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Foreign Affairs

Syria pullout: The right thing… done the wrong way… for (mostly) the wrong reasons



Syria pullout The right thing done the wrong way for mostly the wrong reasons

The United States military’s mission in Syria is effectively done. It should have been done long ago, but President Obama’s strategy of utilizing Syrian rebels to fight both the Islamic State and Bashar al-Assad’s regime was misguided and mostly ineffective. He tried to kill two birds with one stone and effectively missed them both.

America has spent too much time, money, and resources on a plan that miserably failed at one goal – removing Assad – and delayed the elimination of the Islamic State as a regional power. The right move would have been an unambiguous, asymmetrical assault by a multi-national coalition of western and Middle Eastern forces to wipe out the Islamic State in spectacular (and quick) fashion, but President Obama chose instead to be clever.

As for Assad’s regime, he should have left it alone completely. Attempts to arm and train the rebels, which are comprised of a hodgepodge of forces that include Sunni Islamic extremists and was 15%-25% al Qaeda when the decision was made, was a disastrous half-measure. It did more harm than good, which is why Assad is still there, the Islamic State is not obliterated, and U.S. troops remain.

But that’s what President Trump inherited, so it is incumbent on him to decide how to fix the mess. That would require pulling out of Syria, which he has decided to do against the wishes of his cabinet. Defense Secretary James Mattis has resigned in protest over the move.

Let’s break down why the President is doing the right thing, how he’s doing it the wrong way, and why his reasoning for doing so is flawed.

Pulling out is the right move

If there’s one way to unify Democrats, neocons, and most mainstream conservatives, it’s for the President to order an abrupt withdrawal of forces from Syria. They all have different reasons for their disagreement with the President, but it seems like most are in agreement that it’s the wrong move.

They’re all wrong. It’s definitely the right thing to do even if he’s doing it for the wrong reasons. More on his reasoning in a moment. First, let’s discuss why it’s the right move.

The forces who are being painted by mainstream media as our “allies” among the Kurdish rebels are not and have never actually done our bidding. They were made allies by President Obama because they faced the threat of the Islamic State pressing on them from one side while Assad’s regime pressed on them from the other side. President Obama saw it as an opportunity to help them fight their battle so we didn’t have to get our hands dirty.

But it failed. The Islamic State was mostly defeated through other means; the Kurdish forces we propped up to be the main fighting force against them were only able to occupy areas left by the Islamic State following American air strikes. They were ineffective at actually fighting them in any meaningful way. The Peshmerga in Iraq, on the other hand, drove the Islamic State out with little U.S. support.

That’s all in the past. The present situation is one where 99% of the lands the Islamic State controlled at its peak have been taken back. Their numbers are dwindling to the point that U.S. involvement is no longer required.

In other words, it’s time to let the Middle East handle the Middle East’s problems.

As my wife said in a video yesterday, our military presence there is no longer needed.

The biggest argument for not pulling out is that Iran, Russia, and Turkey will now move in to fill the void. This is factually wrong. It’s not that they won’t continue to move in (they’re already there). It’s that they can and are moving in whether we’re there or not.

Our presence is not a deterrent to them coming it. It’s a deterrent to them attacking the Kurdish rebels. Some would argue that it’s the same thing; the rebel presence, by critics’ estimates, is the only thing stopping a complete takeover by outside forces. But once again, remaining is a half-measure. It does not stop Iran or Russia from exerting more control over Syria. It only serves to destabilize the nation and give the Kurds cover. Our troops are essentially human shields.

It’s unfortunate that the Kurds will now have to fight without our troops deterring attacks, but they were fighting before we got there and they’ll be fighting after we leave. But if the President pulled out the right way, this wouldn’t be as big of a problem.

But we’re doing it the wrong way

Just because the Kurdish rebels were ineffective and had their own agenda does not remove our obligation to give them assistance. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to give them military assistance.

The President has the ability to negotiate with all the players involved. Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Russia all want the United States out of Syria so they can exert more control. This is the President’s leverage. He is failing to use it.

Instead of announcing a pullout on Twitter, he should have called all the groups to the table. They would have come running if he said the United States would pull out if certain criteria were met. Those criteria could have been:

  • A cease-fire in the region currently controlled by the Kurds
  • No incursions into the territory
  • A summit to be held between the Assad regime and the rebels to discuss terms for a permanent peace

If the President is as great at negotiating as he claims, all of these demands could be feasible. There would be repercussions; the Kurds in Turkey would have to be cut off completely from the Kurds in Syria, which would only be made possible by a Turkish-controlled buffer at the border, for example. But the end result would have been acceptable to most parties involved.

The abrupt pullout is the President folding the winning poker hand. Unfortunately, his reasoning for doing so is horrible.

Pulling out for the wrong reason

When the announcement was made, I wondered if the President had been bullied.

Did Turkey just bully the United States into withdrawing from Syria? timing of the announcement is conspicuous following a phone meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday. Erdogan has opposed the United States’ cooperation with the Kurds, who he considers to be a terrorist group bent on destabilizing the Middle East and usurping his power.

Withdrawing from Syria will leave our Kurdish allies open to attacks from Turkey.

According to the Associated Press, my concerns were justified.

Trump call with Turkish leader led to US pullout from Syria“The talking points were very firm,” said one of the officials, explaining that Trump was advised to clearly oppose a Turkish incursion into northern Syria and suggest the U.S. and Turkey work together to address security concerns. “Everybody said push back and try to offer (Turkey) something that’s a small win, possibly holding territory on the border, something like that.”

With Erdogan on the line, Trump asked national security adviser John Bolton, who was listening in, why American troops remained in Syria if what the Turkish president was saying was true, according to the officials. Erdogan’s point, Bolton was forced to admit, had been backed up by Mattis, Pompeo, U.S. special envoy for Syria Jim Jeffrey and special envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition Brett McGurk, who have said that IS retains only 1 percent of its territory, the officials said.

The reasons we need to pull out of Syria in a systematic manner following negotiations with everyone involved are:

  • Our interests are no longer being served there with the Islamic State decimated
  • Any military presence in the region should be temporary
  • The costs to maintain our presence there are too high with limited reward
  • The only power in the region that needs our support is Israel

Conspicuously not on the list is appeasing the despot in Turkey.

I cannot say this with a certainty, but I suspect the state of affairs in the United States also led to the decision. Between bad press from his former associates pertaining to the Robert Mueller investigation and the looming government shutdown over the border wall, the timing of the Syrian move is conspicuous. The President has been known to cover up bad press with different bad press. It’s a tactic that helped him win the election, but it’s a dangerous tactic to use now that he’s President.

We need to bring our troops home now that the Islamic State is small enough for regional powers to handle. But the “how” and “why” regarding the President’s move are terrible. It’s as if he has no understanding of the repercussions of his whims.

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Foreign Affairs

Mike Pompeo responds to Venezuela, Biden’s world tour, Hezbollah, and Israel



Mike Pompeo responds to Venezuela Bidens world tour Hezbollah and Israel

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared on Fox News last night to talk to Shannon Bream about the tumultuous state of affairs around the world and how the United States is handling them.

First, he discussed Venezuela and recent developments where Nicolas Maduro’s regime has essentially framed members of Juan Guaido’s team in an effort to jail and stop the opposition to his presidency there. The Secretary of State said they would hold Maduro’s regime accountable for their actions, but would not elaborate on how U.S. intervention in the poverty-torn nation would manifest.

He jabbed at potential Democratic 2020 candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, who is being allegedly courted by world leaders to run for the White House in hopes he could bring back proper relations. As Pompeo noted, our relations with world leaders is in a current state of positive action despite the President’s harsh stance with many of them.

As for Hezbollah, Pompeo said the U.S. would press Lebanon for the sake of its people to facilitate change from the anti-Israel, anti-American Hezbollah rule that has basically made the nation a pawn for Iran.

As for the Israel front. where Pompeo was speaking from, he said calls by people like Beto O’Rourke and others to undermine the conservative base shared by the United States and Israel would not help the situation. Only through the President’s peace plan can the Middle East move forward, according to Pompeo.

My Take

Until the Venezuelan government asks directly for help, there should be no action by the United States other than aid for the people. This is an internal affair. Just because the leadership is challenged doesn’t make it our problem. If there was ever a time when the United Nations should flex its puny muscles, that time is now and the place is Venezuela.

Any foreign leaders calling on Biden to replace Trump are doing so because they do not want the United States to continue to maintain and improve upon its position of strength on the world stage. They prefer the good ol’ days under President Obama when the United States was a pawn for many other nations.

Hezbollah must go. That’s not to say we need to be involved with that, but Lebanon will never be free and prosperous as long as they’re the proxy for Iran.

Lastly, the Secretary of State seemed to be echoing a notion that the President would push for a 2-state solution. If that’s the case, it’s a huge mistake. Otherwise, Pompeo is correct in asserting the backwards notions of the Democrats lashing out against President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

We’re in a time when foreign affairs are starting to take center stage. Yes, we have problems of our own, but to ignore the growing threats abroad would be a mistake. It’s good the administration is handling these issues.

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Foreign Affairs

Kudos to the President for calling on the U.S. to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights



Kudos to the President for calling on the US to recognize Israels sovereignty over the Golan Heights

It’s always hard to tell where the administration may be going following policy Tweets from the President. He’s been known to say one thing, then the administration slowly shifts reality away from the initial intent of the Tweet. On the other hand, many of his Tweets have turned into policy. It’s just a matter of waiting and seeing what the official word from the White House is.

In this case, it’s the President’s bold declaration that the Golan Heights, considered by enemies of Israel to be disputed territory, is actually sovereign Israeli land. As he noted in the Tweet, this is long overdue.

Considering the stances the President has been taking on Twitter this week with sustained attacks on George Conway and John McCain, this is a breath of fresh air. If Israel ever gave up he Golan Heights, they would be losing one of the most important strategic areas through which enemy militaries could easily become entrenched and launch attacks that would be difficult for Israel to counter. While the IDF enjoys technological advances over their enemies, terrain and proximity are still major factors in the defense of their lands. The Golan Heights represents a piece of land that must never be given easy access to their enemies.

There’s one important caveat to the kudos I’m giving the President. If it turns out acknowledgement of the Golan Heights as sovereign territory is used as a precursor to asking Israel to give up the West Bank in a Middle East peace agreement, then it’s a whole other situation entirely. Just as giving up the Golan Heights would make Israel a very easy target, so too would the idea of a two state solution that grants “Palestine” control over the West Bank.

If the motives are pure, this is a great move. If this is an early olive branch, it’s dangerous.

Israel’s control of the Golan Heights is absolutely essential to its security. The lands just south would be completely indefensible if the United Nations ever got its way and the Golan Heights fell under control of Israel’s enemies.

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Conspiracy Theory

Turkish President Erdoğan says Christchurch was not an individual act but rather an organized part of a wider attack on Turkey



Turkish President Erdoğan says Christchurch was not an individual act but rather an organized part of a wider attack on Turkey

See also previous NOQ Report articles:

Aotearoa, The Land of the Long White Cloud, needs to step back and look at Christchurch objectively

Was Christchurch a lone gunman or a conspiracy?

Today Radio New Zealand published an article entitled, “Erdoğan says attackers targeting Turkey will go home ‘in caskets’“.

Following are pertinent excerpts:

“President Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday described a mass shooting which killed 50 people at two New Zealand mosques as part of a wider attack on Turkey and threatened to send back ‘in caskets’ anyone who tried to take the battle to Istanbul.”

“‘They are testing us from 16,500km away, from New Zealand, with the messages they are giving from there. This isn’t an individual act, this is organised,’ he said.”

The Turkish tyrant, in reference to the “1915 Gallipoli campaign, when Ottoman soldiers defeated British-led forces including Australian and New Zealand troops trying to seize the peninsula, a gateway to Istanbul,” told today’s citizens of New Zealand and Australia: “Your grandparents came here … and they returned in caskets.”

“He has said the gunman issued threats against Turkey and the president, and wanted to drive Turks from Turkey’s northwestern, European region.”

“‘You will not turn Istanbul into Constantinople,’ he added, referring to the city’s name under its Christian Byzantine rulers before it was conquered by Muslim Ottomans in 1453.”

The RNZ article confirms that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was in Christchurch and visited Turkish citizens wounded in the attack.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is no friend of New Zealand, Australia or the United States of America. As former Prime Minister and current President of Turkey, he has transformed his NATO-member country from a staunch ally into an ideological, political and military adversary of western nations, Israel and Christians throughout the Middle East.

Erdoğan’s delusions of grandeur revolve around restoring the Ottoman Empire as a new Islamic Caliphate and enthroning himself as new Caliph. That is the only reason he ever opposed ISIS as it was a competitor for control of the Sunni Dar ul-Islam.

The Christchurch gunman is obviously a very conflicted man with many competing concepts and objectives. We will not reward his evil bloodshed by recognizing him by name here.

The perpetrator could have been manipulated by those with motives different from his own. That’s why the report about the suspicions of Turkish intelligence is so significant.

See previous RNZ article:

Turkish intelligence investigating Christchurch accused – report

There are factions in Turkey who oppose Erdoğan for reasons of their own, altruism not being among them. Consider a young uneducated Aussie traveling throughout the world seeking to define himself and to find a cause to champion.

In Turkey and the Balkans, he learns about the Ottoman Empire and the assault of Islam on Europe centuries ago. He comes in contact with elements in Turkey that see a conduit through which they can accomplish their own different objectives.

The young fellow from Grafton, New South Wales believes an armed assault on Muslims during Friday prayers in a city named Christchurch across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand will further his own concepts of white supremacy and that it will suppress Muslim immigration. But elements in Turkey see this as a way to instantly change the narrative and remove the focus on Islamic Jihad as a world threat, substituting a mad rush of useful idiots in western governments to come to the aid of Muslim victims of religious bigotry.

Today, a 37-year-old Turkish male killed three and wounded five on a tram in Utrecht, Netherlands. Europe is under siege. Alas, this is far more common in the world than the anomaly in Christchurch! But politicians will continue to beat their breasts and say we ♡ diversity. Diversity and open borders are who we are. Welcoming the unvetted world is our raison d’être.

We’ll conclude today with an urgent reminder:

There is reason for New Zealand authorities to put your political correctness aside and mount serious international investigations of the Christchurch gunman’s potential handlers in Turkey. Censorship and gun grabs in NZ will not keep you safe if this was orchestrated abroad.

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