Trump says he has defeated the Islamic State.
Donald Trump has announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria in light of the U.S. “defeat” of the Islamic State, even though it was the Syrian army, with Russia’s help, that defeated the terrorist group. In reality, the U.S. was never committed to beating the terrorist threat.
There lies an uneasy truth beyond the American head of state’s triumphant boasting in that the country that legitimately helped in the fight against terrorism in Syria was Russia. They did so, too, at the request of the Syrian government.
No one can seriously doubt the extent to which the Russian air force helped the Damascus government. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense’s figures from August, pro-government forces managed to take back 96.5 percent of the country and liberate more than 1,400 towns, cities and villages.
However, the American president has claimed that “After historic victories against ISIS, it’s time to bring our great young people home!”
The 96.5 percent of the country that the Syrian government now controls is in sharp contrast to the 8 percent that sources show it controlled on Sept. 30, 2015. This is the day the Russian Federation Council approved the deployment of the Russian air force in the conflict after Syrian President Bashar Assad requested Russian military support in the fight against the terrorists.
Just two years after Russia joined the struggle against the terrorists, 87.4 percent of Syria was liberated, including Aleppo and Palmira, where tensions had been extremely high.
In these two years, the Russian air force launched 30,650 aerial combat missions in Syria, which eliminated 96,000 terrorist targets, including training camps, command and support stations, ammunition depots and oil fields. Moreover, Russia Today reports that 53,707 terrorist militiamen were targeted in this process.
The fact that Russia did the majority of the fighting did not stop the U.S. president from praising American soldiers who fought in Syria: “These are great American heroes. These are great heroes of the world because they fought for us but they've killed ISIS, who hurts the world. And we're proud to have done it."
Who Was the US Fighting in Syria?
Trump also claims that “the only reason” for American military presence in Syria has been the fight against the Islamic State, even though Damascus has accused Washington of training terrorist forces at the American military base of Al Tanf.
At the start of September, the Russian minister of defense also accused Washington of having trained extremists in Syria so that they could carry out a terrorist attack in Palmira, in the center of the country.
Furthermore, the U.S. and its allies have made efforts to stop the advances of the Syrian government’s forces. U.S. attacks against positions occupied by the Syrian army have occurred, for example.
Another striking example that demonstrates the true intentions of the U.S. in Syria is the airstrike carried out in April 2018 by Washington and its allies, Great Britain and France. This attack was a response to the suspected (although unproven) use of chemical weapons by Bashar Assad’s government. The American secretary of defense, James Mattis, described the airstrike as a “clear message” to the Syrian president.
The Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, claimed that the U.S., France and the U.K. chose sides in the Syrian conflict with this “act of aggression.” He also warned that the U.S. and its allies could not remove Bashar Assad from power through force.
The Syrian president condemned the U.S. for resorting to using unfounded accusations of chemical weapon use so that they would “have a pretext to intervene directly, militarily, and to attack the Syrian Army.” The Syrian head of state made clear that his country had not possessed chemical weapons since 2013, and that all types of this kind of weapon had since been disposed of. He even added that this chemical weapon narrative is a result of the West’s “imagination” and demonstrated their stance against his government.
America’s position against Assad was once again made clear when former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that there would be no place for President Assad in Syria’s future.
Syrian authorities have never recognized U.S. forces in their territory as a legitimate military presence. Moreover, the Syrian government has, on many occasions, accused the international coalition, led by the U.S., of interfering in Syrian internal affairs. They have even described the coalition as “occupying forces.”
At the end of May, during an interview with Russia Today, Assad declared that the Americans “should leave” the Arab country one way or another.
In September, during the 73rd General Assembly of the United Nations, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem urged the U.S., Turkey and France to “withdraw immediately and without any conditions.” He added that Damascus relies on Russian aid to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees; however, Western powers are complicating this process.
As the US Leaves, Syria Remains in Ruins
U.S.-led coalition attacks have wreaked havoc in the Arab country and are responsible for civilian casualties. In October, the Russian minister of defense announced that coalition airstrikes had killed more than 120 Syrian civilians in the space of just one month. He also linked casualties inflicted by the coalition on the eastern bank of the Euphrates with the use of weapons banned by international agreements.
And now, after hindering President Assad’s attempts to contain the terrorist threat, the U.S. is withdrawing and leaving behind a Syria in ruins after seven years of military conflict. At the beginning of this year, Tillerson had already announced that the U.S. and its allies did not intend to help rebuild the parts of Syria controlled by Assad. He even went as far as to urge other countries to keep up economic pressure on the Syrian government.
An internal U.N. document leaked to the media in September indicated that the organization would not provide humanitarian aid to war-torn Syria until there is “a deal on political transition.”
At the end of September, the U.S. special representative for engagement in Syria, James Jeffrey, announced an ultimatum for the Syrian president. Either the Syrian leader could cooperate in the rewriting of the Syrian constitution before elections took place, or the U.S., with the help of its allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, would pursue “a strategy of isolation,” including sanctions, against Syria. Jeffrey promised that the American government would “make it our business to make life as miserable as possible for that flopping cadaver of a regime.”
The head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian Federation Council, Konstantin Kosachev, announced on Facebook that the U.S. decision to withdraw its troops from Syria “may be double-sided to pull out the Americans, but [also] to keep acting through allies, including unofficial and questionable ones.”