries.

See, the US strategy is that on some pretense the US will launch carrier airstrikes against supposed Iran nuclear targets while praying that the cowed Iranians won't counterattack with hundreds of missiles and rockets zeroed in on the Stennis. Personally I think it won't work, but that's par for the course for the US military, along with doing stupid things unpredictably with dynamic force employment.

But hey, it's really party time for the carrier fleet despite the "increased threats from Iran":

Anderson said all sailors on the Stennis can communicate with loved ones back home and the crew will enjoy some R&R while in the Gulf at an undisclosed time and location.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 22 2018 15:04 utc | 120

Pft | Dec 21, 2018 11:57:14 PM | 86: Bolton's announcement about Africa

I too thought that the time of this was interesting.

I also wonder if Erdogan forced KSA to stop funding the Kurds.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Dec 22 2018 15:17 utc | 121

Don Bacon | Dec 22, 2018 10:04:35 AM | 121

Stennis Xmas dinner main course: sitting duck?

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Dec 22 2018 15:20 utc | 122

I submitted a letter to NYT, but I have a low success rate there, thus I paste it below:

America’s Allies Fear That Traditional Ties No Longer Matter Under Trump
By Steven Erlanger and Jane Perlez, Dec. 21, 2018

Piotr Berman, Pending Approval
"Fears of America's allies" sounds nice, but which allies? Lithuania probably has zero interests in events in Syria. Turkey is a large ally, and it is vehemently against semi-permanent status of the current statelet in north east Syria which is stabilized to some degree by American and French troops. This statelet is an unstable construct because the Kurdish component has distinct sympathies in Turkish internal strife, Arab component is pretty mercenary, separation from Turkey and Damascus Syria does not ally to fully utilize agricultural and energy resources of this area etc. It violates territorial integrity of Syria for reasons that expired -- the vision of making Syria a "free" state without any consensus of what that "free state" should be. If we take America out from the equation, we are left with French interests, which are vague, and vehement Turkish positions. Letting Syria re-unite and rebuild is legal and practical, preventing it results in an internal NATO conflict. So what are the benefits of doing something else?

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Dec 22 2018 15:20 utc | 123

@ 122
Washington can announce new policies for Africa all it wants, for whatever reason, but they mean nothing. China owns most of Africa, having been there for years with many infrastructure investments and Chinese workers. Meanwhile the US piddles around with mil-mil blather which have nothing to do with economic progress.
It's comparable to the US piddling around in the South China Sea while China energizes its Belt & Road Initiative which will integrate the Eurasian economy and even extend to Africa and South America.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 22 2018 15:27 utc | 124

Stennis Xmas dinner dessert: "Next phase" chocolate moose?

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Dec 22 2018 15:29 utc | 125

@ Jackrabbit 123
Stennis Xmas dinner main course: sitting duck?
. . .kudos on the sitting duck.
Exactly, ducks on a pond. In fact the presence of the US fleet ensures that there will be no Christmas war on Iran. It's a fault of forward basing, which also applies to Korea with the huge US Camp Humphreys only fifty miles south of Seoul.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 22 2018 15:33 utc | 126

This is the UK Guardian today on the (alleged) pullout:

Trump’s Syria move pleases dictators and hands initiative to Isis


Although he had threatened such action in the past, his wiser, more experienced advisers had succeeded in restraining him – until last week, when the president finally got away from the White House “grown-ups” and went rogue.


When Erdoğan spoke to the White House by telephone last week, US officials said they expected Trump to tell him to back off. Instead, Trump caved in, informed Erdoğan of the US withdrawal, and effectively gave him a green light to invade.

There is a suspicion that Trump is in awe of tough, authoritarian “strongman” leaders such as Erdoğan, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and would emulate them if he dared. As it is, he kowtows and seeks their approval. Naturally, both Putin and Erdoğan welcomed the pullout, giving Trump the praise he craves.

Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad, will be gratified too, as will his allies in Iran. US Republican senators quickly pointed out that, by his decision, Trump has effectively “lost Syria” for the west and confirmed the victory of the pro-Assad forces. Assad may now feel emboldened to launch an assault on Idlib, Syria’s last holdout province. ,/blockquote>

It's staggering! This is an alleged lefty newspaper! The author is a notorious supporter of Empire, Simon Tisdall. You can't make this stuff up, except of course, that's exactly what Tisdall has done.

Posted by: William Bowles | Dec 22 2018 15:35 utc | 127

@ 126
Chocolate or . . .?
slang: Moose: A person of ugly appearance, especially female.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 22 2018 15:40 utc | 128

@ 128
re: “lost Syria” for the west
Washington realized long ago that Syria was another US loss, this time to Russia and Iran which is why the increased animosity toward those two victors. But the US military never leaves a country unless it's forced out, so that has taken a little more time.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 22 2018 15:46 utc | 129

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 22, 2018 10:33:07 AM | 127

"the presence of the US fleet ensures that there will be no Christmas war on Iran."

One would think so, that they just handed Iran a hostage. But with these neocon wingnuts, who knows. There seems to be no limit to their stupidity.

Posted by: Russ | Dec 22 2018 15:49 utc | 130

The neocons might go for it, but the military isn't into suicide, and it's their lives on the line. There's not only the fleet in the Gulf area, but also 40,000 troops and several large installations, all targets. It's why any talk about US war on Iran is blather. The US is trying to halt Iran missile testing, but it really doesn't matter, given current capabilities.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 22 2018 16:02 utc | 131

Didn't see this one coming - CHECKMATE – Saudi Crown Prince MbS Sends Replacement Troops To Defend Kurds in Syria… -

Posted by: h | Dec 22 2018 16:14 utc | 132

h | Dec 22, 2018 11:14:09 AM | 133

Syrian Observatory source...hmmm....Defend the Kurds? I don't think so

Posted by: William Bowles | Dec 22 2018 16:17 utc | 133

Posted by: William Bowles | Dec 22, 2018 10:35:46 AM | 128

I skimmed through the piece in The Guardian. They truly live to their name, the old guard worried about the affairs to the east of Suez. Now Britain is shocked, yes, shocked, by the latest excess of our POTUS. Brexit is tricky, but nobody can claim that it came suddenly, but here comes a shock, a twit that shook the kingdom. The gists seems to be that "Britain" (probably, the elite) conceives itself to occupy the best choice in the World under the reduced circumstances, namely, that of the most valuable ally of the most powerful nation in the World, and now those valuable efforts are not cherished! 440 non-combat troops were sent to Afghanistan, increasing the British contingent by nearly 70%, a truly worthy sacrifice, and now BANG! USA does not care!

Then comes the shock of the regional allies. "Pro-western Kurdish forces in north-east Syria". But isn't Turkey a regional ally as well? Honestly, an actual massive affront to allies, including UK, was the abrogation of USA participation in a settlement with Iran, followed by sanctions and threats of sanctions against European companies and real possibility of fat multi-billion fines and what not. There was a number of speeches and editorials and now meek attitude returned. The truth is that a faithful dog can be kicked on occasion, and if you do not do it, how can you be sure that it is truly faithful? But still, the proper response is to tuck the tail, drop the ears and gaze at the master reproachfully. And that was accomplished with aplomb.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Dec 22 2018 16:24 utc | 134


Buhahahah, Saudi Arabia sends "troops" to defend the Kurds, I think you mean terrorists to hold them hostage. I was unaware Saudi Arabia's war on Yemen was going so well they could divert more "troops" to Syria. Honestly, even if KSA sends some "troops" to replace US soldiers everything we've seen in Yemen shows that these thugs can't win against starving, AK wielding tribesmen even with massive air support. I imagine professional Turkish or Syrian Arab Army soldiers would scatter the entire force within a few weeks of conflict.

Just from a tactical level sending Saudi "troops" to Syria to potentially fight Turkish or Syrian soldiers wouldn't make any sense for a host of reasons 1. Turkey still has the recordings of Jamal Khashoggi murder which he could still threaten to release to further embarrass/blackmail MBS. 2. Turkish soldiers were rushed into Qatar to prevent MBS invading when relations took a nose drive 2 years ago, those soldiers are still there and could easily push into an exposed KSA if given the order. 3. Saudi "Troops" are a joke the vast majority are either mercenaries from the Sudan (after the US/UK/EU/South American PMCs started refusing to work with the Saudi's after being treated as cannon fodder) or ... lets be charitable and call them civilian militias, neither group can stand up in modern, protracted warfare against professional soldiers.

Posted by: Kadath | Dec 22 2018 16:37 utc | 135


Leave Jimmy Carter alone. No one's perfect.

Mark2. May is clinging to power in the most obnoxious way. She's the spectacle of a clingy shrew. Every passing day that she digs in and reduces herself to grabbing the ankles of power and letting it drag her around further, she demeans herself more, and diminishes her support further. She's lost all credibility and self-respect. Patience. She'll implode soon enough; she's just delaying the inevitable.

So Trump pretends to draw down in Syria while he moves the heavy stuff into the Persian Gulf? Surprise! Not.

@ James

Trump should be so lucky to get Gabbard, but I still think his intentions vis a vis military intervention may not be so honorable so I doubt Gabbard is interested in risking her political future for uncertain chaos. The thing Mattis didn't say is what Trump plans to do about Iran. I suspect Mattis is a battle-weary war horse. Could it be he disagreed on the next phase of the campaign? We'll soon find out. Hope we don't end up saying: Better the devil we knew.

I don't trust that Trump mounted a vigorous denial for MbS, and that he's so in with Zionists. and their Iran fixation. If Trump gets a younger, rabid Iran hater for SOD; the writing will be on the wall. I just want him to show all his cards already!

By the way, Tom Cotton was one of the members in Congress responsible for trying to derail the Resolution on withdrawing U.S. support in Yemen. Because he failed in the Senate maybe he then conspired to sneak in the provision in the must-pass farm bill that would deny members the right to vote on a Resolution invoking War Powers. I'm sure he had a hand in that. Cotton Yemen War Trump owes him one.

Posted by: Circe | Dec 22 2018 16:48 utc | 136


You didn't see it coming? That was Trump's plan all along!

Posted by: Circe | Dec 22 2018 16:51 utc | 137

@ Circe 137

You've been told numerous times that the Yemen resolution is a scam deliberately designed NOT to require any withdrawal at all. Does someone like you even care about fact vs. fiction? Evidently not.

Oh, I forgot - several threads back you explicitly said you don't care if it's fake, you just like how Sanders and Congress are lying to the people about it. Charming.

As for Carter, he inaugurated neoliberal economic policy, did all he could to prop up the Shah, and pushed hard for the disastrous Central Arizona Project. What's not to like.

Posted by: Russ | Dec 22 2018 17:12 utc | 138

Lemme resurrect this article from the past to impress on all Trump suckers just how Machiavellian he really is.

Trump's Syria scam

Sooo, while MbS is securing or rather wreaking havoc on one front, Trump can free up for the biggest target of all. IRAN. Now you know why Trump was protecting MbSs ass! And don't think Netanyahoo wasn't in on Trump's game!

Boy I hate to say told ya so again! Throw away the Trump juice already! Sheesh, I hope you're finally awake.

Posted by: Circe | Dec 22 2018 17:17 utc | 139

Trump's Syria scam:
Syria Scam

So now you all know what he meant by the next phase of the campaign.🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

Posted by: Circe | Dec 22 2018 17:25 utc | 140

The Borg started this war dishonorably, but the liberals are finishing it the same way. We could have done better by the Kurds and withdrawn with honor.

Posted by: Tomonthebeach | Dec 22 2018 17:26 utc | 141

Piotr Berman | Dec 22, 2018 11:24:39 AM | 135

The US has no friends, it has satrapies, puppets, subordinates, fronts but no friends. The Empire can't afford friends, they're too expensive.

Posted by: William Bowles | Dec 22 2018 17:30 utc | 142


Democrats/Republicans = One Syndicate. I've been making that case for months, and Trump is the boss of it.


Yeah-yeah. But I'll still take the man who put the term Zionist Apartheid on the map over the Zionist ass kisser in the WH now.

The war in Yemen rages on because Trump, the Zionist Chosen one wants it to go on! And don't you forget it.

Posted by: Circe | Dec 22 2018 17:39 utc | 143

Circe@138 - I second that. Trump's move was startling at first, but the Saudis/UAE have been skulking around in Syria since at least April. I happened to stumble back on Giorgio Cafiero's (Lobe Log) article from September that ties this all together. He writes from the perspective of the Emiratis objectives instead of the Saudis, but brings up the so-called Anti-Terror Quartet — Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. All are probably contributing something to the Kurds, but not out of any special love for them. Just that old chestnut, "Enemy of my enemy..." which would be Turkey.

The article makes way more sense to me now with the apparent U.S. withdrawal. In short, it doesn't really matter if the U.S. is leaving, even if a bit early. The U.S. has armed the Kurds to the teeth, armed and trained their (Saudi/UAE mercs plus Kurd) 'border defense force' and have been flooding ammo dumps in the north with convoys of - what I presume - are arms and ammo. The Saudis and UAE both pledged to take over financial support the 'Border Defense Forces'. Saudi and UAE jets have been performing hundreds of anti-ISIS strike missions in Syria for years - they can provide defensive air cover for ground troops without getting too close to Turkish air defenses.

Win-win for Qartet, FUKUS Israel and even Syria and Russia. Not so much for Turkey. The US gets to duck out before the fireworks start with their NATO ally, Turkey. Russia can mostly sit this one out after Idlib. US/Israel get permanent proxy forces in Syria to guard against the imaginary Shia Crescent (Euphrates) and Saudi/UAE can mitigate expansion of Turkish and Iranian influence by giving Assad an alternative. Heck, even France and the UK can drop by to 'help' and weasel their way back into Assad's good graces.

The article focuses on Afrin, but applies to all of SDFistan's borders.

What could possibly go wrong?

The Afrin Factor In Turkey-UAE Relations

Posted by: PavewayIV | Dec 22 2018 17:43 utc | 144

Getting sick and tired of armchair warriors making statements like General Mattis is a coward. Let me tell you something, that old man would beat your behind like a drum.

Posted by: morongobill | Dec 22 2018 17:51 utc | 145

@circe - i don't follow usa politics that closely and don't live in the usa.. thanks for sharing your overview on a mattis replacement..

@145 paveway... thanks for sharing that... i am not sure how that is going to work out if even 1/2 of it is true... either way, i do believe turkey is in a bind and this is just the start of it... see the open thread and virgiles comments for more..

Posted by: james | Dec 22 2018 17:59 utc | 146


You're including Russia and Syria in the lot?

Posted by: Circe | Dec 22 2018 18:12 utc | 147

The US has no friends, it has satrapies, puppets, subordinates, fronts but no friends. The Empire can't afford friends, they're too expensive.

Posted by: William Bowles | Dec 22, 2018 12:30:10 PM | 143

I would quibble. Empire is an elite pursuit, and Britain (more precisely, British elite) enjoys it. Profits are fine, but what about the satisfaction of being near top of the social hierarchy in the whole world? Nothing like Empire to define the hierarchy. So the British have a number of cherished spots, as do Americans. Some participants of that social games are too flamboyant for the more refined tastes of others, like Boris Johnson, Mohammad bin Salman and Donald Trump, but it is very hard to figure out if this is a bug or a feature. In some sense, you are correct, because in social hierarchy some are climbing up, some linger and slide, but there is also feeling of commonality. E.g. killing a peasant is nothing really, killing a greater quantity may be a "matter of concern", killing a member of the club is something else entirely, and Khashoggi was such a member as an important retainer of a very important prince. Thus it was important to look upset.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Dec 22 2018 18:20 utc | 148

I clicked post instead of edit before I could finish.

Why would Syria and Russia sacrifice all the human and financial treasure in Syria only to surrender it all to the Empire and be under its boot? When I was warning everyone here celebrating U.S. withdrawal in Syria not so fast - What does Trump mean by...the next phase of the campaign?, Maria Zarahkova was being interviewed by the press on the news, and ironically questioning the same thing, totally in the dark, and expressing justified cynicism over what that next phase meant. Therefore my conclusion is Russia was out of the loop.

However, I have also in the past few months been questioning Putin's sincerity with Iran and whether he wouldn't sell Iran out to the Zionists.

There's still a part of the puzzle missing here.

Posted by: Circe | Dec 22 2018 18:27 utc | 149

And, just for entertainment value, Israel's latest spin (which curiously omits mention of the Emirates for some reason:

Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia join forces against Iran in Syria
Secret talks reach understandings with Russia that will enable Israel to retain the freedom to attack Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria.

[I doubt the supposed Russian green light for Israel to resume Syrian attacks. And I love the mock horror of 'Israeli officials' at a plan that is intended to prevent the very Points of Certain Doom they list. Emphasis on 'intended' - I give this overall scheme about 50% chance of actually working, and about an 80% chance of unintended blowback. Oh, and 100% chance of de facto U.S. involvement, albeit from across the Iraqi border.]

Behind closed doors, Israeli officials were critical of Trump’s decision. One senior minister called it a “horrifying moral and a bad diplomatic step.”

“The move does not serve Israel’s interests, harms the Kurds, strengthens [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan and will give Iran additional routes through which to send weapons to Syria,” said the minister.

james - 'Saudi/UAE anti-ISIS forces in Syria' never really made sense to me by itself. I wasn't considering the searing hatred the Saudis/UAE have for Turkey/Muslim Brotherhood, or their desire to prevent the Turkish Crescent from rolling in to nothern Syria as much as they want to prevent the Iranian Crescent from rolling in from the east. Logic and reason always fade away when psychopathy shows up to join the party.

Posted by: PavewayIV | Dec 22 2018 18:30 utc | 150

The US is the only country that has been willing to engage in a game of chicken on mutually assured destruction and they are pulling out. Turkey shot down a Russian plane then ducted for cover when Russia brought in a single S-400. Israel engineered the take down of a Russian plane and has not conducted an arial attack since.
The Saudi's and UAE will go the way of Turkey and Israel. According to Magnier, Turkey would prefer to see Syria take control of the the Kurds.
With the Israel takedown of the Russian plane and its fallout (S-300 in numbers and Russia stating it has personnel with every SAA and Iranian unit), and the Khashoggi killing and its fallout, Trump's plans for the region are shot to pieces, hence the sudden decision to pull out of the hole called northeast Syria rather than keep digging.
I think he will try and come at Iran from a different angle, but now its a matter of waiting until that angle or plan starts to take shape on the ground.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Dec 22 2018 18:31 utc | 151

Circe, PavewayIV

Your theories sound right to me.

But can Arabs and Kurds hold eastern Syria against SAA with Russian air support? Seems to me that USA would likely have to provide some support (SF, "advisors", and air support) for Eastern Syria after pulling out US "troops on the ground".

I wrote a few days ago about the possibility of a declaration of independence for Eastern Syria or Eastern Syria + Iraq's Anbar province. Such a state, recognized by a bunch of UN members states, would allow for US to create a No-Fly Zone (NFZ) with some degree of legality. But maybe they don't feel the need for such legality. After all, In August USA issued a threat to bomb Syria if Idlib was attacked for any reason.

Will Turkey continue to hold Idlib, Afrin? Will they now get Manjib also? Or will they transfer Jihadis to Eastern Syria? I would think Turkey wants to retain Idlib+Afrin+Manjib.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Dec 22 2018 18:35 utc | 152

I was thinking almost the same thing, that they'd try to impose a no-fly zone. However, it can't be done without China and Russia.

Also, for Paveway IV, last I checked Turkey is still in NATO, so KSA can't attack Turkey without triggering Article 5.

Posted by: Circe | Dec 22 2018 18:52 utc | 153

@152 paveway... the lobelog article @145 is essentially a hit piece on turkey written up off uae money as i see it! i agree with you - ksa/uae anti isis is quite a joke... isis, aside from having support from the usa and west, is a made in ksa/uae outfit for the most part... erdogan thought it would be okay to allow isis to pass thru it's borders as well in the hopes of screwing syria... when it comes right down to it, erdogan is bright, but not that bright... in the final analysis - ksa/uae and their actions in yemen speak of their interests in trying to grab and screw their neighbours, even if they have someone at lobelog who is willing to write flattering pieces on them...

i really agree @153 peter au... it is hard not to see it exactly that way... s-300s and no bullshit from any of these players wanting to screw syria..

@154 jr.. that wouldn't surprise me, but i don't think it is going to fly, not the least with syria, russia, iran or iraq.. the desire on the part of the west, including israel, to use the kurds as a means of taking territory from syria or iraq has not worked to date... iraq shut that down and kudos to them... they could try in syria, but i honestly believe the kurds are too divided to be able to agree to anything... they have shown themselves to put a gun to their foot regularly.. that means they might try this, but it can't work for all the same reasons that other countries dictating the terms on syria can't work.. thanks for your comments!

Posted by: james | Dec 22 2018 19:45 utc | 154

Here's a Mayfair/Mayberry Machiavelli scenario: Mattis retires in order to lend verisimilitude to the withdrawal feint in Northeast Syria, actually in order to resume active service leading NATO war on Iran.

Posted by: NOBTS | Dec 22 2018 19:45 utc | 155

Here's a Mayfair/Mayberry Machiavelli scenario: Mattis retires in order to lend verisimilitude to the withdrawal feint in Northeast Syria, actually in order to resume active service leading NATO war on Iran.

Posted by: NOBTS | Dec 22 2018 19:46 utc | 156

If the Saudis, Jordan, the Emirates, and Israel (in some supporting role no doubt) are replacing US troops in Syria then Trumps hoped for "let the locals take care of this" policy is working out for him. What will the Shiites in Iraq think of this new Sunni coalition of the willing?

It is speculated that ISIL will rise again in Iraq as the Shiites are taking revenge on the Sunnis...

Clearly the next conflict is being lined up along the same old religious and political lines and its going to be another bloodbath for the region with only one country really gaining anything out of this. They are in a great position to continue feeding weapons into the hands of their ISIL buddies in Iraq.

Now we know what will be done with all that hardware the Saudis has bought from us over the years. Is another Yemen on the table?

Who will be providing the pilots for their air wing? Bolton has been quiet about this so I am sure their "religious advisors" (striking the references to the fake Semites for personal safety) in the White House are quite happy with this arrangement.

We will see how Putin, Erdogan, and the Mullahs handles this one. Will they throw a spanner into the plan?

What a flipping disgusting mess.

Posted by: dltravers | Dec 22 2018 19:49 utc | 157

Tigers Forces are on the move towards DEZ, Hajjin Pocket and Hasaka while there are already reports US obs posts around Manbij are folding. Things are moving fast and I trust the SAA will fill the void. KSAs pseudo "anti-terror coalition" is just empty talk, they wont stop a T-90 equipped Armored Brigade with air cover. The jig is up..

Posted by: Lozion | Dec 22 2018 19:52 utc | 158

I'm going with Grieved on the "geopolitical milestone" aspect of this. I think the timing is good for a US perception of oneupmanship, if that is actually the case. We are sick of war over here, we really are. Especially of the wars of our making ('our' being what passes for government in the US these days.)

I think that one thing Trump learned from Putin was this: wait for the appropriate moment and then strike while the iron is hot, diplomatically speaking. That is what happened when Syria took up the idea of cancelling out its chemical weapons at Kerry's suggestion - this reminds me of that, and also the first moves toward meetings with both Kim and Putin made by Trump. These actions, no matter the follow-up, have changed history. Timing is what it is all about.

And I'll go with karlof1 on Michael Moore. Unfortunately he slid into the Obama camp like so many other Bush opponents. Lost me then.

And oh yes, Green New Deal. I voted for that. (Just thought I would throw that in - yes, I know this one's 'different'. Mine was better, though!)

Posted by: juliania | Dec 22 2018 20:02 utc | 159

on the other hand, the uae doesn't completely run lobelog, lol.. the uae has a huge amount of money to throw around..

Posted by: james | Dec 22 2018 20:06 utc | 160

And the winter cleaning spree goes on. Smug Brett McGurk is not only getting the hell out of Syria, but resigning as well.

Posted by: Clueless Joe | Dec 22 2018 20:49 utc | 161

Here's a Mayfair/Mayberry Machiavelli scenario: Mattis retires in order to lend verisimilitude to the withdrawal feint in Northeast Syria, actually in order to resume active service leading NATO war on Iran.

Posted by: NOBTS | Dec 22, 2018 2:45:54 PM | 157

I have also thought of a similar play, taking into account the last treacherous play on hijacking Huawei CFO while playing the nice in front of the Chinese at G20....and the arrival of an US carrier in the Persian Gulf...

Posted by: Sasha | Dec 22 2018 21:18 utc | 162

NOBTS, Sasha: withdrawal feint ... arrival of an US carrier in the Persian Gulf

On a previous thread I commented:

Virtue signaling before FF?

Bipartisan panel: US must prepare for “horrendous,” “devastating” war with Russia and China has an interesting comment from Paul Carline:

Reminds me eerily of the PNAC letter to Clinton of 2000 which also argued for a massive increase in military spending (purely for ‘defense’ of course) … and, as is well known, the letter concluded that the public would very likely not support the allegedly necessary increase “absent a catalyzing event – such as a New Pearl Harbour”.

We all know what happened next. Of course, that “catalyzing event” had already been long in the planning and was almost ready to roll out when the PNAC group of predominantly dual American-Israeli citizenship holders penned their letter.

That's why I wrote (above):
Stennis Xmas dinner main course: sitting duck?

Stennis Xmas dinner dessert: "Next phase" chocolate moose?

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Dec 22 2018 21:52 utc | 163


I flew over your post yesterday, and now want to backtrack to it.

Yes, U.S. imperial forces are leaving Syria and gathering steam to go after Iran, BUT, the Empire hasn't been defeated in Syria YET. Now that Syria, Russsia and Iran are somewhat wasted from chasing all stripes of Saudi Wahhabi mercenaries, Trump is consciously, intentionally letting loose U.S. ME proxies on Syria. He's been planning this with MbS for months. If U.S. proxies: KSA, UAE, Jordan and Israel are plotting to take over Syria, then this isn't a done deal for Russia, Syria and Iran, IS IT?

The Empire is determined to obliterate any challenge to its absolute power in the ME through its proxies and determined to check Russia's strategic geopolitical footprint and stop China's bullish economic momentum. The Empire will not tolerate balance of power anywhere on this planet. Take that to the bank and cash it, and Trump is enforcing that global absolutism and tyranny on point and many of you here have been cheering him on from the side.

Erdogan has been so stupid all along, first protecting ISIS supply routes. Now, Turkey is saddled with Syrian refugees and he has an army of Kurds on the border fortified by U.S. training and weapons. This is a U.S. end-run on Article 5, and so was the attempted coup. NATO should give up the pretence that it's protecting Turkey when in fact it only milks its strategic location. Who's gonna fire the first round on Turkey? That should trigger Article 5 and wouldn't Fukus be legally obligated to defend it according to NATO treaty obligations? This is a complex stand off in the making, but the proxies will gather and we'll see which side the Kurds end up on. The U.S. is deliberately using th Kurds to weaken Turkey and they're warning FSA and SMDK to stay away from the dance floor in support of Turkey. Who's sorry now Erdo?

What would you do if you were Putin to checkmark the Empire and put a kibosh on this shet parade aside from triggering WWIII? The Kurds have gotten greedy with all that imperial empowerment. Not sure what the Empire promised them but the price tag is the usual...massive destruction.

Posted by: Circe | Dec 22 2018 22:03 utc | 164 checkmate the Empire.

Posted by: Circe | Dec 22 2018 22:07 utc | 165

What I find strange about Trump's pullout announcement

Four months ago, USA threatened to bomb Syria if SAA attacked Idlib for any reason. This went a long way to allowing Turkey to remain in Idlib. But if USA leaves the Northeastern Syria - absent some sleight-of-hand like a US No-Fly Zone (NFZ) - it seems that Turkey would be more likely to be forced out of Idlib.

Has Erdogan decided to leave Idlib, Afrin and it's claims to Manjib? I would be surprised if that's true.

Yet we are told that Erdogan urged Trump to leave Northeastern Syria, telling Trump that ISIS is defeated. Was ISIS' "defeat" kept from Trump - just as the arrest of Meng was said to be kept from him?

I tend to thing that Trump is part of a team that manipulates public opinion, and is not himself a target of manipulation. Could it be that he didn't know that USA was not really fighting against ISIS contingents that remained in Eastern Syria?

Lastly, why leave Syria while tensions with Russian are still high? I've always thought that Ukraine, Syria, and sanctions would be "solved" only when there is a global resolution that integrates Russia into the West as a full partner.

Thats why a hand-off and NFZ makes sense to me; or a FF that provides a reason to double-down region-wide.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Dec 22 2018 22:27 utc | 166


Erdogan has been so stupid all along, first protecting ISIS supply routes.... the attempted coup.... U.S. is deliberately using th Kurds to weaken Turkey ...

ISIS (along with other 'Assad must go!' forces) nearly toppled Assad and Erdogan and/or family members made a lot of money from the oil smuggling.

The 'attempted coup' actually helped Erdogan to grow his power (Erdogan even called it a "gift from God"). It worked out so well for Erdogan and USA that I tend to believe that the coup was staged.

Dictators need an enemy. In that regard, Erdogan benefits from antagonism with Kurds. And USA was able to get close to the Kurds based on US-Turk fall-out after the (staged?) attempted coup.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Dec 22 2018 22:46 utc | 167

Here's an interesting article on Turkey's strategic situation.


The Kurds are pawns for the Empire, and thanks to Erdo's bad judgment at the start playing right into the Empire's scheme, so is Turkey. Turkey could be kingbreaker or pawn. All Erdogan needs is a little help; some visionary thinking. No, definitely not from Trump who has the worst intentions.

If only Putin was thinking: SCROO-YOU, when he did the MbS bro-shake.

Posted by: Circe | Dec 22 2018 23:04 utc | 168


You bring up some interesting points, but I'm not buying that Trump is taking U.S.forces out because Erdogan asked him to.

You know there is a bitter rivalry between Turkey and KSA/UAE. Trump risked covering MbS's butt in the Khashoggi affair, so we know who Trump wants as the Arab proxy ruler in the region. Erdogan has very lofty ambitions to diminish Wahhabi power in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood. Trump is not with the MB team.

The U.S. gained Kurdish trust in more ways than only as a consequence of the attempted coup. I really think Trump got U.S. forces out so as to wash his hands while Erdogan loses ground to the Kurds who are armed with U.S. weaponry and will be shouldered by their new-found protectors, and U.S. proxy, the Saudi forces that are replacing U.S. forces there. This way, the U.S. is out of the theater of potential battle where a supposed NATO member will engage an enemy who is really also a U.S. proxy. The U.S. cannot be seen as protecting and assisting a force that another NATO member views as a threat. So instead, to ensure the geopolitical goal, Trump asked MbS to send in forces in essence to be its proxy in that theater of battle, if and when Erdogan carries out his threat to attack the Kurds.

Posted by: Circe | Dec 22 2018 23:56 utc | 169

Circe: I'm not buying that Trump is taking U.S.forces out because Erdogan asked him to.

Neither am I. But I don't think USA would use Kurds against Turkey either. For example, it's been reported that Turkey will buy US anti-missile defense instead of Russian. That hints at a closer USA-Turk relationship - assuming the distancing wasn't fake to begin with.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Dec 23 2018 0:05 utc | 170

@ Rhisiart Gwilym | Dec 22, 2018 3:45:20 AM | 105

“Maybe the F22 and F35 can never be used against any opponent who can fight back, lest they be unmasked as purely worthless boondoggles.”

The F-35 will most likely go down in aviation history as the most worthless boondoggle of all time, but the F-22 is, was and remains one of the most capable fighters ever put into the air, by anyone.

Posted by: AntiSpin | Dec 23 2018 0:18 utc | 171

@ Antispin 173
The F-35 will most likely go down in aviation history as the most worthless boondoggle of all time
Roger that.
>The F-35 is still in development after 17 years.
>Lockheed Martin has manufactured about 300 useless faulty prototypes.
>We don't know what they each cost, but looking at foreign sales it's circa $200 million.
>The project has given up using contracts for manufacturing planes.
>Most of these prototypes are parked in 24-plane "training squadrons" in Arizona.
>Finally initial operational test and evaluation is underway.
>It's taken the project this long to obtain 23 planes for IOT&E.
>The aircraft comes in three different models for Air Force, Navy and Marines.
>The design of all the models is compromised by the necessity of a vertical fan in the Marine model.
>So the fat one-engine F-35 is no good at ground support, air combat or long range bombing.
>The F-35 hoorah chorus only touts its ability at "sensor fusion."
>On the plus side, F-35 has been very profitable for Lockheed Martin.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 23 2018 0:48 utc | 172

Trump's position on Syria and Afghanistan was known long ago, and after a speed bump (of pleasing generals) he's back on course.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 23 2018 0:52 utc | 173

reply to:Don Bacon 175
"Trump's position on Syria and Afghanistan was known long ago, and after a speed bump (of pleasing generals) he's back on course."
Trump said early-on that he was giving the military over to the generals. Now, time's up, they accomplished nothing and we are out.
What is important to Trump? His legacy.
He wants to be remembered as the next Roosevelt and he is damned if he is going to go back on any of his Campaign promises.
Speaking of which, the 2020 campaign is about to kick off and Trump will point to a number of his promises being kept:
out of Syria, check.
out of Afghanistan, working on it.
renegotiate NAFTA, check.
increase employment, check.
return manufacturing, check.
negotiate with NK, check.
take on Iran politically, check.
cut taxes, check.
And I see in fairly short order during 2019:
negotiate a settlement in Israel
a US healthcare plan
he WILL get his wall
reduced military budget
he will probably replace the head of the Fed

He knows the unipolar world is gone,that is why he is trying to pull everything back to the US. He is from the same cloth as Coolidge,"The business of America is business." He is not everyone's cut of tea by a long shot but he is smart,ruthless,highly motivated and no one should sell him short.
This upcoming campaign will be one to remember:)

Posted by: frances | Dec 23 2018 2:41 utc | 174

“I think the relationship between the Trump administration and most pro-Israel groups has been complicated by this,” Alan Dershowitz, a former Harvard Law professor and Israel advocate, told The Times of Israel.

Posted by: dh | Dec 23 2018 2:55 utc | 175

@ frances 176
Yes, after being elected president one must act presidential. There are no other elections that count, most of the other electees being soon bought out, and also presidents like Obama tied to the Democratic Leadership Council. Trump can't be bought, which makes him different from other presidents.
Bottom line: Syria and Afghanistan mean nothing to US national security. Trump gets it.
Hate him as a man, love him as a president. War is the scourge of mankind and so let's stop it.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Dec 23 2018 3:09 utc | 176

@ Don Bacon who wrote: "Trump can't be bought, which makes him different from other presidents. "

Trump had been through bankruptcy 3 times and will likely execute a US bankruptcy before he is out of office. If it is not quite obvious he is Apprenticing to be a global oligarch/plutocrat/dictator with his geo-political grifting for the God of Mammon religion.

Do you really believe that the elite, including Trump, would stop war because it is the scourge of mankind you write of and not because of MAD?

Trump is doing things that you and frances see as proof of Trump's good intentions and others see his moves as orchestrated Shock Doctrine on the US

Are you blinded by faith? Tell me some positive personal qualities that Donald Trump exemplifies. To me he personifies sick Might-Makes-Right patriarchy.....a bully misogynist grifter.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Dec 23 2018 3:51 utc | 177

@179 psychohistorian.. are you so blinded by your hatred of trump, that you can't see the fact he dropped this syria war agenda as a positive? it sounds like it... and i agree with @176 frances and don in general... for all of trumps faults, it is worth acknowledging what he is doing here... now, and this is a big if -if this is just smoke and mirrors and was a game to do something more outrageous, i will take it all back.. but on the face of it, it seems very positive..

here is irrussianalitys post - the peace president, which some might find worth reading..

Posted by: james | Dec 23 2018 4:08 utc | 178

For those who think "This time it's different!"

The aggressive, undemocratic nature of USA has been evident for a long time now:

- "Populist" Obama pretended to be for the people and for peace;

- It's virtually impossible to elect a true populist in USA;

- Kissinger, who is admired and respected by establishment figures like the Clintons and McCain (before he died), called for MAGA in 2014 before Trump ran for office;

- The "Russia influence" investigation was/is bogus and those investigating almost certainly knew it was bogus all along. The FBI had an informant that was working for Trump for over a decade (during Mueller's tenure as Director);

- Hillary ran a terrible campaign that was almost designed to lose - a large number of progressives and blacks didn't bother voting, and her disdain for white conservatives energized that vote for Trump;

- Trump nominated Gina Haspel as CIA Director - is close to Brennan who is (at least publicly) a leader of the anti-Trump opposition.

Trump's business history demonstrates a remarkable willingness and ability to deceive others and many of his campaign promises have already been broken:
- prosecute Hillary? No;

- Leave Syria and let Russia take care of ISIS? No. He bombed Syria twice and threatened to bomb again if Idlib was attacked by SAA, and occupied large parts of Syria (to this day);

- Have Mexico pay for the Wall? No. He's seeking $5 billion from Congress for the Wall;

- Abolish Obamacare on day 1? Nope.

- Drain the swamp? Most people say he hasn't.

As for his skills as a peacemaker, there is reason to worry:
- He bragged of serving chocolate cake to Xi as he was bombing Syria (the first time);

- He is once again at odds with North Korea;

- He said that he wanted to leave Syria on April 3 2018, but after (another!) false flag on April 8th, he fired more missiles at Syria on April 14th.

Given the above: 1) Trump is not a true populist; 2) he's likely working WITH the establishment/Deep State; 3) It is wise to be skeptical about anything he does, especially wrt foreign affairs.

There are many who will cheer ANY movement that might seem to be in the right direction. But those who understand the points above know to look for signs of posturing. Trump NEEDED Mattis to resign to give real weight to his pulling out troops in Syria and Afghanistan. Once again (as after the Summit with NK), Trump appears to be a peacemaker. Only time will tell if that is real or another head fake.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Dec 23 2018 5:25 utc | 179

@ james that says I am blinded by Trump hatred.

Not true. I am blinded by hatred of the God of Mammon only.

I simple refuse to buy into the better than the alternative BS. Do you really believe that Trump will kill less humans than Hillary would have while as US President? They are both God of Mammon acolytes, IMO.

Trump is selling one of the elite futures and while aspects of it may CURRENTLY look positive on some levels. I encourage folks to look at what he has already done to eviscerate needed regulatory government.

This fawning over the current optics of what Trump has accomplished is myopic, way to early to measure actual results and in no way is reflective of the anti-humanitarian shit that Trump has already done in his life.

If anything I like Trump in that he reflects to the world most of the bad aspects of the elite that own the God of Mammon religion. Hillary, as a "woman", would have further clouded those optics just like Obama did as Uncle Tom.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Dec 23 2018 5:45 utc | 180

Let me take my thoughts a bit further.

The God of Mammon elite don't care about war for war's sake but for control and power consolidation sake.

If they think that there is some way they can maintain control without war of some sort, they will move in that direction but that is not what we are seeing. What we are seeing are ongoing proxy wars around religious myth and history under the auspices of R2P.....and that is not talking about the financial R2P going on under the covers.

China/Russia and other nations are challenging the God of Mammon based social order of the West and the West has no response except assertion of ongoing primacy or ???? (Trump bullying basically)

I am happy to see this confrontation occur in my lifetime and others can see it happening from their perspective as long as I get to see and convey mine....and time will show us which perspective was most accurate.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Dec 23 2018 6:08 utc | 181

dltravers@159 -

"What will the Shiites in Iraq think of this new Sunni coalition of the willing?"

The Iraqi PMUs know better than to trust anything Saudi/UAE, but have to sit back for now and see how this unfolds. The Iraq AF has already carried out anti-ISIS airstrikes across the border in Syria (with Assad's consent, without CENTCOM consent). They're probably looking at the Saudi/UAE presence as a laugh, potentially useful if they help clear out ISIS, or a potential threat if the Saudis/UAE covertly support their Syrian ISIS/al Qaeda pals.

Between the Tigers and Iraq AF/PMUs, that kind of threat will be neutralized quickly regardless of uniform. The Saudis/UAE may actually behave in Syria, but they're still just more uninvited temps. They'll be tolerated if they actually help with stability efforts, but booted out by the locals (at gunpoint) if they, instead, become a pain in the ass. They're not U.S. forces so the bar is far lower for tolerating any nonsense.

It is speculated that ISIL will rise again in Iraq as the Shiites are taking revenge on the Sunnis... IMHO, that already happened (both ISIS and al Qaeda) and mostly failed. The core of the original Iraqi head-choppers were pissed off ex-Sadam Baathist military. The worst of them are under the sand by now, and the stragglers relegated to isolated terrorist actions.

The 'regular, everyday' Sunni in Iraq are not and generally have not been targets for Shia revenge. Torment seems reserved for villages/individuals in the thick of things. I hope the Shia are not going overboard, but who knows. Seems most Iraqis today just want a functional economy, infrastructure and jobs (which the corrupt, inept Iraqi government has largely failed to deliver so far). Shia-domination is unfortunate because that creates a power vacuum among the disenfranchised Sunni and the breeding ground for new extremists. I think the Shia are aware of that.

I admire the persistence among some Iraqi leaders to fix/rebuild their government/country despite the issues. It seems (IMHO) that a few good people are trying hard to keep reforms moving in the right direction, albeit at a snail's pace. That may not be fast enough - I don't know. The tools are there to build a secular, uncorrupted government, but there are plenty of forces at play with 'other' agendas. All I can do is wish them the best - there's years and years of extra baggage the current government doesn't need.

If Iraq ultimately ends up with a new permanent psychopathic Shia-dominated, priviledged ruling class-led oppressive government, then I'll go with your observation. In fact, that was the CIA's original destabilizing plan - putting in a corrupt, psychopathic Sunni-hater Payback Maliki to ensure a Sunni-extremist Anbar. I'm hoping today the Shia didn't forget what it was like for them under Saddam and move towards an inclusive, fair, non-corrupt government. And fix the damn roads!

In any case, neither the Iraqis nor the SAA will tolerate any Wahhabistan straddling Syria and Iran. That's not going to happen. The Saudis/UAE will eventually be invited out of the south once fully de-head-chopper-ized. They'll want to stay in albu Kamal, but Syria won't approve. The Saudis/UAE will never be able to control the oilfields like the US and proxies could. I would think they would gravitate north (perhaps with a little SAA encouragement) and try to make themselves useful fighting any invading Turks.

Posted by: PavewayIV | Dec 23 2018 6:42 utc | 182

@176 Frances

out of Syria, check.(U.S. out-- U.S. proxies KSA on the way and Israel plotting to fill vacuum-same difference)
out of Afghanistan, working on it. (I won't hold my breath.)
renegotiate NAFTA, check. (Side effects pending)
increase employment, check. (not really increased-watch for next report)
return manufacturing, check. (GM closing plants, Harley moving out, and ClosuresLayoffs USA Today
negotiate with NK, check. (Wrong NK officials are fed up with Trump's bad cops Bolton and Pompeo)
take on Iran politically, check. (are you kidding?)
cut taxes, check. (for millionaires and the 1%)
And I see in fairly short order during 2019:
negotiate a settlement in Israel (ain't happening with Palestinians)
a US healthcare plan (No. Dems will push amendments to make Obamacare better with a majority in the house)
he WILL get his wall. Not with Dems in the majority
reduced military budget (He'll never do that- Only as last resort to fund wall, but Dems might fight that move.)
he will probably replace the head of the Fed (I'll give you that one, cause his ego will shatter if he doesn't)

Posted by: Circe | Dec 23 2018 7:25 utc | 183

On thinking about the calling off of the Idlib offensive - judging by the Russian reaction at the time, Trump US would have attacked the SAA, no matter Russian backing, if the Idlib offensive went ahead. This makes a lie of my earlier comment on Trump not playing a game of chicken with mutually assured destruction.
I think it was karlof1 in the previous thread comment that apart from MBS, Putin may be the only one to know Khashoggi was to be killed before the event. Between Russia, Turkey, Iran and their intelligence agencies they would have known that if Khashoggi were enticed into the right place it would happen. They would also know that the fallout from the killing would be damaging to Trump and his plans for the region if handled correctly. I am sure Erdogan knew Khashoggi's fate before hand as well, working with anti Trump factions in the US to set it up.
That was my thought at the time when b posted a number of pieces on it and is now. At the time of Trump's or the Trump admins threats on the Idlib offensive, and also with his backing of MBS after the killing, I thought he was as crazy as Clinton, but with the bonus of setting the US against itself. I guess I would have voted for Trump on that account - that is if the vassal states were to gain universal suffrage in voting for their emperor.
Trump has a thing with Israel and its enemies of choice. He is genuine about wanting to MAGA, and most things he campaigned on. He is not a nice person or a philanthropist do gooder that is just interested in a better world.
In Syria and his pullout Trump is a realist. He hasn't been bluffed, but realises he is in check by his opponents Russia Iran Turkey, and must move his pieces or have them taken off the geo-political chessboard. So perhaps not as crazy as Clinton.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Dec 23 2018 7:49 utc | 184

Circe@149 Re: "...Including Russia and Syria in the lot?..." Yes. Russia and Syria both benefit by having the crazy man go bother someone else. That leaves a power vacuum in southeast Syria with a few evil types eyeing the potential spoils, plus that left-over ISIS pocket south of Hajin. Now I don't expect much from the mercs the Saudis and UAE send over, but their presence temporarily limits any potential head-chopper escape to Iraq.

Tigers will drop by to do the heavy work of killing the supposed 2000+ ISIS still hanging around the pocket. Maybe even get some Saudi/UAE air support if they cooperate with Syria like they claim they will. That frees Russian jets to concentrate on Idlib. I know... *if* *maybe*. CENTCOM has stopped paying the southeast tribal fighters in the SDF (or Border Security Forces... whatever). If the Saudis/UAE are now paying them, then they're less likely to go black and chop heads just to earn a paycheck. That's something, I guess.

The SDF doesn't lose air cover, it will just be almost exclusively Saudi/UAE jets - with mystery pilots. The US may even still be there in the air - they're technically not 'in' Syria - they're in Qatar and Abu Dhabi. That relieves some pressure on Assad/Russia if Erdogan chimps out and attacks the Kurds in eastern Syria. Assad won't object to anybody helping repel the invaders by blowing them away. Erdogan already hates UAE and the Saudis, so it will be fun for him to mix it up with them.

Again, this is one less thing Putin and Assad will have to worry about when they're taking care of Idlib. I dare say it will be far easier to boot out the Saudis/UAE from Syrian territory (vs. the US) after they do their little job and help the Kurds repel the Turks. Their hope of gaining a permanent foothold in eastern Syria is a fantasy. The Kurds and Arab tribes will turn on them the second they stop paying them. I think they'll be happy leaving behind some kind of Arab tribal anti-Shia-Crescent border guards (and a few spies). That, of course, will do nothing to stop Iranian/Iraqi/Syrian commercial traffic. If it does... Tigers.

For Syria and Russia, the calculus has to be that they can temporarily concentrate on more pressing fronts. Later on, it will be much easier to reclaim northeast and east Syria and the oil wells if US troops are not squatting there and the Kurds can be convinced to join the SAA.

Erdo might even be happy and not attack if Syria beefs up their side of the border. Erdo hates the PKK/YPJ/YPG terrorizing Turkey and running back and forth across the border to do it. He might be able to tolerate the ones in Syria if they were well-contained in Syria and couldn't get into Turkey. Assad could arrange that, and the Kurds couldn't really object. There's the old issue of half the Rojava Kurds being stateless and not having any Syrian IDs or passports. If Assad wants to integrate them and appease Erdogan, then Assad is going to have to make all the Rojava Kurds legal residents and citizens.

Erdogan will attack if he sees no other option, but I think he would rather be presented with an acceptable alternative (like impenetrable borders and documentation of all Syrian Kurds). Hard to say though - he might be relishing taking a whack at his Saudi/UAE enemies to bloody them up a bit.

Again, I'm using a lot of qualifiers on purpose. *might* *could* - but then the appearance of Saudi/UAE forces and their supposed mission is kind of wishful thinking, too. It's so damn crazy that it just might work!

Posted by: PavewayIV | Dec 23 2018 7:51 utc | 185

PavewayIV 187
Very interesting comment, much of it similar to my thoughts - though on the Saudi moving into Syria part, I think if they did, they would be like a Louie the fly being hit with a squirt of mortein.

Louie the fly.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Dec 23 2018 8:11 utc | 186

Piotr Berman | Dec 22, 2018 1:20:01 PM | 150

Piotr: So you think the UK is the US' friend do you? The UK has been in debt to the US since WWII. Yes, it is an imperialist state, like France, Germany and 4 others but its mantle of empire slipped off decades ago. It may have pretensions to being an 'equal partner' but even our much vaunted nuclear arsenal, has the US's finger on the button, not the UK's. All is smoke and mirrors.

Posted by: William Bowles | Dec 23 2018 8:47 utc | 187

As a result of accidental strategic genius move by USA, Russia will fail to make an equally strategic move to withdraw, and will be tied to sandpit squabblings for oil, unable to pass this tactical opportunity.

Meanwhile, it will get attacked from its behind.

No agreement with Israel, for unresolved IL 20.

Posted by: Karlos DJX | Dec 23 2018 10:54 utc | 188

Peter AU 1@188 - They're already there at the U.S. bases AFIK, Peter. Probably not many Saudi ground troops - just a few officers and some Sudanese Janjaweed mercs. And just like in Yemen, troops directed by the UAE (the Arab tribal merc armies the US has been training) will make up most of 'their' ground forces. Saudi and UAE officers/troops don't seem to care to get too close to the action, at least judging by Yemen. They'll call in airstrikes on ISIS in Syria (or on invading Turkish troops) from their air conditioned trailers safely in the rear.

Posted by: PavewayIV | Dec 23 2018 14:23 utc | 189

@191 Sudanese mercs? Bachir just visited Damascus. I usually agree with your insight but not this time. Call me too optimistic but Magniers views that Turkey's pressure on the US (via Kashoggi affair and more) to choose between the SDF and its NATO "ally", added to Russia's S-300 deployment (rumors of a battery already in DEZ) created the conditions for a US Honorable Discharge, so to speak. The YPG will have to fold into the SAA and soon that yellow map area will flip to orange, according to a well thought out strategy between Damascus, Ankara and Moscow. The GCC has been outwitted..

Posted by: Lozion | Dec 23 2018 17:37 utc | 190

@181 jr.... i hear what you are saying, but i view trump and erdogan in different ways and don't think they are cut from the same cloth.. like i say - might be too early to say much definitively here, but it looks positive on the surface.. and i don't think trump is as cunning or manipulative as erdogan fwiw..

@182/183 pyschohistorian... thanks..i agree with much of what you say @182. i wanted to challenge you, so i used some stronger words... trump isn't any different then your usual kleptomaniac businessmen whose sole focus is himself... i will give you that.. and yeah, he would allow the killing of innocent people to continue too, but i thought this temporary - and i don't know how temporary it is - moment of sanity, was worth acknowledging.. trump has done a few things in an unusual way - connecting with the north korean leader is one of them.. but here i think he has done better.. i realize it is probably too early to solidify my position on him, but it looks promising here.

but, i want to challenge you again on the concept that the usa or trump is serving the god of mammon and that china or russia aren't... it seems like they are all honouring the god of mammon.. maybe that is not your position and you are just seeing how the west responds to it's position here from the usurps russia and china... it seems to me we might be seeing the end of the planet.. serving the economy and screwing the environment can only go on for so long... thanks for your comments..

@186 peter au... trump was a better choice then clinton.. i thought that too, but dam the folks in the usa are really being screwed with the choices!

paveway - thanks for your informative, thought provoking comments... my take is erdogan is not that crazy and he won't risk much...

Posted by: james | Dec 23 2018 17:50 utc | 191

@192 lozion... seeing your post after i posted mine... gcc are on the losing end of the stick for sure... i hope at some point the same thing happens for them in yemen too, wahabbi nut jobs that they all are...

Posted by: james | Dec 23 2018 17:52 utc | 192

Green New Deal? What a fester-heap of liar nonsense that is. It's just the same old socialist con game as ever. Make lots of lofty sounding appeals and promises, get into power, expropriate and spend other people's money, force central planning down everyone's throats, empower the commissars, monitor and control every aspect of everybody's lives.... Talk about greed and violence. This GND has it all.

It is amazing that after well over a century and many tens of millions of human murders (not to mention mass impoverishment, loss of life-style, loss of future potential and hope, elimination of savings, wrecking of advancement, elimination of families, destruction of culture, unmentionable tortures, forced acceptance of known lies as a way of life, vandalism of the very environment itself, wrecking everything it touches, violence, force, control, destruction and on and on it goes) this collectivist mumbo-jumbo continues to reappear in one form or another and (incredibly) there are seemingly always fools who still believe in it.

IPCC report- try reading it. Read what the climate scientists are actually reporting. Compare their reports with the conclusions in the summary written for politicians and policymakers. Clue: the latter is not supported by the former. The document is schizophrenic! It does not justify or validate a GND.

Fact- the climate is not heating up. It is cooling and that is not being caused by the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide. It is caused by the sun.

Fact- the New Deal was a disaster for the USA. It set the nation onto its present path of welfare/warfare socialist state.

A second new deal (this time a "green" one) will send the nation sliding further down the path of authoritarian central control complete with a new slavery, personal impoverishment (economic, cultural, community, family, innovation, education and the all of it) and perdition. Oh well, perhaps North Americans need a taste (perhaps as much as 70 years) of socialism to learn exactly what socialism actually is. Then again, perhaps they would be too foolish to learn even then.

If this Green New Deal central planning authoritarian abortion is in the future for the USA one can but hope it stays within the borders of said USA. No-one else deserves to have it thrust upon them.

Posted by: Siotu | Dec 23 2018 18:59 utc | 193

Excellent up date b. congrats.

Posted by: Canthama | Dec 23 2018 19:45 utc | 194

@ james with his question to me about China and Russia being active members of the God of Mammon religion

Let me first provide a definition of religion I came across recently that will work for my purposes

Philosopher Daniel Dennett: “Social systems whose participants avow belief in a supernatural agent or agents whose approval is to be sought.” Of course many religions don’t fit that definition, but the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam fill the does, IMO the God of Mammon religion

China and I believe Russia do not meet the criteria for membership in the God of Mammon even as they are currently forced to live under its umbrella.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Dec 23 2018 20:35 utc | 195

When, whatever the Ukrainians and NATO are brewing in the Black Sea or Donbass, finally breaks, where do you think Turkey, the nimble neutral, will stand? And when Russia has it's concentration focused on another theatre, the wily Ottoman will make inroads in Syria. Erdogan has already strengthened military ties with Ukraine, and refuses to recognize the incorporation of Crimea into the Russian Federation. In addition, he often makes noises about the Tartar minority, and his relationship with Islamists is ambiguous. Putin must know that Turkey is not to be relied upon to remain even nominally neutral, but will side with the highest bidder. I expect that Russia's wrath will be swift and terrible.

Posted by: SPYRIDON POLITIS | Dec 23 2018 20:36 utc | 196

@ james
Don Bacon's comment earlier in the thread was that Trump couldn't be bought. I think that is right but would put it a different way.
Trump all his life has been the one in charge, giving out orders rather than taking them. He has never been a ladder climber in a system.
I think now that as Mattis is his main man on military matters, along with domestic problem Mattis also convinced Trump it was a good idea to stay in Syria to block Iran and to further Trumps plans against Iran. Through that time I thought Trump had pretty much folded and was just going with the flow, but this announcement on pulling out of Syria, which I think is genuine, changes that (the anti Trump crowd will try to sabotage the pullout in any way possible so have to wait and see if Trump can actualy pull it off.
Trump has plenty of faults and like I posted earlier, I think he will try comming at Iran from a different angle, but the good thing is, he is still his own man, the head honcho that gives orders rather than taking them. I guess somebody like Trump at the age of seventy or so wont change what they have been all their life.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Dec 23 2018 20:54 utc | 197

more of this ignorant anti science stuff--no, climate change is not a hoax. where do you people get this stuff?? oh right, from fossil fuel company propaganda. why do you believe it?

Posted by: pretzelattack | Dec 23 2018 21:21 utc | 198

Peter AU 1: Trump couldn't be bought ... still his own man

This implies an integrity that is not consistent with Trump's business history, his incessant social climbing, and his ego.

Further to the point, Trump has vastly overstated his worth (Trump says $10 billion vs. estimates of well under $2 billion - some have questioned if he is even a billionaire), and Trump Foundation Will Dissolve, Accused of ‘Shocking Pattern of Illegality’:

The Donald J. Trump Foundation, once billed as the charitable arm of the president’s financial empire, agreed to dissolve on Tuesday and give away all its remaining assets under court supervision as part of an ongoing investigation and lawsuit by the New York attorney general.

The foundation was accused by the attorney general, Barbara Underwood, of “functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests,” and of engaging in “a shocking pattern of illegality” that included unlawfully coordinating with Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

In addition to shuttering the charity, her office has pursued a lawsuit that could bar President Trump and his three oldest children from the boards of other New York charities, as well as force the payment of millions in restitution and penalties.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Dec 23 2018 21:44 utc | 199

@193 james - "my take is erdogan is not that crazy and he won't risk much"

My take is that this entire situation is bounded, prescribed and exactly dictated by geopolitical realities, nothing more and nothing less. There are those who understood these realities, such as Russia, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran (and Iraq, it becomes clear has had a grasp for some time, and has been acting accordingly).

Then there are those who are late to recognize the reality. Trump was one of those until now. Erdogan I think beat him by several months, perhaps even by two years, in his secret thinking. The Kurds have been hoping not to have to recognize reality, and very quickly now they have decided they must. The Saudis are as futile and flaccid as the French, still mouthing words because it takes time to stop that run of bluster, but ultimately they will act in recognition of the reality or quite literally end up dead on the ground. And Israel is half crazy with panic so who even cares what they think? They have no power to act in this theater, and no cards left to draw or to play.

The point is that no force can act other than according to the realities of the power they hold and the power of their adversaries. Speculation of what individuals might choose are pointless. Individuals no longer have power here. The relationship of forces now rules this theater. Individuals can choose nothing, not even Putin or Assad or Nasrallah. And certainly not Netanyahu. They all made their choices already, and fortunately the people we admire made good choices, and have brought them to fruition.

With the US gone, any enemy can now be safely killed in Syria by the Syrian allies. Even any covert US forces remaining can be killed, because they're covert.

Syria owns the theater. It's the time of mopping up.

Posted by: Grieved | Dec 23 2018 22:34 utc | 200

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