Alwaght- The US has the largest foreign military presence in various parts of the world mainly thanks to its multiple cross-border military bases. In recent years, one of the most controversial areas where the US established new military bases has been northern Syria, with the recent three American administrations having had to build a presence in the north as part of their regional strategy in West Asia and to address highly complicated and significant geopolitical issues. From another aspect, with the expansion of the domain of the American confrontation with regional resistance groups, the American bases have turned into the most susceptible points of the US presence and a source of military tensions with the Axis of Resistance, a bloc opposed to American imperialism. This susceptibility beside tangible decline of the American military presence effectiveness in Syria, which plays into the hands of Damascus and its backers, has raised a debate about whether the US should leave northern Syria or stay.
This issue was brought up again in the US House of Representatives recently, but the lawmakers opposed the draft plan presented by the Republican Matt Gaetz regarding the withdrawal of US troops. Some 321 lawmakers voted against and 103 voted for the plan. During a speech, Gaetz criticized the presence of American forces in the Arab country and demanded their pullout. He also criticized US military support for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), saying they target interests of Turkey, a US NATO ally. The mission of the US military is not to fuel wars in other countries with American tax money, said the Republican representative.
According to data, about 900 US military forces are stationed in 9 to 14 military bases in the north and east of Syria. The House resolution followed a last week visit to Syria of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley and meeting with the military forces serving there.
Asked by reporters traveling with him if he believed the Syria deployment of roughly 900 U.S. troops to Syria was worth the risk, Milley tied the mission to the security of the United States and its allies, saying: “If you think that that’s important, then the answer is ‘Yes.’”
This, analysts agree, means that the White House and Pentagon officials are drawing new plans for Syria and the whole region.
In recent days, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken issued a statement in support of Syria terrorists, angering Damascus. In response to Blinken’s statement, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said that without the financial aid, support and weapons of the US and its allies, the terrorist groups could not have massacred the Syrian people and destroyed their infrastructure and civilization. The statement further said that Blinken or any of his predecessors cannot whitewash hands stained with blood of Syrians who were killed in “Jabal al-Tharda of Deir Ez-Zor province or the destruction of Raqqa city.
“They are still plundering the oil and agricultural wealth of Syria,” continued the ministry referring to the American forces.
Over the past 12 years, the US vastly supported terrorist militias to take down legal government of President Bashar al-Assad, but this project, which took lives of hundreds of thousands of Syrians and displaced millions, failed. So, Washington works to reverse its defeat and secure its interests in other ways. In recent years, the US has earned billions of dollars by stealing oil from Syria, and it transfers this oil to the Kurdistan region in the north by tankers and exports it from Turkey to other regions, including Israel. These resources are increasingly important to the Americans at a time Europe is in desperate need for energy amid shortage caused by sanctions on Russian hydrocarbons exports. That is why Washington pushes to seize their control by any means.
Fear of repeat of Afghanistan experience
The reason the US lawmakers do not agree to a six-month deadline for troop withdrawal from Syria is their concerns about repeat of their mistake in Afghanistan. The humiliating exit from Afghanistan after 20 years of occupation, which drew public and international rebuke, made the US officials conservative in other parts. Actually, the Americans do not want to see the scenario repeat in Syria because amid heightened tensions between the West and Russia and while other countries closely watch the game of powers to decide which side they should take in the future, any Washington slip in Syria can damage its image and mark a win for Russia and Iran.
Ostensible assurances to allies
After Afghanistan withdrawal, observes and media outlets said that the rushed exit was a weak-up call to the US allies to not account on the Americans, and also warned that the Syrian Kurds will suffer the same betrayal. Thus, by continuing their presence in Syria, the Americans are sending a message to the Kurdish militias in the north, officially called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that they stand by them and they should not doubt that. Disappointed at Washington’s support, Syrian Kurdish leaders have in recent months moved towards engagement with Damascus to Washington’s frustration, and trip by US Secretary of State envoy Nicholas Grainger to northern Syria and meeting with Kurdish groups in January was to prevent Kurdish re-embracement of the central government. For several years, the Kurds have been a Washington’s lever to pressure Damascus for concessions and an excuse for a long-term presence in Syria, and that is why the US is trying to maintain its bases in Syria.
From another angle, Washington is worried about Iraq’s developments, including power gain of anti-American resistance groups, and is working to reinforce its bases in Syria to use them in case of threats against its Iraq presence. After Thursday visit to Iraq of the US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin which came to secure long-term military presence, resistance groups have warned they will not doubt expelling the occupation forces, a warning poised to intensify the tensions prospectively. So, the US finds saving its Syria bases crucial to realize its plans. After all, Syria and Iraq are the only military bases of the US in the Axis of Resistance the exit from which closes Washington’s hands for destabilization.
ISIS revival scenario
Over the past year, the US has restrengthened ISIS as its regional agenda to re-destabilize Syria and Iraq with the help of fugitive terrorists. With the US bases in eastern Syria being near the Iraqi borders, the movement of terrorists in these areas is done easily. Washington asked Baghdad officials to prepare the ground for the transfer of hundreds of ISIS families from al-Hawl Camp in eastern Syria, which would be a prelude to the implementation of new Iraq destabilization project. The American presence in Syria means that in the case of ISIS re-emergence in Iraq, logistical assistance and weapons will be provided to the terrorists in the shortest possible time, and this is why Washington is not willing to quit its Syria positions. The US claims that its presence in Iraq and Syria is aimed at fighting ISIS, but it is obvious to all that the Americans have been the biggest supporters of terrorists in the past years and continue to be in the future.
Concerns about Syria-Turkey normalization
The US struggled for 12 years to distance regional countries from Syria, but a recent normalization initiative pursued by countries once-hostile to Syria is wreaking the American plans. Turkey was one of the influential countries in the Syrian crisis, which has leaned towards engagement with Damascus in recent months, and its security and intelligence officials held several meetings with their Syrian counterparts in Moscow in order to resume relations after a decade-long hiatus. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said that the quadrilateral meeting of Russia, Turkey, Iran and Syria will be held in Moscow in the next few days, and an Erdogan-Assad meeting in the next few weeks is not unlikely.
Indeed, a Syrian-Turkish political closeness is deemed by the Americans a threat to Washington’s interests and represents a barrier to implementation of its evil plans against Damascus. The White House has expressed its concern about advancing Ankara’s normalization process with Damascus and considers it contrary to its plans in the region. It is, therefore, seeking to re-implement its tested-and-failed plans to hamper the normalization. The Americans know that closeness of Ankara to Damascus means abandoning Idlib-based terrorists and termination of the terrorism project in the Arab country. On the other hand, re-embracement of Syria by once-hostile states will strengthen the image and power of al-Assad on the international stage, something difficult to accept for Washington that used all of its cards to overthrow his government. With Ankara and Damascus now closer to each other than any other time, Washington works to consolidate its foothold among the militant groups in Syria, as a rapprochement leaves the Americans alone in Syria.
A powerful Syria near the Israeli regime runs counter to American regional policies and would enhance Resistance camp in the region. At a time the occupied territories are grappling with deep challenges, this is worrisome to Washington and Tel Aviv that struggle to distance Iran and its allies from the Israeli borders.
From another aspect, the US occupational policy in Syria is not irrelevant to Ukraine developments. Having in mind that the Westerners have no chance of securing a victory in Ukraine over Moscow and prolonged war only carries more costs to Washington and its European allies, the White House officials work to keep Syrian crisis heated to increase the costs of their traditional rival. Over the past year, the US aspired to open new fronts to deal blows to Russia, and Syria will be the epicenter of this confrontation in West Asia.
Whereas Syria foes are resuming their ties to Damascus embarrassed after a decade of belligerence, Washington is seeking to sow crisis in Syria by continuing its presence there. But resistance forces will certainly not allow the Americans to run rampant in Syria again, and exit from Syria and Iraq will eventually take place with disgrace worse than that the Americans witnessed in Afghanistan.