(TMU Op-Ed) — It’s easy to take the Trump administration at face value and conclude that at the very least Donald Trump is an inept moron. It is also incredibly easy to draw particular conclusions that have run rampant in the mainstream media. One such accusation against Trump is that he was appointed as president by Russian president Vladimir Putin and regularly makes decisions, particularly in the foreign policy scheme of things, which are solely in Putin’s interests.
For example, CNN recently published an article entitled “President Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds is a gift to Putin and Assad.” This echoes the types of headlines we have seen for some time now, such as in December last year when the Washington Post ran a piece called “Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria marks a win for Putin.”
Bear with me—and I know it sounds crazy—but what if the opposite were true? What if—despite the headlines and the obvious inferences —Trump’s Syria pullout is not a win for Putin, and especially not for Assad?
Yes, the Kurds recently announced that Syrian government forces had agreed on Sunday to help them push back against Turkey’s advancement into Syrian territory. It is true that such a scenario would have been almost impossible had the US president not ordered the withdrawal of US troops from the northern border area. As the Kurdish commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) wrote in Foreign Policy, the Kurds essentially had to choose between life and “genocide.”
In this context, if the developments continue to pan out the way the media is reporting, then Assad and Putin would surely have made enormous gains.
But why is this in and of itself a win for Syria or Russia? As most mainstream media reports admit, this shift in alliances “could lead to clashes between Turkey and Syria and raises the specter of a resurgent Islamic State group.” Turkey’s advancement already contains an army of Islamist rebels whose sole aim is to unseat the Assad government.
In other words, Syria – a state heavily backed by Russia – could end up going to war with Turkey. If I remember correctly, Russia, Iran and Turkey were essentially on the verge of brokering some sort of peace deal in respect of Syria not too long ago. Why would it be in Russia’s interests to not only see that peace agreement fall flat on its face, but for Russia to potentially square off against Turkey in the process?
As even the Guardian explained:
“It might be thought the Russians would be happy. After all, pushing the US out of Syria (and the wider Middle East) is their long-held aim. Yet Moscow’s reaction to the invasion has been largely negative, as was the case after Turkey intervened in Syria’s Idlib province last year.
When Vladimir Putin sent forces to Syria in 2015, he put his money on Assad to win, but victory has proved elusive, while costs – political and financial – have mounted. Erdoğan’s move further complicates matters by obstructing the peace settlement Russia, Iran (and Turkey) have been pursuing via the so-called Astana process.”
Of course, it is highly unlikely a large scale war would break out between Moscow and Ankara any time soon. Yet, I can remember a time, not too long ago, where Turkey shot down a Russian military jet on the border with Syria. The rest of the world may have forgotten this fact and how it plays into the wider Syria narrative, which sees Turkey aggressively defending Islamic extremists in Syria against the Syrian government, and only ever really involving itself to bomb Kurdish positions.
Syria, or at least part of it, is once again in a state of chaos. An overall end to the conflict, which could see Russia, Turkey, Iran and Syria work together to reach a compromise, is in jeopardy. Not to mention that in the disarray, imprisoned ISIS members are reportedly escaping and staging a comeback.
Most importantly, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has essentially become an even larger pariah than Assad or Putin overnight. So who stands to gain the most?
Perhaps the US president isn’t such a moron after all, if sowing chaos and preventing Syria from ever reaching a lasting peace is the overall aim.