Trump's Syrian middlegame
US President Donald Trump's statement about withdrawal of American troops from Syria caused anger and even panic in Europe and among some forces in Syria itself. Publications in the European press prove that. Russia believed that Trump’s decision was a positive stem, but it was still skeptical about implementation of his plan. Russia's UN envoy Vasily Nebenzya expressed doubts about withdrawal of American troops from Syria. He said that we should wait for actual actions. He was right. Washington has previously declared about withdrawal of troops from Iraq and from Afghanistan, but they're still there.
Press secretary of the Russian President, Vladimir Peskov, commenting on Trump's statement, noted that "presence of Americans on Syrian soil doesn't contribute to political and diplomatic settlement." "We all know situation in some areas of Syria that are under the US control. There's a humanitarian catastrophe, terrorist groups are being armed and trained, local population is unable to receive medical assistance or simply leave the area. I'm talking about the area close to the Jordan-Iraq border," Peskov stressed.
Hee made it clear that the United States didn't behave like reliable partners in Syria and didn't followed agreements that were reached. For example, Russia and Iran fulfilled Israel's request - Iranians withdrew 100 kilometers from the border - while the US troops, who were supposed withdraw from designated regions of Syria, didn't leave.
"And that's why we know that Americans always say that they'll withdraw their troops from somewhere, US Presidents make decisions like that all the time... They have been withdrawing troops from Afghanistan for many, many years, and as a result significant part of this country is controlled by the Taliban (organization banned in the Russian Federation). We know about difficult situation in Iraq, where Americans still remain... That's why we should wait and see whether Americans will really leave territory of the Syrian Arab Republic," he concluded.
However, majority of participants in the Syrian conflict believe that this time White House may be more consistent compared to other cases. Obviously, one of the reasons for this belief is resignation of Defense Minister James Mattis, who, in contrast to Trump, believed that troops shouldn't be withdrawn from Syria.
Organization of Syrian Kurds "Syrian Democratic Council" rushed to Paris for help. During talks with President Emmanuel Macron, they said that terrorists of ISIS (banned in Russia and other countries) are still there, although they are pretty worn out. Until now, Kurds received help from the American troops, which Turkey openly criticized. Following the meeting, Macron promised to replace Americans in this particular role.
Following French leader, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Natalie Loiseau confirmed that Paris will maintain military presence in Syria despite Washington's decision. Unlike its overseas ally, France doesn't believe that the fight against ISIS has ended. Loiseau noted that Europe should make any decisions on its own, without constant pressure from the United States - "They have their own priorities, we have ours."
Unlike France, other European countries are not as active. No official requests to reconsider its decision have been sent to Washington, perhaps because there's no decision at the official level yet.
Europe doesn't trust Trump's statements anymore. It also believes that Mattis’s resignation is a prove that American troops will be withdrawn from Syria. However, for some reason, it doesn't take into account the fact that reasons for his resignation can be associated not only with this situation, but also with long-existing contradictions with president. In other words, Trump, prone to authoritarianism, can no longer tolerate a minister who had different views on many things.
Disputes between Mattis and Trump were pretty public. This includes different views on Iran, joint exercises with partner countries, the US military presence in other countries, in particular in Syria, torture of prisoners of war, etc. Obviously, their differences could no longer be ignored, and Mattis understood that, while Trump didn't mind. Mattis was a democrat among members of the Republican Party, but his authority wasn't as big as of some leaders of the Democratic Party.
In other words, believing that Mattis' resignation was a result of the Syrian issue is wrong. Especially since this is not the first and it seems that it won't be the last resignation in the Trump team. The only question that remains is whether Washington will actually withdraw its troops from Syria or not?
We can expect more activity from the extremist groups, especially ISIS and not because Americans played a major role in suppressing those terrorists, but because it's in their interest to demonstrate inability of other players to maintain stability in Syria, to achieve military return with greater rights and powers. In addition, Trump hopes to pressure Europeans in the issue of NATO funding, as well as use situation in Syria as a trump card in other geopolitical issues.