Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 20, 2018

Why Trump Decided To Remove U.S. Troops From Syria

Last Friday President Trump had another long phonecall with the Turkish President Erdogan. Thereafter he overruled all his advisors and decided to remove the U.S. boots from Syria and to also end the air war.

This was the first time Trump took a decisive stand against the borg, the permanent neoconservative and interventionist establishment in his administration, the military and congress, that usually dictates U.S. foreign policy.

It was this decision, and that he stuck to it, which finally made him presidential.

Trump's National Security Advisor John Bolton, his Secretary of Defense 'mad dog' Mattis and his Secretary of State Pompeo were all against this decision. The specialist working on Syria, the lunatic (vid) special representative for Syria engagement James Jefferey and Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS, were taken by surprise. They had worked diligently to install a permanent U.S. presence in a Kurdish ruled proxy state in northeast Syria.

While these people first tried to change Trump's decision, their resistance has now ceased:

Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton met Monday, when Trump was said to formally decide on a US withdrawal from Syria. Multiple US officials argued against an abrupt US withdrawal, but were said to have given up trying to get Trump to change his mind by Tuesday night. US officials began to notify allies of the decision Tuesday.

“The push back from DOD, State and NSC stopped [Tuesday] night,” said one regional expert who consults with the US administration, referring to the Department of Defense, the State Department and the National Security Council.

Back in January we already explained why the neoconservative project of a Kurdish proxy state in northeast Syria was doomed from its start:

Ilhan tanir @WashingtonPoint - 7:50 PM - 24 Jan 2018
This map being discussed all day on Turkish TVs as Turkey’s planned security zone/safe zone on Syria border.
Reportedly OK’ed by Sec.Tillerson though nobody on the American side confirms it


It is the U.S. supported founding of a Kurdish state-let in northeast Syria which is Ankara's most serious security concern. No [Turkish] "safe zone" will help if the U.S. military continues to build and supplies a Kurdish "border force" that can penetrate Turkey's southeastern underbelly - now, tomorrow or in ten years. Unless the U.S. stops that project and retreats from the area Turkey will continue to push against it - if necessary by force.

The Turkish people support the fight against U.S. supported Kurds and are willing to pay the price for it. The Kurdish YPK leaders are delusional in their demands and overestimate their own political position. The U.S. can not have both, Turkey as an ally and a Kurdish proxy statelet. It has to decide.

Trump never wanted that project to proceed. He had always wanted to declare victory against ISIS and leave. It was the borg that tried to prevent this and which push the project along.

But there are bigger geopolitical fish to fry than such meddling in the Middle East. Trump knows that the United States' 'unilateral moment' after the demise of the Soviet Union, which left the U.S. was the sole superpower, is over. Russia is back and China is rising. Trump's policy to adopt to the decreasing U.S. power is to end the 'globalization' that allowed for China's rapid rise. He wants to geopolitical split this world into two influence spheres. These will be separate from each other in the political, economic, technological and military realms.

In this new big game Syria's northeast is just a sideshow and not worth a significant involvement. The much larger Turkey, a U.S. NATO ally for 70 years, is way more important. If Trump had not taken the decision to end the neocon Syria project and to remove the U.S. from Syria the U.S. would have lost it:

Putting myself into Erdogan's shoes I would be very tempted to leave NATO and join an alliance with Russia, China and Iran. Unless the U.S. changes course and stops fooling around with the Kurds, Turkey will continue to disentangle itself from the old alliance. The Turkish army has so far prevented a break with NATO but even staunch anti-Erdogan officers are now on his side.

If the U.S. makes a real offer to Turkey and adopts a new position it might be able to turn Turkey around and to put it back into its NATO fold. Is the Trump White House capable of defying the pro-Israel/pro-Kurdish voices and move back to that realist view?

If it can not do that the real answer to the question "Who lost Turkey?" will be obvious.

Trump decided that to prevent Turkey from leaving NATO, and from joining a deeper alliance with Russia, China and Iran, was more important than to further fool around at the margins of the Middle East. It is the right decision.

The Kurdish statelet idea also led to a conflict between the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) and U.S. Central Command (CentCom). Turkey (and Israel) fall under EUCOM, while the Middle East and west Asia are the realm of CentCom. Throughout the last year EUCOM had been increasingly noisy about CentCom's Syria plans:

Among the critics is General Curtis Scaparrotti, the head of the European Command and the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. [...] During a trip to Washington in March, Scaparrotti huddled with Mattis to express his worries over the growing tensions in U.S.-Turkish relations, worries that the European commander has also expressed in several meetings with General Joseph Votel, his counterpart as head of Centcom.

The concern within EUCOM and NATO was indeed that Turkey would move further towards Russia and in the end leave NATO. That is now unlikely to happen. (Since 1991 it was CentCom that played a oversized role in U.S. foreign policy. Sec Def Mattis is a CentCom animal. It is good to see CentCom and him cut to size.)

But if the hope is that Turkey will end its relations with Russia and Iran the outcome will be disappointing. Turkey depends on Russian and Iranian gas and as export markets. After the attempted coup against him Erdogan does not trust the U.S. side. Moreover, the position that gives him the most flexibility and leverage is between the two 'blocks', both of which will continue to court him. He will continue to vacillate between them to get the most from both sides.

The neoconservative elements in the administration, and their Zionist backers, have lost out. As Craig Murray describes their aims:

The chaos of this incoherent and counterproductive strategy is, peculiarly enough, what the neocons actually want. Perpetual war and destabilisation in the Middle East is their goal. ... Today, by keeping Arab populations poor and politically divided, the neo-cons believe that they enhance the security of Israel, and they certainly do facilitate the access of western companies to the oil and gas of the region, as we see in destabilised Iraq and Libya.

The neoconservative and interventionist borg blew it when it tried to use the temporary U.S. position in Syria against ISIS to goad Trump into a conflict with Iran:

Some current and former US officials faulted what they saw as overreach by administration Iran hawks, in particular US Syria envoy Jim Jeffrey and his lieutenant, Joel Rayburn, the deputy assistant secretary of state for the Levant, who have argued publicly that US forces would not leave Syria until all Iranian forces had left.

“The people who work for [Trump] — Bolton, Rayburn, now Jeffrey — make it worse by adding impossible objectives on Syria [involving Iran] that suggest an indefinite stay,” said the US official who called Trump's decision catastrophic. The official said these arguments have “no connection to realistic objectives for our military” and go “way beyond” the goal of defeating IS and preventing its re-emergence.

But the Iranian presence in Syria is so small and and the U.S. position so weak, that this was always a stupid idea:

John Allen Gay, an Iran expert and executive director of the John Quincy Adams Society, [..] argues that Trump’s decision confirms what everyone has quietly admitted for at least the past year: that keeping U.S. forces in Syria to counter ISIS was starting to look like a way for administration interventionists to argue that we should take on Iran.

“Keeping the troops there post-ISIS was in part natural mission creep, but it was also a stalking horse for hawks in the administration who want to take on Iran,” he told TAC.

“Yet dangling a few thousand guys in between Turkish forces on one side and Iranians, Russians, and Syrians on the other was never going to be decisive on Iran’s regional role, and it came with real risks and no endgame,” Gay added. “I just don’t think there’s any appetite in the American public for a big fight with Iran anywhere, let alone over Eastern Syria.”

The U.S. State Department is already moving its people out of Syria. The 4,000 to 5,000 U.S. military and contractors were given 60 to 100 days (other sources say 30 day but that is a bit too hasty) to pack up and leave.

They will coordinate with Russia for a handover. There will be Russian advisors that will replace the U.S. Green Berets who command the Kurdish and Arab tribal forces against ISIS. Russia will also try to convince Turkey that there is no further need to invade Syria's east. It will promise to disarm the Kurdish forces or to integrate them into the Syrian army. Its air force will replace the U.S. and others who currently bomb the 2,000 or so Islamic State fighters left in their hold out along the Euphrates.

The Kurds in Syria will have to make nice with Damascus. They have nowhere else to go. Their dream of an autonomous Rojava will turn out to be just that. Syria can only survive as a centrally controlled state. It will never be federalized. The local Arab tribes in the northeast will probably seek some revenge against the uppity Kurdish leadership that used the U.S. backing to draft their sons into the fight against ISIS. The YPK leadership will likely flee into north Iraq to hide out with their PKK brethren in in the Quandil mountains.

The Syrian army, which plans to dislodge al-Qaeda from Idleb governorate during the next spring, will now have to move a number of forces towards the northeast. Isolating the Islamic State at the Euphrates near the Iraqi border and eventually eliminating it, will be the new priority. Iraqi militia will probably help with that. Recovering the oil and gas fields and other economic assets will be another important issue.

Much will depend on how Russia and Iran will be able to handle Turkey. With the U.S. out, and the danger of a Kurdish entity in Syria decreasing, they may well be able to convince Erdogan to stop his invasion plans.

It is quite refreshing to see that Trump was finally able to liberate himself from the dictate of the borg. By moving the U.S. out of Syria he fulfilled one of his election promises.

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump - 11:42 utc - 20 Dec 2018
Getting out of Syria was no surprise. I’ve been campaigning on it for years, and six months ago, when I very publicly wanted to do it, I agreed to stay longer. Russia, Iran, Syria & others are the local enemy of ISIS. We were doing there work. Time to come home & rebuild. #MAGA

The people who voted for Trump will welcome the move. One hopes that he can expand on it by further decreasing the influence of Saudi Arabia and Israel on his policies.

During his campaign Trump also argued for better relations with Russia. But the borg pushed his policies towards the opposite stand. Removing the U.S. from Syria is eliminating one issue were Russia and the U.S. were on opposing sides. Could Trump use his newly found backbone to defeat the borg again and to finally work towards better relations with Russia?

That currently sounds unlikely. But Friday's decision was a big suprize. Stay tuned for other ones.

Posted by b on December 20, 2018 at 13:51 UTC | Permalink

next page »

As a Trump voter, this is welcome, but it is only a sop. Trump has been routed on the border wall and immigration, and that defeat portends the conversion of the US into a Mexican style failed state, with no room for the native population, especially the native American working class.

Posted by: bob sykes | Dec 20 2018 14:06 utc | 1

Trump is a businessman. He sees only profit/loss. Why should America bare the burden of occupying a hostile place and protected "Kurdish" interest?

I suspect the Northern Syria project was meant to be paid for by the Saudis/Persian Gulf Arabs Sheikhs. But after the Kashoggi fiasco, the Saudis felt betrayed by the US and stopped the cash flow. So Trump said, "fuck it, I'm out".

Any US action in the region is to a large extend, directly/indirectly for the benefit of Israel - at least from the neocon's pov.

Posted by: Zico | Dec 20 2018 14:14 utc | 2

DJT, no matter how enticing the invitation, don't go to Dallas!

Posted by: Enrico Malatesta | Dec 20 2018 14:16 utc | 3

A long repost from UnzReview (comment section) emphasizing what Trump is standing up against right now:

"For a ‘holy chosen people’ one of their most unbecoming characteristics is that ...

[rest of the anti-jewish screed deleted
- b]

Posted by: Annette | Dec 20 2018 14:20 utc | 4

Obvious next step ... Afghanistan. That would be uncontroversial ... no one in the US (outside the CEO of Lockheed Martin) wants to stay there.

Posted by: SteveK9 | Dec 20 2018 14:20 utc | 5

Erdogan holds all the cards in the Syria machinations as I stated back when he clearly put his foot down against the Idleb attack.

Putin isn't going to sacrifice Russia's relations with Turkey simply to let his little lapdog Assad pretend to be in control of all of Syria.

Trump needs victories in the new congressional term and his only hope is to start playing ball with the Demotards and try to affect stuff that is truly populist.

Cutting out of Syria is one small opening step if he actually follows through. Giving up his wall fantasy and building roads and bridges instead would be another.

Posted by: donkeytale | Dec 20 2018 14:25 utc | 6

Trump is not that smart.

He is pulling troops out because it is an Obama war and he is intent on removing any trace of an Obama legacy.

He is also trapped. The only thing keeping him from the inside of a courtroom is the presidency. He can pardon federal crimes, but the NY Attorney general is deep into his finances and his entire family is being threatened. It is a battle between oligarchs who in another age were called carpet baggers as they try to strip everything of value from U.S.A. before the collapse of the economy or they manage to provoke Russia or China to respond militarily.

It was an Obama mistake to try and overthrow Syria, and remember, Hillary was wanting to Libya it with another no-fly zone, (so little imagination) which would likely have led to usa/russia conflict.

This is a well written and researched article, but to suggest that Trump is intentionally doing the smart thing is a little hard for me to believe.


Posted by: b4real | Dec 20 2018 14:48 utc | 7

france uk and israel norway poland canada and aussielanders can help with this new exodus the kurds blood and the childrens tears cry out for a homeland.syria does not exist now only zones.with humanity and belief we can forge new lands for the kurdy.
for who does deserve quiet enjoyment and peace more so than the heroic kurds.
israels histories gives it the perfect role in casting these foundations buiding these new lands.
believe belief and it will be so

Posted by: menem | Dec 20 2018 14:57 utc | 8

That's a pretty nice dream scenario you laid out, and of course it makes perfect sense it should happen that way. However, I still don't get why the Russians have no clue as to what Trump means by the next phase of the campaign. I hope you're right on all this but with all the other bad decisions Trump's been making like covering MbS's butt and still supporting KSA on Yemen and catering to Zionist policy on Jerusalem and Iran, and keeping his son-in-law in charge of swindling the Palestinians, I just have to remain skeptical that there's not an even worse Plan B behind door no. 2. Let's be reminded that when Trump was still President-elect he went out of his way, even risking breaching the Logan Act, to scuttle a U.S.-supported Resolution put forth at the UNSC at the end of Obama's administration condemning Israeli settlement expansion. Now, is that the act of a man sensible enough to embrace the wonderful, sensible plan you just laid out? I don't think so. I hope I'm wrong and you're right.

Posted by: Circe | Dec 20 2018 15:11 utc | 9

Interesting if all this comes to pass in the grand scheme. Turkey to be bought and used as the occupying thorn in Assad's side. This while the rest of the destabilized Mid East continues to be run as it is now cannot be expected to last and Israel's plans will have to take another tack. This war is obviously getting in the way of the advancement of globalism and further moves along this line will likely be seen in the other contested areas such as Ukraine, Afghanistan/Central Asia and Africa as the two biggest drivers of world standardization, the US Empire and the Russian Chinese consortium begin to work together on a NWO. Never take your eyes off of the ball.

Posted by: BRF | Dec 20 2018 15:16 utc | 10

trump removed US troops because Pewtin told him to do so. End of story. Did you see that trump also removed sanctions from the aluminum oligarch?

When you talk about trump's "newly-found backbone", in the US we call that "bone spurs".

Posted by: Bardi | Dec 20 2018 15:27 utc | 11

I really want to be naive and think Trump left Syria for good but no, US never leaves Israel alone specially now that Iran is present in Syria with only one intention, to threaten Israel. I believe US pulling out of Syria is bad news for Iranians, maybe he finally wants to bomb the hell out of Iran? I'm John Bolton would love it.

Posted by: Somebody | Dec 20 2018 15:29 utc | 12

I will believe it when I see it, talk is cheap. The US was going to pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq but it is still there. There is also plenty of time to arrange the next 'chemical attack' to create a pretext for staying.

Posted by: MarkU | Dec 20 2018 15:41 utc | 13

The US will now pivot to latin America, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and consolidate there neoliberal Corporate facism there.

Posted by: Blue | Dec 20 2018 15:42 utc | 14

I agree with Circe @9 that the following sentence goes a bit too far:

"One hopes that he can expand on it by further decreasing the influence of Saudi Arabia and Israel on his policies."

Trump's biggest donor is an "Israel-first" billionaire and his most influential personal and presidential contacts are from the shadowy world of the Israel-Saudi alliance.

As to the comment quoted by Annette @4, I have never understood why criticisms launched more appropriately at Zionists are regularly directed by certain elements of the alt-right against "Jews." Not only is this practice factually imprecise and also bigoted, it serves to weaken the often legitimate points made against Israel and its influence by allowing others to dismiss them as motivated by anti-Semitism. It is the equivalent of criticizing the Saudi state ideology and using the word "Muslims" to do so, while including lots of cherry-picked quotes from the Koran and Wahhabist propagandists to paint as scary a picture of "Islam" or "Arabs" as possible. It's stupid and rhetorically counterproductive. It also is *exactly* what the Zionists want you to keep doing, as it only enables their self-interested conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. If you want to blame "the Jews" for all the problems in the world, just remember that your doing so in this language actually strengthens the position of the Zionists. And you may want to consider that at least *some* of these Jew-bashing critiques of Israel on sites like Unz and others are most certainly written by paid propagandists of the state of Israel.

Posted by: WJ | Dec 20 2018 15:53 utc | 15

One can only hope the decision holds, but it's hard to exclude the possibility of a borg-staged false-flag provocation.

Posted by: Paul Damascene | Dec 20 2018 15:58 utc | 16


I agree with B4real. I find it hard to believe Trump is capable of the thinking you attribute to him in the second of the following two paragraphs - the first paragraph, yes; the second includes nuanced and informed thinking that IMO is beyond his capability.

Paragraphs #1: Trump never wanted that project to proceed. He had always wanted to declare victory against ISIS and leave. It was the borg that tried to prevent this and which push the project along.

Paragraph #2: But there are bigger geopolitical fish to fry than such meddling in the Middle East. Trump knows that the United States' 'unilateral moment' after the demise of the Soviet Union, which left the U.S. was the sole superpower, is over. Russia is back and China is rising. [up through this sentence I can believe that "Trump know it" but not what follows, i.e.:]
Trump's policy to adopt to the decreasing U.S. power is to end the 'globalization' that allowed for China's rapid rise. He wants to geopolitical split this world into two influence spheres. These will be separate from each other in the political, economic, technological and military realms.

Jonathan H

Posted by: Jonathan H | Dec 20 2018 16:03 utc | 17

"It is quite refreshing to see that Trump was finally able to liberate himself from the dictate of the borg."

From the jewish borg, yes, but not from the military/NATO/EU/geopolitical borg, those who want to rule the world as an Atlantic Empire. And this is even more dangerous.

"Trump decided that to prevent Turkey from leaving NATO, and from joining a deeper alliance with Russia, China and Iran, was more important than to further fool around at the margins of the Middle East. It is the right decision."

What kind of strategists are you? Actually it would have been better for the world if the US and Turkey had a major conflict. That would have destroyed NATO as we know it and would weaken the Atlantic Empire considerably.

Do you know what the way for weakening the US is? Israel and the Zionists.
You should tacitly support them as they will bog down the US in the Middle East, cause muslim anti-americanism, and weaken the Atlantic Empire on the Russian and the Chinese fronts. The Iranian issue again always causes splits between the EU and the US as well.

Russia should actually covertly support AIPAC in the US. No better way of weakening the US. Have you ever thought about it?

Posted by: Passer by | Dec 20 2018 16:03 utc | 18

thanks b... i think the issue of turkey is very big to all this, but i think you might be discounting the ability of those intent on screwing trump, succeeding in doing so... for trump to finally achieve one of his election promises looks positive on the surface... why is it, it took him this long? i am not convinced, but happy it is moving in this direction...

turkey staying onside with the usa doesn't look like a done deal to me either... again, i think we have to wait and see how this unfolds.. i would be concerned about trump hanging onto power at this point.. there are a lot of interests that run contrary to him here..

Posted by: james | Dec 20 2018 16:06 utc | 19

The great strength of this analysis and the blog in general is that 'b' never falls into the error of accepting that the US, and its faction riven government, is all powerful and hegemonic.
The US government not only makes stupid mistakes- look at Afghanistan- which not all the money and purchased PR in the world can compensate for, but regularly suffers defeats obvious to anyone who isn't watching the Victory parades on TV.

Many commenters labour under the misapprehension that the neo-cons are clever strategists. In Washington politics they may be but in the wider world they are as incompetent as the slaves of an idiotic ideology always are: they greatly over estimate their own abilities and those of the US forces. They spend their lives reading their own publicity.
All that they can do is bring misery to other countries and increase it in their own. The record is very clear.
Iraq is a mess and it certainly isn't, either economically or strategically, a feather in Washington's cap. The same is true of Afghanistan after 17 years in which dozens of countries, directed by the supposedly unbeatable US forces, are in the position of sharing control of about a quarter of the land with friendly dope dealers.
Sudan, Somalia and Libya are similar, in each case the US would have been much better off if it had left these places alone and relied upon its diplomatic and economic weight to influence their governments. The same is true of Iran and, indeed, Russia where neo-con aggression has forced governments into permanent and implacable opposition.
Ukraine is another strategic disaster for the US, with the added twist that it seems fair set to break NATO up by forcing European nations to choose-as b notes above-the US economic sphere. Or LNG, from rapidly declining fracking wells, over piped natural gas from the biggest, cheapest and deepest gas reserves on the planet.
And it really doesn't matter to the Eurasian sellers whether Europe buys the gas or not: if it wants to hobble its industries and lower living standards by paying twice the price in solidarity with the neo-cons, it simply hastens its decline.

What the New Year holds in store is a United States returning to its ancient role of bullying Latin America: no doubt Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba will come under intense attack as the US preens itself on the strength of its new allies, in Brazil, Argentina, Honduras etc. But all of these regimes are unstable, fascistic, military dictatorships which are doomed to bring unbearable hardships on the people.
And the same is equally true of the US and its allies, everyone of which has a government skewed towards subservient militarism, with domestic politics increasingly dominated by xenophobic hysteria as a substitute for prosperity and social stability: millions of homeless and economically insecure people, without permanent jobs, their savings and pensions dissolving, being fed fear of Russia or China by governments which are transparent fronts for oligarchs and imperialists.
The fact that this sad scenario of social suicide is being played out against a background of rapidly approaching environmental disaster- the reality of climate change- is perhaps an indication of the price that we pay for living under an hierarchy of the most corrupt, venal and thoughtless people in the world. The ones we choose to govern us and tell us what to do.

Posted by: bevin | Dec 20 2018 16:11 utc | 20

As I wrote a comment on the German magazine"Die Zeit"praising Trump's decision to retreat from Syria my comment was deleted.I denounced the European whining and letting do the Americans their dirty work.Now the Europeans show their true colors.In Germany's MSM it doesn't seem to be allowed to take Trump's side.By the way -it's very good and well researched article.Thank you.

Posted by: Theo | Dec 20 2018 16:16 utc | 21

". If you want to blame "the Jews" for all the problems in the world, just remember that your doing so in this language actually strengthens the position of the Zionists. And you may want to consider that at least *some* of these Jew-bashing critiques of Israel on sites like Unz and others are most certainly written by paid propagandists of the state of Israel." WJ@ 14

Absolutely right. The routine way in which, all over the internet, the tired and discredited themes of the anti-semites and, their soul sisters, the anti-communists infect every serious discussion or sensible discourse is maddening.
There is not the tiniest doubt who benefits from this idiocy and it isn't the people of Palestine or the working people.

Posted by: bevin | Dec 20 2018 16:16 utc | 22

b, you, by far, are one of the most pragmatic geopolitical strategy experts on the web. You study the board, make sense of the plays at hand and communicate what you are seeing thoroughly to all who have found you and wish to learn what's really going on, especially in the Middle East. Your outstanding work on all things Syria during the Obama years helped steady nerves and fears. Thank you! You are a rare gem with whom I am most grateful to have found and link to, often.

For those who continue to struggle with Trump and what is driving him, I might suggest you go back to the campaign days. He told everyone his policy plans. Because you may have dismissed them or didn't bother to learn his game plan doesn't mean he doesn't have one. He does.

His campaign speech in Gettysburg sums up what his voters demanded and are continuing to demand of him - and yes, getting out of all of the wars/quagmires such as Syria and Afghanistan is one of those demands

Withdrawal from Syria, next Afghanistan, is and always has been his policy. The Bush/Cheney neoconservatives are a withering lot of useless pond scum. You may believe Bolton and team have influence, but you'd be sorely wrong. Conservatives elected a person who is owned by no one. And now that we're holding peace talks with the Taliban one may cautiously anticipate future withdrawal announcements. Time will tell.

Merry Christmas, b! I'll be dropping a tip in your tip jar over the holiday. Hoping others will too. Imagine, peace may finally be at hand. Geez, I surely hope so.

Posted by: h | Dec 20 2018 16:16 utc | 23

Posted by: WJ | Dec 20, 2018 10:53:38 AM | 14
(Annette @ 4 & anti-semitism)

This thread is about US Foreign Policy. Walt & Mearsheimer produced an impeccably well-researched book called The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, which focused on the pervasive influence of The Lobby on US Politics.
"Israel" touts itself as The Jewish State. It is therefore laughable to attempt to concoct an excuse to separate Jews from Zionism and Zionism from Jews.
Why aren't there enough 'Good Jews' in the world to stop the Zionist Jews from Holocausting Palestinians - for "Israel"?

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Dec 20 2018 16:41 utc | 24

The surprise (for me) is that Bolton agreed with Trump and Erdogan.

Posted by: mauisurfer | Dec 20 2018 16:49 utc | 25

@ WJ 14:
"...these Jew-bashing critiques of Israel on sites like Unz..."

@bevin 21: "this idiocy"

You are right that the critique has to be directed first and foremost against the war-mongering zionists and corrupt US officials. However, you both (WJ 14 & bevin) were happy to smear the principled and exceptionally courageous Ron Unz, whereas a repost of a comment from Unz forum, which consisted the quotes (QUOTES!) from the speeches and writings of some prominent Israelis, was deleted. comment 482

Do you both (WJ 14 & bevin) believe that some people are more equal than others?

Here is an article from Sic Semper Tyrannis run by a true patriot of the US, who has proven his patriotism with the fearless and expert service to his country:

Posted by: Annette | Dec 20 2018 16:58 utc | 26

Consider: The purpose of all "false-flag" events is to influence public emotions and viewpoints; to manage/control public perceptions; all to enable some action that otherwise would fail/succumb to overriding dissent.

Instead of "false-flag" events, a President could accomplish just as much by doing simply what the public would overwhelmingly support. The effects would be genuine and long lasting, without ongoing risks of being exposed as lies, fraud, etc.

In other words, acting in fairness, the very definition of justice.

Is that too much to desire?

Posted by: chu-teh | Dec 20 2018 16:59 utc | 27

re at 26

Consider the public effect of "fairness" on their "yearning to breathe free".

Posted by: chu-teh | Dec 20 2018 17:06 utc | 28

The biggest step to MAGA,make israel defend itself.

Posted by: dahoit | Dec 20 2018 17:09 utc | 29

Cynic that I am, it could be the troops will be needed for the LA/SA planned invasions. Thierry Meyssan has an article about that this week.

Posted by: Linda Amick | Dec 20 2018 17:27 utc | 30

Ending the Yemen campaign is next. It will probably happen quickly. The house dems are raising the issue to the front, which is finally a step in the right direction for them. Time is not on trump's side if he indeed wants to end another fruitless mena affair and maga before the dems are able to take credit for ending the us involvement there.

Wonderful work here, b. Much thanks.

Posted by: Nemesiscalling | Dec 20 2018 17:31 utc | 31

So Trump flipped. That was some time ago. Has he flopped yet?

Posted by: sarz | Dec 20 2018 17:43 utc | 32

I earlier thought Trump was easily talked into keeping US in Syria due to his hatred of Iran. I commented in a thread a week or two back that the door to Trump was through Iran. Whatever Trump's forming plan for Iran was, I suspect the fallout from the Khashoggi killing put an end to it.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Dec 20 2018 17:44 utc | 33


Israel & AIPAC desperately wanted to kick of THE great Middle East war. That would have had devastating consequences for every one on the planet not just the US.

Posted by: BraveNewWorld | Dec 20 2018 17:49 utc | 34

Thanks for this outstanding analysis, b! Apparently, Trump's more capable than he's made out to be. Murray's excellent essay you linked to I read before yours and heartily agree; I hope all take the time to visit his site. As many note, the focus will now turn to Afghanistan, the initial region of contention during Great Game I. And just in time, Pepe Escobar provides us with this excellent overview, which is supposed to be complemented by a second part. Much of what's published in Western BigLie media about BRI is just that, lies, whereas the actual history and ongoing current developments are far more fascinating.

One can speculate if Russia had introduced advanced S-300s earlier Trump might have been emboldened to act earlier, which would have saved many lives. But, that will remain one of history's many What ifs? Plus, BigLie Media propaganda was no longer fooling anyone. I hope Trump's newly found spine will allow the Koreas to get on with their Peace Treaty and economic unification.

Posted by: karlof1 | Dec 20 2018 17:50 utc | 35

We'll see what Trump does, and what is done to him. If the Deep State (if you don't like DS then choose another term) really actually sees Syria as a losing proposition, then this will give pump up Trump with his supporters. If the Deep State is dead set against it, then expect Mueller to win, or expect Trump to have something unfortunate happen to him.

Posted by: Bob In Portland | Dec 20 2018 17:58 utc | 36

In the interest of consistency, if the alleged antisemitic screed at the top of the comment section is deleted, then so too should any of the ethno-supremacist drivel by menem be deleted.

Posted by: SlapHappy | Dec 20 2018 18:05 utc | 37

@34 Cont'd--

I'd have added this important item regarding Korea but just now discovered it and quickly becomes obvious why Garrie cited it fully. Here's a teaser:

"South Koreans from all walks of life said that there is no justification for outside forces to interfere in the internal affairs of the nation, strongly urging them to work for durable peace in the Korean peninsula, rather than hampering the development of inter-Korean relations and national reunification.

"They underscored the need to cooperate with the north on the principle of national independence and unity even though foreign intervention and meddling get more intensive. A south Korean news agency recently called for holding north-south dialogue and cooperation independently, saying inter-Korean relations should not fall prey to the 'alliance' with foreign forces"

Clearly, much has occurred in Korea over the Summer and Fall that went unreported by Western BigLie Media, which is odd since Korean Peace and unification of Koreans ought to be a highly celebrated, welcomed, and long overdue event.

Posted by: karlof1 | Dec 20 2018 18:11 utc | 38

karlof1 34

I also think the S-300's played a part in Trump's decision. I had read a few days back Russian military saying US flights were greatly reduced after the introduction of S-300 to Syria but am unsure if that was the original S-300 at Tartus or the more recent installation of a number of S-300's, one thought to be at Deir Ezzor.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Dec 20 2018 18:15 utc | 39

It is beginning to look like a masterful deal has been struck between Putin and Trump, one that makes both look good, shuts up their critics - including me - at least a little and makes the world a better and safer place. Putin backs down in Kerch Strait and Trump backs down in Syria. Everyone wins, except the neocons.

Posted by: paul | Dec 20 2018 18:20 utc | 40

I am not the least bit convinced that DJT can do anything beneficial, that doesn't involve
his, and his families personal enrichment.

We'll see....

Posted by: ben | Dec 20 2018 18:26 utc | 41

"This was the first time Trump took a decisive stand against the borg, the permanent neoconservative and interventionist establishment in his administration, the military and congress, that usually dictates U.S. foreign policy."

Ahh, the continued saga of the "Myth of the Good King".

The mindless masses conttinue to believe that Trump is fighting the Military-Industrial "establishement", despite the overwhelming evidence that he continues to support that same M-I-C, via ever-increasing defense budgets, and policies which serve to further enrich the same elite he purports to fight.

Trump, like his predecessors, and the M-I-C, is still deeply in bed with the governments of Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The true "Deep State" is much deeper, and much more complex than a couple careless FBI agents, and "Dem" operatives.

Don't forget that the administration of Mafia Don is staffed with perhaps more former Executives of Goldman Sachs, than most all previous administrations.

Further, Trump is still supporting the VASTLY growing programs of domestic spying by the same intelligence/ agencies that are insturmental components of the M-I-C.

This is your "Hero"? Your "Great White Knight".

This is what you call propaganda.
Propaganda is only truly effective when it isn't recognized as such.

"While these people first tried to change Trump's decision, their resistance has now ceased"


By the official count, there are 503 U.S. troops stationed in the Islamic State’s former capital. Unofficially, according to The Washington Post and other press reports, the figure is closer to 4,000.

The U.S. is not closing down its military presence in Syria. It is digging in for an indefinite period, making Raqqa the equivalent of the Green Zone in Baghdad.

This is called SPIN.
SPIN is the very foundation of the administration of Mafia Don.

His whole life has been a lesson in massive SPIN and PR propaganda.

You can pretty much take EVERYTHING Mafia Don says, then turn it 180 degrees to get the truth.

"It is quite refreshing to see that Trump was finally able to liberate himself from the dictate of the borg. By moving the U.S. out of Syria he fulfilled one of his election promises"

Confirmation Bias is a logical fallacy in which one uses only those facts which support their case, beliefs, biases & prejudices.

The Backfire Effect is the psychological process of rejecting all other pertinent facts which counter ones case, beliefs, biases & prejudices.

This idiotic article offers excellent examples of both.

This "article" is case-in-point of "journalistic" maniuplation....the enemy of truth and knowledge.

Posted by: alfred butler | Dec 20 2018 18:38 utc | 42

B is overoptimistic. On the one hand, he overestimates Tronald's strategic abilities. It is to be assumed that his surprising decision has quite banal reasons. Even more important is that he considers the Neocons already outmaneuvered. The probability is quite high that these people have any plans to torpedo the retreat. One false flag attack is enough and everything is different again. The negative reaction in the European capitals is also significant. That plays into their cards. And should it not be possible, contrary to expectations, to stage something 'useful' in Syria or elsewhere nearby, there is still the possibility of bringing down the president at home. Their is the 'legal' approach. The man has probably committed more crimes than there are paragraphs in the usa. And if that's not feasible in the short term, you can still organize an attempted assassination.
I would be happy if things went as smoothly as b imagines, but I doubt it.

Posted by: Pnyx | Dec 20 2018 18:40 utc | 43

this has the distinct smell of bullshit to me...that said, i have noticed that trump - due to his stupidity and/or that of his advisors - will do something for the wrong reason but have it turn out as a good thing completely by accident.

taking this all at face value, the recent saudi PR disaster (as opposed to their daily disasters which receive zero media coverage) may have helped. between MbS and adelson he was hardly "allowed" to have a rational plan for syria or the region in general. it seemed israel was - as usual - constantly instigating with illegal airstrikes (against phantom iranians) with the hope that syria and/or iran and/or hezbollah would retaliate and then - as usual - the americans would jump in and do the whole conflagration thing to protect their asshole friend.

israel has always been the 5'1'' guy at the bar talking smack to everyone knowing his 6'7'' MMA brother was a few feet away to save him from his own prick behavior.

speaking of which, the arrival of s300s put somewhat of a kibosh on their hijinks for now and getting a russian plane shot down with that nonsense put them in the corner for a tiny bit of a time-out.

turkey is also big as you mention. they played the khashoggi story like a well-tuned violin and they have zero problem with using their own proxies against the US/KSA/GCC ones...that's what this "civil war" always was, after all. erdogan has also - on the surface - kept israel in the "frienemies" column and doesn't seem as beholden to their insane interests as the atlanticist crowd.

i just wonder if this is less "get them out" than "move the chess pieces somewhere else". though in the hands of bolton and his ilk it's more like checkers. after all, the US has covert troops in roughly 2/3 of the countries in the world and the DoD would have zero issues with outright lying about a few JSOC monkeys running around syria under the radar.

gotta love the timing at least. with everyone in DC going on their extended holidays soon there won't be many folks around to piss and whine about this. though maybe they'll spend their time by the campfire in their plush hamptons cabins spinning future tales about "Iranian Collusion".

Posted by: the pair | Dec 20 2018 18:44 utc | 44

bevin @ 20: One hell of a summation, all so very true. Thanks for that...

Posted by: ben | Dec 20 2018 18:48 utc | 45

ab @ 41; Ditto my post @ 44...

Speaks well of b to post 41. That's why most of us patronize this site...

Posted by: ben | Dec 20 2018 18:57 utc | 46

@41 alfred butler... perhaps you'd prefer a mccarthey era style version 2 presentation from emptywheel, lol?

Posted by: james | Dec 20 2018 19:02 utc | 47

Why now? Following the loss of life in the Israeli-instigated shoot down of the Russian Sig Int aircraft, the Russian military have demanded and received a greater say in how the Syrian operation is run. The means primarily the political phase of tolerating loss to maintain a political advantage is over and there will be no more Russian troop losses without payback. Russian military advisors have been dispatched to every SAA and Iranian troop concentration. The release of S-300s to Syria control, and the explicit statement of an airport for an airport regarding Israel make it clear that attacking aircraft will be shot down. SAA units have been placed right on the boundary of the US self-declared zone around al Tanf. The US troops there and elsewhere in Syria are now effectively without air cover when the SAA inevitably moves towards them. So the US political position is declare victory and leave before US forces really do get sent home in body bags. How far the Zionist components high up in the US military will go along with this remains to be seen. I suspect the CIA will be given open hand to send in whoever is foolish enough to go just to keep the shit stirred.

Posted by: Entropy Wins | Dec 20 2018 19:08 utc | 48

Hoarsewhisperer @24

You write:

"Israel" touts itself as The Jewish State. It is therefore laughable to attempt to concoct an excuse to separate Jews from Zionism and Zionism from Jews.

This is *exactly* what Zionists want you to believe. It is the very premise behind their concerted attempt to legislate against the BDS movement and public criticism of Israel's crimes. After all, since it is "laughable" to separate anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism, any expression of the former is perforce an expression of the latter. But they, and you, are wrong.

Posted by: WJ | Dec 20 2018 19:08 utc | 49

I'm surprised that Trump is getting credit from bernard for lying about pulling out troops in Syria. He's clearly lying and Russia knows this.

Posted by: Sharon | Dec 20 2018 19:18 utc | 50

With the withdrawal of the U.S. from Syria, and only quagmires left in Iraq and Afganistan, Turkey will now assume the role of lead NATO nation in the Middle-East. The U.S. is essentially finished as a ME power. Russia will assume the role of regional mediator, and the era of ME destabilization may well be over for the foreseeable future.

After the next March's elections in the Ukraine turn into anarchy, and possibly civil war, Europe will wash their hands of this mess. The U.S. will find itself an unsustainable situation and be forced to pull out. Russia will be left to pick up the pieces there as well.

The Globalist 'wet dream', of using the ME and Black Sea as the platform to destroy Russia and then constrain China, is finished.

I agree with Blue@14 and Thierry Meyssan ( that the U.S. will now turn to Latin America to consolidate whats left of its disintegrating empire.

Posted by: dh-mtl | Dec 20 2018 19:22 utc | 51

great news we cannot keep fighting israels wars those guys really have to man up and start fighting for themselves.same goes for saudi arabia these schmucks have been sucking of the tit of unkle sam for years.
all of this mess is perfect map making divide and conquer strategy of tension done by the psy op masters the brits many generations ago.
this is not so much a draw down more a relocation exercise in country or maybe out.
columbia,venezuala,ukraine and even morrocco are due some cia death squad escalations soon

Posted by: chuck | Dec 20 2018 19:25 utc | 52

Bernard, thank you for all the detailed information. I was quite skeptical that all this was real. The increasing number of corporate media reports softened some of the skepticism, but this report has me convinced and very hopeful. You must have a lot of good sources in the US government and military to know about the heavy pushback over the weekend and its ultimate collapse. The information on the disagreement between European command and CENTCOM is also key.

I also wonder if this is partly a result of Trump's strengthened hand after holding the Senate and what Alexander Mercouris insists was very favorable to Trump in the Cohen sentencing statement. He says the statement gives no indication Trump even knew about a lot of the stuff Cohen was doing. It was all Cohen self promotion, like attempting to get the Kremlin involved in a hotel deal and getting brushed off. The payoffs were also Cohen's idea and no indication he gave Trump any idea there were legal considerations.

Posted by: anti_republocrat | Dec 20 2018 19:34 utc | 53

I agree with the skeptics. It’s not yet clear what this “pull-out” is all about but it is unlikely to be what it seems.

That this it that person disagrees with Trump doesn’t indicate much. The Obama psy-op scolded us and the Trump psy-op distracts with kayfabe.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Dec 20 2018 19:43 utc | 54

Turkey is never going to be a 100% reliable partner for anybody.
As I've said many times, they should be doing exactly what they have been doing: doing a fan dance in front of both US and China/Russia in order to get the best from everyone.
The US withdrawal and Patriot buy just signals that the deep hole dug in US/Turkey relations due to the coup attempt isn't bottomless, but only the surrender of Gulen could possibly return relations to where they were before (i.e. more than a bit pro-US but still not 100%).

Posted by: c1ue | Dec 20 2018 20:05 utc | 55

If Bolton OK'd this, prepare for some Christmas surprise (in Bethlehem, Damascus, wherever).

Posted by: bjd | Dec 20 2018 20:28 utc | 56

"But if the hope is that Turkey will end its relations with Russia and Iran the outcome will be disappointing. Turkey depends on Russian and Iranian gas and as export markets. After the attempted coup against him Erdogan does not trust the U.S. side. Moreover, the position that gives him the most flexibility and leverage is between the two 'blocks', both of which will continue to court him. He will continue to vacillate between them to get the most from both sides."
This is the key difference between Erdogan and Ukrainian leaders of the last 15 years. One is quite a political animal, the others are a bunch of greedy idiots that couldn't choose the superior international position even if their lifes depended on it. Had they gone for such a middle ground without siding entirely with West or Russia, there wouldn't be rebels occupying whole areas in the East, and Ukraine might actually have kept Crimea.

Posted by: Clueless Joe | Dec 20 2018 20:40 utc | 57

If the US withdrawal does actually happen, it will be because Turkey committed to buying Patriot missiles so Trump can feel he got his pound of flesh. Basically, if you want the US to do anything, commit to buying a bunch of their over-priced, under-performing armaments.

I have a feeling things won't go smoothly, and even just one more false-flag "chemical" operation could make any withdrawal politically untenable in Washington--and as we've seen these "attacks" are not hard to pull off the satisfaction of the US propaganda corps.

Posted by: worldblee | Dec 20 2018 20:46 utc | 58

If we connect some dots in this episode trump vs the neocons, one has to ponder if maybe the Canadian surprise arrest of the Huwai heiress (orchestrated by Bolton?) abruptly after Trump’s “good” G20 meeting with Xi was enough to piss him off enough to not only shoot back but kick their legs out from under and go after their prized possession of the Syria opp. Maybe a tipping point? Mattis out.. can we only whisper Bolton next?

Posted by: Fawaz | Dec 20 2018 20:52 utc | 59

After all, since it is "laughable" to separate anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism, any expression of the former is perforce an expression of the latter. But they, and you, are wrong.
Posted by: WJ | Dec 20, 2018 2:08:57 PM | 48

Was that a ploy to disregard the question I posed? Or is their spin making you dizzy?

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Dec 20 2018 20:57 utc | 60

@1 "with no room for the native population, especially the native American working class"

Are you saying that you and the rest of the burgoise WASP fanatics are relinquishing your genocidal claim to the country now called the USA? Are you arguing for less immiseration, a right of self determination for the first nations?

I rather suspect you mean you think someone owes you something. It's easy to see why you're afraid of people who are nicer, cleaner, smarter, braver and harder working than you and your beer guzzling pals. Please go back to your ancestral home - that wouldn't be the Ukraine by any chance?

Posted by: Covergilr | Dec 20 2018 21:15 utc | 61

Posted by: bob sykes | Dec 20, 2018 9:06:30 AM | 1

You realize how silly you sound talking about America's "native population"?

Who do you mean, Europeans, Africans or Asians? How many generations back?

Posted by: somebody | Dec 20 2018 21:26 utc | 62

Posted by: SteveK9 | Dec 20, 2018 9:20:22 AM | 5

Sure, but there the US are confronting China.

China has already more or less acquired Pakistan.

Posted by: somebody | Dec 20 2018 21:28 utc | 63

@47 Well said, I echo rhe sentiments..

Posted by: Lozion | Dec 20 2018 21:30 utc | 64

You can't trust any of them to do what they say or to adhere to any consistent behavior. There is one consistency to be trusted - that is the decline of the commons in the USA and everywhere else in the world.

We must remember that Trump greatly admired John Bolton, mentioning him by name as representing great FP expertise.

Then he hired the rotten SOB. Along with every other destructive SOB he could employ.

Bolton says he agrees with Trump on Syria withdrawal? Makes no sense. Bolton hates everybody except Yahoo and Lieberman. (Though Bolton did enjoy Plato's Retreat - back in the day.)

Syria is a lynch pin in the dissolution of the ME as we know it FOR the expansion of Greater Israel.

Yahoo will be very displeased if this is true.

Posted by: fast freddy | Dec 20 2018 21:48 utc | 66

Hoarsewhisperer @57

I did not answer your question because I reject as false the premise on which it is based.

Posted by: WJ | Dec 20 2018 21:49 utc | 67

Excellent thread tweeted by a Syrian in Syria, although it's now @5 hours old. As he notes, the situation's very fluid as Trump's call took everyone in region by surprise.

Fawaz @56's hypothetical makes a lot of sense as something had to flip Trump's switch. The great fear now being published by neocon mouthpieces is Afghanistan withdrawal. Both the Murray and Escobar items contain some interesting bits related to Afghanistan.

Posted by: karlof1 | Dec 20 2018 22:09 utc | 68

Here in the UK this should be a big story as we have meddled there as well, but no, the BIG story is some persons unknown flying drones over Gatwick airport and shutting it down. Nobody seems to have heard of a shotgun and this nonsense has gone on all day. The unkind may say that this is a diversion to stop us thinking about what looks to be an American withdrawl from Syria, especially after all the vitriol HMG has spat at Assad in recent years.Jus'sayin'

Posted by: Emmanuel Goldstein | Dec 20 2018 22:13 utc | 69

Like firing a smoke grenade into a hornets' nest. What a priceless sight. The atlanticist scum over here in Germany are really at a loss, flat on their backs. Well done, Donald!

And well done, B! TJ 62 mentions RT's CrossTalk, and I've seen you getting referenced on ZeroHedge, Craig Murray's, Germany's Telepolis lately... Nice!

Posted by: Scotch Bingeington | Dec 20 2018 22:15 utc | 70

Best Article ever.. every dimension considered.

Circe | 9 Agree a bigger worser heinous plan, is a Trump trademark. Bardi | 11 Trump surprise to Putin fits Trojan expectation.. Jonathan H | 11:03:49 AM ending globalization c\n\b done ALA there exists the monopoly powers of copyright and patent and Privatization because these are profits earned by eliminating competition.. denial by law, or removal by Military, regime change, assassination, etc..
It is these three separate objects of power (copyright, patent, and privatization) that have enabled the Zionist to rule the globe since 1945
Eliminate the power created from thin air by rule of law, and Zionist Fat Cat Empire deflates to 1950 best man wins competitive capitalism. In the case of natural resources, monopoly power is established by OPEC type organizations, EPA permitting power, military force, and regime change techniques.

Posted by: smake | Dec 20 2018 22:24 utc | 71

All of a sudden the Saudis stopped paying YPG monthly paychecks. How come?
Because President Erdogan caught Mr. Salman (and Kushner?) red-handed?
The Khashoggi case is on national media every other day here in Turkey.
I guess no pay no game for Trump. Plus, he might wish to keep his son-in-law away from the spotlights as Mr. Erdogan is coming up with increasingly more details about the Khashoggi murder.

Posted by: ConfusedPundit | Dec 20 2018 22:26 utc | 72

Off topic, but important. Tell me if this is too out of place. The topic was covered a few days ago in a different article by b.

One of the participants in the scheme, Jonathan Morgan, is the CEO of cybersecurity firm New Knowledge. Morgan wrote a blistering account of Russian social media operations during the 2016 election released this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Another angle to this big @nytimes story... Guess who participated in using a Russian style disinformation campaign to influence the Alabama Senate election AND hoped to frame Russia for it? The CEO of the company that wrote the Senate Intel report on 2016 election meddling.
— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) December 20, 2018

Posted by: librul | Dec 20 2018 22:26 utc | 73

Trump is besieged on all sides. He is a fighter and he will surprise us all with his desire to do what he thinks is right for USA. I really think people don't understand what he is all about.
This was a golden chance to do things differently and start fresh in America.
The first mistake was Trump's though.
He should have fired everyone on day ONE.
Yates, Comey, McCabe, Orr...Everybody.
Put in Interim appointments and not dealt with anyone from the Bush, Obama and Clinton admins.
He fucked up.
He shouldn't have put in Jeff Sessions or Crazy Haley.
All new people from conservative institutions.
Kavanaugh I knew was a mistake from day one.
But the Dems actually got him nominated with their insanity.
The Dems are the cancer, they do do some good things but they make me sick with their vitriol and shady shit
At least I can still say Hilary ain't Pres.

Posted by: Fernando Martinez | Dec 20 2018 22:35 utc | 74

Erdogan threatened Trump and Trump backed down.

To me that is the most logical reason for this but that also means it will be much harder for Trump to back out of this decision and much harder for the Borg to make their case because they are risking losing Turkey for a strategically weak and militarily vulnerable position in Eastern Syria. This could certainly have something to do with Khashoggi too and perhaps more accurately protecting MBS.

The question: whatever did Erdogan use to threaten Trump?

Posted by: alaric | Dec 20 2018 22:37 utc | 75

@34 karlof1 - "One can speculate if...But"

I agree with the "But..." that you posit ;)

I am supremely impressed with the way that events have unfolded over the last few months. It speaks not so much of deliberate planning as supremely skillful dancing while a random music plays. A bloody mess in Idleb was postponed, which led the west to lose its footing and skip the beat of events. Concurrently, Erdogan was given a set of challenges to accomplish or fail at, and in the end he needed more time, as one could have guessed, and was given it, as one could also guess. Somewhere his windows were closing all the while, even as he was being fed new opportunities from Eurasia.

And now - although it may be years before we have enough details to understand the forces behind the scenes here - a major pivot has been enacted by the US, which I suspect could not have happened one day sooner than it has. And quietly the world will see it as the major pivot that it is. And Russia's hand is nowhere to be seen in any of this, although its presence in all of it seems compelling. Major gains of warfare have been achieved in the last few months, with no shots fired by those who orchestrated these gains.

What a stunning way to fight a war! How good that the Asian Century is coming on so strong, so we can learn the arts of subtlety again, and put aside the childish things of western delusion.

In a theater where one almost has to use peripheral vision simply to make out the outline of forces at work, Erdogan increasingly strikes me as a solid and stable force. Yes he will vacillate between east and west - although "oscillate" might be a better word, since vacillate suggests uncertainty, and I suspect all doubt is gone from Erdogan's mind - and this is only to leverage the greatest gain from each side, as they both play for his commitment.

The difference is that the west still thinks it can secure Turkey's alliance, while Russia knows that Turkey has already secretly forsworn that allegiance. I'm sure that Erdogan sees that Turkey will now be what she always has been and should be, an independent bridge between east and west, trading with both sides - a key node in the ancient Silk Road now reborn, and a modern energy hub dealing Russian gas to Europe.

Erdogan's oscillation is like the pendulum swing that grows smaller and smaller until everyone can see that he is actually motionless.

Posted by: Grieved | Dec 20 2018 22:43 utc | 76

So, now it is being reported that Secretary of Defence, Jim Mattis, is retiring in February! The pins are falling....

Posted by: Activist Potato | Dec 20 2018 22:56 utc | 77

Breaking news: Mattis to retire at end of February.

Posted by: lysias | Dec 20 2018 23:01 utc | 78

Here is the Q&A exchange regarding Trump's announcement during Putin's "traditional end-of-year meeting we call a press conference:"

"Rachel Marsden: President Putin, Rachel Marsden with the Tribune Publishing out of Chicago, United States.

"Yesterday, President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of the American troops from Syria. He also announced that, in his opinion, the United States defeated ISIS in Syria, he made that very clear.

"What is your position with respect to his statements, both on the withdrawal of the American troops from Syria and also with his statement regarding the defeat of ISIS by the United States?

"And, secondly, do you have concern that the American troops will remain in some form? There has been much discussion, for example, around the presence, potentially, of contractors in other jurisdictions where the United States is either out of militarily or might want to be out of militarily but in a more discreet way.

"Thank you very much.

"Vladimir Putin: As concerns the defeat of ISIS, overall I agree with the President of the United States. I already said that we achieved significant progress in the fight against terrorism in that territory and delivered major strikes on ISIS in Syria.

"There is a risk of these and similar groups migrating to neighbouring regions and Afghanistan, to other countries, to their home countries, and they are partly returning.

"It is a great danger for all of us, including Russia, the United States, Europe, Asian countries, including Central Asia. We know that, we understand the risk fully. Donald is right about that, and I agree with him.

"As concerns the withdrawal of American troops, I do not know what that is. The United States have been present in, say, Afghanistan, for how long? Seventeen years, and every year they talk about withdrawing the troops. But they are still there. This is my second point.

"Third. So far, we have not seen any evidence of their withdrawal but I suppose it is possible, the more so because we are progressing towards a political settlement. The current issue on the agenda is building a constitutional committee.

"By the way, when we met in Istanbul – I mean Russia, Turkey, France and Germany – we agreed to make every possible effort to create this constitutional committee and Russia, for its part, has done everything in its power for this to happen.

"As strange as it may seem, we fully agreed on the list of members with President al-Assad, who designated 50 people and was involved in selecting 50 more from civil society. Despite the fact that he is not happy with everything, he agreed with this.

"Turkey, which represents the interests of the opposition, also agreed. Iran agreed. We submitted the list to the UN and, as Minister Lavrov reported to me just yesterday, unexpectedly, prompted by our partners – Germany, France and the United States – UN representatives (Mr de Mistura) decided to wait and see.

"I do not understand what is going on there but at any rate, I want to believe that this work is in its final stage. Maybe not by the end of this year but in the beginning of the next the list will be agreed and this will open the next stage of the settlement, which will be political settlement.

"Is the presence of American troops required there? I do not think it is. However, let us not forget that their presence, the presence of your troops, is illegitimate as it was not approved by a UN Security Council resolution. The military contingent can only be there under a resolution of the UN Security Council or at the invitation of the legitimate Syrian Government. Russian troops were invited by the Syrian Government. The United States did not get either of these so if they decide to withdraw their troops, it is the right decision.

"There is another very important component in this process. Despite all the disagreements, our specialists, our military personnel, security services and foreign ministries have established a rather constructive dialogue to address acute issues in combating terrorism in Syria. Overall, we are satisfied with our cooperation."

A very crafty reply, IMO. It would, however, be very interesting to know just what the Kremlin's Braintrust's actual reaction was to Trump's tweet and the underlying political circumstances that led to it. Also, the fact of the UN hindering the formation of the Constitutional Committee shows continued CIA meddling. I'll see if Lavrov was asked for his reaction and post his reply if one's available.

Posted by: karlof1 | Dec 20 2018 23:28 utc | 79

Grieved #73--

Thanks for your reply! I liked your description of a sort of Musical Chairs. I also now think Russia knew what Khashoggi's fate would be before anyone other than MbS, thus the appearance of orchestration. The history of this entire episode would be a pleasure to write if one could gain access to all the actors--provided they're willing to talk after a discrete passage of time.

As Putin said, the next step is the political settlement, which will be arrived at while the remaining terrorists are routed. I see Mattis is on the way out, so I wonder how long it will take for Pompeo and Bolton to follow him along with the Camp Followers. I also found it interesting that Putin addressed Trump as Donald in his long answer to the reporter from Chicago; I should watch the video to see if there's a bit of devilish gleam in Putin's eyes as he says that knowing how the Russophobes will react. But as Putin also noted regarding Afghanistan, the game isn't up just yet.

Posted by: karlof1 | Dec 20 2018 23:53 utc | 80

Mattis' resignation gives me some hope that Trump is serious about withdrawing from Syria. Trump is so conflicting though - why abandon the treaty with Iran if you're not going to, as Bolton and Mattis say, "stop them in Syria" (which is as ridiculous as "stopping Russia" in that country).

Plus, he's been so hawkish on Iran in other areas as well, such as the treaty and the subsequent sanctions - even threatening to punish Europe. Maybe he just likes to put sanctions on people, or maybe he has less control over that? Don't the sanctions come from Congress as well? Ah, regardless, he seems to brandish sanctions like a weapon, clearly he's in favor of them. Even sanctioning North Korea ever more harshly. Maybe it's just all because he's like to bully people.

Posted by: bjd | Dec 20, 2018 3:28:46 PM | 54:
If Bolton OK'd this, prepare for some Christmas surprise (in Bethlehem, Damascus, wherever).

Yeah, that is of huge concern to me as well. I wonder how Israel fits into this picture. I've seen reports that Israel has been more hesitant to bomb Syria as of late. I can't imagine they'd be happy about the withdrawal of the US troops, unless this means people are preparing for larger scale air operations and the US wants its exposed ground force out of the way.

It's pure speculation, and probably holding up the propagandized personality of Mattis, but maybe his departure is based on the reason that he does not support a undefined poorly thought-out aggressive Israeli air war against Iranian positions in Syria. That would, I think, in part explain the extreme pushback Trump has been getting for these actions from Hollywood and the media. I find it hard to believe that so many people desperately want the US to stick around in Syria out of their own accord - the war against "terrorism" there has pretty much died off over the past few months, if not the whole year.

Aside from those ISIS groups who were moved to Idlib with the aid of the US, of course - the ones who recently perpetrated a gas attack.

Posted by: flayer | Dec 21 2018 0:00 utc | 81

US involvement in Syria goes way beyond boots on the ground . 4000 troops/contractors being removed with as many if not more on the border wont change much. Plenty of strings still to pull.

The true motives for the “change” are not clear. If you want to believe its your boy Trunp manning up and taking on those bad neocons he himself hired, feel free to do so. In this Discordian world of Trump we can only wonder what chaos is being planned that is behind an announcement for an orderly pull out.

Syria never seemed to be worth all the effort unless they could have brought down Assad. Perhaps its as simple as being satisfied with keeping the north in a NATO ally hands and keeping the south Iran free. Perhaps he intends to divert the savings from Syria and using those funds to build the wall. Perhaps he has another target in mind. Perhaps nothing will change and another FF is in the works to keep us in.

Putin reminds us the US announced withdrawal from Afghanistan a number of times and still remains. So we can only see what happens.

Of course, if its real we all know what happens to Presidents who wind down wars especially before creating or escalating a war of their own. Bullet, impeachment or early retirement (1 term). Kennedy, Nixon, Bush I, Carter and Clinton all say hi.

Posted by: Pft | Dec 21 2018 0:09 utc | 82

This is a must watch Jimmy Dore show, Professor Jeffrey Sachs stuns the TV panel with some home truths about the war in Syria and how the CIA and Saudi Arabia set up regime change. Dore is brilliant.

Posted by: Harry Law | Dec 21 2018 0:16 utc | 83

It is a huge Xmas present that Trump is offerring to Erdogan.
Now Erdogan can claim that the USA bowed to his threats and he will get a few points in his popularity at a time when Turkey's economy is faltering and shaking, despite the financial support of Qatar.
Now the Kurds have no choice than to beg Bashar al Assad to take them back. Because Bashar al Assad wants Turkey to stop supporting the FSA, he will press the Kurds to abandon the SDF, thus leaving the FSA isolated and vulnerable to ISIS attacks. Because the Turkish army has always been reluctant to face ISIS, it will probably let the FSA be decimated. Now, who will push ISIS to attack the weakened SDF?

Posted by: Virgile | Dec 21 2018 0:22 utc | 84

Sounds like Mattis resigned because of a disagreement with Trump which, given the timing, was likely the announced withdrawal from Syria. Now if only Bolton was as honorable!

Posted by: ToivoS | Dec 21 2018 0:22 utc | 85

bevin @20

A superb encapsulation. Thank you.

Posted by: farm ecologist | Dec 21 2018 0:24 utc | 86

Somewhat OT but germane just the same: Another Q&A from Putin's annual meeting regarding the possibility of Nuclear War:

"Anton Vernitsky: Mr President, as Soviet-era children, all of us feared a nuclear war very much. As you remember, various songs dealt with this issue. One of them had the following lyrics: 'Sunny world: Yes, yes, yes; nuclear explosion: No, no, no.'

"Vladimir Putin: Are you not afraid today?

"Anton Vernitsky: Forty years have passed, and major media outlets on both sides of the ocean are beginning to publish a scenario for a nuclear exchange between Russia and the United States. The word 'war' is sounding more and more often at household level, in kitchens.

"Mr President, how can you calm down my little son who, just like me, also fears a nuclear war today? What words and actions can calm us all down?

"Vladimir Putin: You know, I think you are right.

"I just thought that all this, including the danger of such developments in the world, is now being hushed up and played down to some extent. It seems impossible or something that is not so important. At the same time, if, God forbid, something like this happens, it might destroy the whole of civilisation or perhaps the entire planet.

"These issues are therefore serious, and it is a great pity that there is such a tendency to underestimate the problem, and that this tendency is probably becoming more pronounced. What are the current distinguishing features and dangers?

"First, all of us are now witnessing the disintegration of the international system for arms control and for deterring the arms race. This process is taking place after the United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty that, as I have already noted a thousand times, was the cornerstone in the sphere of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and deterring the arms race.

"After that, we were forced to respond by developing new weapons systems that could breach these ABM systems. Now, we hear that Russia has gained an advantage. Yes, this is true. So far, the world has no such weapons systems. Leading powers will develop them, but, as yet they do not exist.

"In this sense, there are certain advantages. But, speaking of the entire strategic balance, this is just an element of deterrence and for equalising parities. This is just the preservation of parity, and nothing more.

"They are now about to take another step and withdraw from the INF Treaty. What will happen? It is very difficult to imagine how the situation will unfold. What if these missiles show up in Europe? What are we supposed to do then?

"Of course, we will need to take some steps to ensure our safety. And they should not whine later that we are allegedly trying to gain certain advantages. We are not. We are simply trying to maintain the balance and ensure our security.

"The same goes for the START III Treaty, which expires in 2021. There are no talks on this issue. Is it because no one is interested, or believes it is necessary? Fine, we can live with that.

"We will ensure our security. We know how to do it. But in general, for humanity, this is very bad, because this takes us to a very dangerous line.

"Finally, there is another circumstance I cannot ignore. There is a trend to lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons. There are plans to create low-impact nuclear charges, which translates to tactical rather than global use. Such ideas are coming from Western analysts who say it is okay to use such weapons. However, lowering the threshold can lead to a global nuclear disaster. This is one danger we are facing today.

"The second is the use of non-nuclear ballistic missiles. True, our US partners seem to have dropped this idea, but it still exists. What does it mean?

"Suppose, a ballistic missile is launched, nuclear or non-nuclear. The missile attack warning system identifies the launch and the launch site, and, seconds later, determines the flight path and the possible warhead landing area. This is all on the verge of a possible error. It is terrible, and we cannot take it that far. Nevertheless, such an idea of using non-nuclear ballistic missiles exists.

"Suppose, a submarine fired a ballistic missile from the World Ocean, but who the hell knows if it is nuclear or not, go figure. This is very dangerous. All of that is being widely discussed, which is dangerous.

"However, I believe humanity has enough common sense and enough of a sense of self-preservation not to take these things to the extreme."

IMO, Putin's reply isn't the sort leading to a "calm" reaction. Rather, additional fears are raised despite the reassurances. Was the question planted (note the reference to "40 years")? If not, it ought to have been as it relays a distinct message to the Outlaw US Empire and its vassals about the dangerous caldron they're stirring--and Putin's correct to point his finger at them. The required discussion on this topic is one that's being hampered/delayed by the CIA/MI-6-orchestrated Russophobia--a massive provocation that ought to cease tomorrow but won't.

Posted by: karlof1 | Dec 21 2018 0:29 utc | 87

Haveing conditioned the western public to hate Russia using ‘integrity initiative’ ‘Atlantic Council ‘ extra, preparing in advance for conflict with Russia. The withdraw of US troops from Syria is a false dawn. The Middle East has been put back a thousand years !
The facist US will now turn it’s atention to Russia. When you unleash the nazi monster it soon becomes uncontrollable as now. And demands fresh innocent blood. Have read the comments above I conclude we know it but can’t face it.
Never forgive a bully it will be taken as weakness, never beleave a bully it will be taken as gullibility!!!

Posted by: Mark2 | Dec 21 2018 0:33 utc | 88

Woodwards book on Trump recounts a scene where the president orders Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to kill Assad . “Let’s F ‘ingkill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the F’ing lot of them,” According to Woodward, Mattis ignored the order, or he didn’t perceive it as a direct order, and instead presented the president with a menu of more limited options. Bolton is a happy man with Mattis leaving

Bolton supposedly is pushing a plan to get Turkey into a confrontation with Russia.  Trump offered Erdogan delivery of F35 fighters starting in 3 weeks and supposedly bought off Erdogan with the US withdrawal. So US withdrawal is a Russian trap as any engagement between Russia and Turkey could bring the US and the rest of Nato in to defend Turkey

Special forces and some private military companies will likely remain and protect US interests and observe

US Special Representative for Syria earlier this month said they were considering the creation of an Iraqi-style “no-fly zone” following a possible withdrawal of its grounds from there

Posted by: Pft | Dec 21 2018 0:41 utc | 89

@34 Karlof

I always appreciate your links. I haven't gone to Mr. Murray's or read Pepe's latest yet, but it would take a whole lot of convincing.

@38 Peter AU1

People forget the S-300 is a mobile system. Within 30 mins is supposed to be able to fire, move, reload, target, rinse repeat...(sorry, cannot find link)

@49 Sharon

I thought you died?...


Posted by: b4real | Dec 21 2018 0:48 utc | 90

Again, the subject is a Peace Treaty, this one between Russia and Japan. I've followed this issue at a bit of a distance not knowing what the problems are in its accomplishment. Putin provided the answer in his meeting today to a Japanese journalist. I won't copy/paste the entire exchange as I have earlier; interested folks can click the link I provided and read the entire exchange. What follows is the meat:

"You spoke about the deployment of the US military infrastructure in Japan, but it is already there, the largest US base is in Okinawa, it has been there for decades, as we know.

"Now, about Japan’s ability to take part in this decision-making. To us, this is an unclear, closed issue. We do not understand the level of Japan’s sovereignty in making such decisions." [My Emphasis]

Putin is saying the hindrance is due to Japan being an occupied nation that doesn't have 100% control of its sovereignty, particularly concerning defense. That for a treaty of peace to be signed, Japan must free itself from that hindrance.

Will Japan join Eurasia or will it remain an outlier like Australia is the actual question.

Posted by: karlof1 | Dec 21 2018 1:24 utc | 91

@86 Pft:

The US just spent years trying to create a Kurdish state on turkey’s border and it backed (maybe organized) a coup attempt against Erdogan.

Do you think the Turks trust the US? The Turks are not about to attack Russia to ingratiate the neocons for any reason and especially after they supported the Kurds.. i believe the CFR was pushing for a Kurd state composed of large pieces of turkey including a slice of it leading to the sea. Other think tanks offer a similar vision. I’m pretty sure the Turkish gov is aware of it. The threat of mischief could come from a gulllenist in the Turk military but Erdogan purged most of them, certainly the powerful ones.

Posted by: Alaric | Dec 21 2018 1:35 utc | 92

Alaric @89--

The Kurdish statelet idea is of Zionist manufacture, aimed at reducing Syria to a rump state while diminishing Turkish abilities. The action now seems to be moving to the waters around Cyprus and the NatGas located there. IMO, Zionistan has reached its acme and will begin its decline due to its many internal issues and corruption--all in addition to its self-generated problems with Palestine and Lebanon.

Posted by: karlof1 | Dec 21 2018 1:44 utc | 93

Mattis' departure lends some credibility to the withdrawal story, but if his replacement is another Bolton clone that might not be worth it.

@pft 86 - Erdogan of course hates the Kurds and is probably fine fighting them, but would he take on Russia? Would he trust Nato to back him up militarily if shooting starts with Russia (I wouldn't). Without Iranian or Russian gas it could be a long, cold winter in Turkey.

Posted by: Schmoe | Dec 21 2018 1:57 utc | 94

@86 "So US withdrawal is a Russian trap as any engagement between Russia and Turkey could bring the US and the rest of Nato in to defend Turkey"

A clash of arms between Russia and Turkey INSIDE Syria does not trigger any treaty obligation viz. NATO or the USA.

The NATO treaty is quite explicit on that point: the mutual-defence articles are only applicable to armed conflict on the territory of a NATO country, or in the North Atlantic, or in the Mediterranean Sea. Syria is not any of those.

Nothing stops anyone from "coming to the aid" of Turkey in such a clash - scoundrels can always flock together - but nobody will be under any treaty obligation to do so.

Think of it this way: nothing stopped the USA from "coming to the aid" of the South Vietnamese government in 1968, but that bit of overseas adventurism did not oblige any NATO country to through their hat into the ring alongside Uncle Sam.

The same thing here: nothing stops Turkey from sending an expeditionary force into Syria, but no NATO country is obliged to join them if anyone fights back.

Posted by: Yeah, Right | Dec 21 2018 2:02 utc | 95

A quick question that springs to mind: how many of the "coalition of the willing" is still in Iraq/Syria alongside the Americans?

Are the Dutchies still there, or did they skedaddle a long time ago?
The Aussies? Are they still flying FA-18's over the combat zone?

If they are then they must be rushing for the exits right about..... now.

Posted by: Yeah, Right | Dec 21 2018 2:05 utc | 96

It is not just Americans that asking WTF?

France says Islamic State not defeated, troops to remain in Syria

The take away quote:
“The military campaign against Islamic State continues,” French army spokesman Patrik Steiger told a news conference. “At this stage, the announcement by the American president has no impact on France’s ongoing participation (in the coalition).”

So the French need a talking to about their illegal presence in Syria unless they are going to take the mantle of empire over from the US and lead this illegal coalition.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Dec 21 2018 2:05 utc | 97

An amazing move by Trump.
Perhaps Isreal gave it a green light.
I imagine it will not go without some response by the MIC crowd.
Or perhaps they have lost interest. Where next?

Posted by: JARED | Dec 21 2018 2:05 utc | 98

karlof1 88

Abe visiting the Yasukuni shrine, rearming ect. I think he is going for sovereignty.
I have not studied Abe, but I think it would be hard to reconcile a respect for Japanese war dead with the occupation Japan has been under by the victors of their last war for the past seventy odd years.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Dec 21 2018 2:07 utc | 99

Good Article. The damage has been done to Syria for a generation, maybe much longer. It possibly forces a Russia Turkey confrontation at some point in the future. It is a small reversal in the overstretched empire we have become.

Trump has announced this before only to be immediately overridden by his "advisors". At this point he has nothing to lose anyway. Might as well dig in for the long two years of shelling from all sides. Bold grand policy strokes work when the media is stroking you in the rump.

Posted by: dltravers | Dec 21 2018 2:16 utc | 100

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