National Security Advisor John Bolton is making the rounds in the Middle East to try and salvage what’s left of the long-standing plan to balkanize Syria and overthrow President Bashar al-Assad in the wake of President Trump’s announced troop withdrawal.
What began as a political Hail Mary for Trump has morphed into a foreign policy quagmire for Bolton and the bloody-minded neoconservatives he is the tip of the spear for.
Bolton first met fellow war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu to announce their conditions under which US troops would leave Syria. The big sticking point was getting the Turks to guarantee the safety of the Kurdish militia, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), that have been the US proxy forces in securing that part of Syria east of the Euphrates river for future plans vis-à-vis Iraq and Iran.
His condition for the US’s withdrawal from Syria is just another impossible demand placed on Turkey, who can no more guarantee the Kurds’ survival than Russia could implement the Minsk II agreement in Ukraine.
This is yet another big lie neocons like Bolton have been parroting since Trump’s announcement. They are desperate to convince us their mission in Syria is a humanitarian one. The Kurds are their casus belli of the day, dressed up for the liberal interventionist left to rally around.
Since Trump’s announcement we have been saturated with the idea that the Turks will come in and slaughter every Kurd in Syria if the US pulls out. This is something Pompeo was taken to task for by Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy who said Pompeo exhibited a “worrying lack of knowledge” about the situation in Syria, since Turkey houses currently over 300,000 Syrian Kurdish refugees from the fighting the US fomented.
It is a continuation of the thoroughly debunked and false narrative that Assad is a butcher, Putin is only there for the gas pipelines and America is actually fighting ISIS.
ISIS, the very terrorists we armed to overthrow Assad in the first place.
We’re there for humanitarian reasons, the same way we’re supporting the Saudi war in Yemen, maintaining a no-fly zone over the border crossing at Al-Tanf while the people who live there starve.
And all John Bolton can think or care about is Great Powers theory and how to destroy the Heartland as defined by Makinder a century ago.
In their desperation to hold onto the dregs of their strategic position, something that the pro-Syrian coalition is degrading daily, Bolton, Pompeo and Netanyahu have now turned to the Kurds who know the US doesn’t care about them to justify more regional chaos.
If they thought otherwise the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), the political arm of the YPG, wouldn’t be negotiating with the Assad government.
Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Syrian Special Envoy James Jeffrey, neocons and Israeli-Firsters all, have been furiously trying to drum up support for a permanent partitioning of Syria that has been described by those who have seen the plan as “Sykes-Picot on acid.”
As Moon of Alabama points out, Trump has been against this plan from the beginning. Surprisingly enough, so has the Pentagon. Bolton and Pompeo’s plan is so daft, so obviously being pushed by forces outside of the White House itself, that even the Washington Post had to admit to the Pentagon’s resistance to it.
Bolton’s Iran plan never really took effect at the Pentagon, where officials were not officially tasked with any new mission in addition to the operation against the Islamic State. Military officials likewise viewed Iran’s expansion into Syria as problematic, but they were skeptical about the lack of a clear legal justification that would be required for offensive military action against Iranian-backed forces.
It’s obvious that Bolton and Pompeo both are trying to tie Trump’s hands by issuing public statements that contradict what they know of his wishes. They have routinely gone out and contravened him on many issues, overstating our goals or putting forth policy statements which Trump then does not back up.
And the problem is that Trump isn’t against the Syria operation on principle. He couldn’t possibly do that, since he doesn’t have any. No, Trump doesn’t see the return on investment for America. And so, in his balance-sheet-focused mind Syria is a drain and therefore the troops can come home.
He’ll use other means, like sanctions and threats to allies, to get Iran to do what he wants, which is to try and secure a Middle East safe for Israel by dismantling Iran’s position in central Asia.
But, that’s as much a fantasy as Bolton’s psychedelic Skyes-Picot plan. Because it is pretty obvious to anyone observing this situation that the Pro-Syrian coalition – Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and China – are simply running a game of attrition against the Boltons and the Pompeos as well as Netanyahu.
The solution is coming into focus. Turkey can’t make good on its promises to Russia over the situation in Idleb, nullifying the agreement between them since the de-militarized zone has failed.
Israel cannot effectively strike Syria anymore and has to resort to cowardly attacks using civilians as human shields. And the US can no longer maintain its position in al-Hasakah and Deir Ezzor if the SDF wishes them gone.
Somehow, John Bolton thinks that 2000 men cannot only carve out a permanent US-backed Kurdistan with Turkey’s acceptance along its border with Syria, force all Iranian troops and support from Syria and overthrow Assad and that constitutes a winning hand to go a’negotiating with.
Bolton went around the Middle East looking for takers and found only Israel while everyone else looked at him like, “Buddy, the 70’s are over.” His moustache is as outdated as his view of America’s role in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, Trump is in no position politically to fire him.
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Tom Luongo is an independent political and economic analyst based in North Florida, USA
Featured image is from SCF