Of all the times for things to go to hell in Syria, it had to be just as Freaking Lunatic Whackjob John Bolton is taking over as National Security Adviser to Clueless Malevolent Moron Trump. They might as well call in Dick the Dick Cheney to complete the Trifecta of Doom.
A year ago, President Trumpâ€™s new administration announced that removing Assad from power was no longer a priority of the United States government. Soon afterward, the man known as â€œthe Butcher of Damascusâ€ launched a sarin attack that killed more than 80 Syrians. Seeing gruesome images of murdered childrenÂ prompted TrumpÂ to order airstrikes on the airfield that had been used by planes that dropped the gas.
Fast forward almost exactly one year.Â During a rally in Ohio the Thursday before last,TrumpÂ contradicted and undercutÂ months of public commitments from diplomatic and military leaders that America would not cut and run from Syria.Â Speaking off the cuff during what was supposed to be a speech about infrastructure, the president declared: â€œWeâ€™ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now!â€
The next day,Â news brokeÂ that Trump had suspended more than $200 million in stabilization funds for Syrian recovery efforts â€” to the grave consternation of the professionals at Foggy Bottom.
â€œI want to get out,â€ Trump added last Tuesday at the White House during a news conference with Baltic leaders. â€œI want to bring our troops back home. â€¦ Itâ€™s time.â€
This declaration caught military commanders off guard. Top national security aides persuaded TrumpÂ not to immediately pull outÂ the 2,000 Americans who are on the ground during a meeting later in the day. Then they crafted a statement in the Situation Room designed to reassure allies in the region. But for Assad and his patrons in Moscow and Tehran, the presidentâ€™s preferences were crystal clear.
Then, on Saturday night, at least 40 people were killed in another apparent chemical attack on a besieged, rebel-held enclave near Damascus.
It’s a damn shame Trump is too bleeping stupid to make the connection between his own words and their consequences.
Max Boot, remembered for his knee-jerk support of the Bush-Cheney atrocities in the Middle East, is singing a different tune with Trump:
On April 7, 2017, the U.S. armed forcesÂ fired 59 cruise missilesÂ at a Syrian airbase to punish Bashar al-Assad for his use of chemical weapons against his own citizens. The Syrian president reportedly celebrated the one-year anniversary of the strike on Saturday by orderingÂ another attackÂ with chemical weapons that opposition activistsÂ saidÂ killed dozens of people in the city of Douma. This appears to be at least theÂ eighthÂ such attack by Assad this year â€” and the most brazen. Having seen that the United States would not react to his repeated violations of international laws, Assad has intensified his use of weapons of mass destruction. …
….Since taking a victory lap for his cruise-missile strike, Trump has left Assad, along with his Russian and Iranian backers, undisturbed to continue their meticulous work of mass murder. Trump evenÂ discontinued supportÂ for rebel groups fighting Assad and instead focused narrowly on the goal of eradicating the Islamic State. Now, with the finish line in sight, Trump appears to have set aÂ deadline of OctoberÂ for the Defense Department to pull our troops out â€” even though the Pentagon, State Department, CIA, Israel and the Arab states are allÂ telling himÂ that this would be a monumental mistake. A premature departure will risk the success of the anti-Islamic State campaign and hand eastern Syria to Assad and his patrons.
Trump announced today that he would decide “soon” what to do about Syria. He’s treating the crisis like a reality show episode. See alsoÂ Trump’s real Syria policy is hypocrisy.
Juan Cole provides background on what’s going on in Syria. He adds:
Trumpâ€™s response to Khan Sheykhoun in 2017 was a one-off with no real military or political impact. I strongly suspect that any response he makes now will be similar, a fireworks show for his domestic constituency without much downstream consequence in Syria itself.
Obama decided not to bomb Syria in September of 2013 because the British parliament voted against a joint operation and because the Republicans in Congress made it clear that they would not support an Obama strike on Syria. Russia offered to sequester Syrian sarin gas stockpiles, and Obama took them up on the offer. It appears that some 90 percent of the sarin stockpiles were in fact destroyed or removed. Saturdayâ€™s attack used chlorine, a common industrial chemical.
Since Trumpâ€™s own strike on the Shuayrat base last year did not forestall the Douma gassing, it is difficult to understand why Trump thinks a strike in 2013 by Mr. Obama would have done so.
The big question is whether the mercurial and erratic Trump will now rethink his decision to get out of Syria entirely by next fall. The US special operations troops that would be pulled out are in the Syrian far east, embedded among Kurds, and have nothing to do with the Damascus area.