It is assuredly one of Donald Trump’s worst foreign policy decisions, and the impact on the fate of the Kurds in Syria, as well as on American influence in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world, is only just beginning to be fully appreciated.
Everything is so crooked in this case that it’s hard to know where to begin.
Let’s start with the catastrophic call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday Oct. 6, during which Trump agreed to give him free rein in northern Syria by withdrawing the American troops that were maintaining order there.
A major strategic error that had the impact nearly all observers predicted it would.
The ensuing fiasco can be broken down into three resounding failures:
• The Kurdish forces that joined the Americans to fight the Islamic State became cannon fodder, and, of course, civilians paid the price.
• The Jihadists in prisons guarded by these Kurdish forces have escaped.
• The position occupied by the approximately 1000 American soldiers was rapidly filled by the Russians and by Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian forces—nature abhors a vacuum, particularly in this explosive region. Their departure will also, in all likelihood, delight Iran.
Furthermore, it is necessary to talk about the recent truce to better understand the scope of this mess.
After Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were urgently dispatched to Turkey on Thursday, they convinced the country to suspend its offensive for five days.
In return, the Turkish president demanded that the Kurdish forces retreat from the border over a 20 mile-wide area, spanning 250 miles, which the president of the European Council called a “demand of capitulation of the Kurds.”
In the meantime, Turkish military operations did not entirely stop; 14 civilians were killed on Friday.
And how has Trump managed this crisis since giving the green light to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan? He tried to justify his actions while also backpedaling to limit their impact.
And how about, for example, all the nonsense he has spouted over the course of the last two weeks? How about that he lamented — in all seriousness — that the Kurds didn’t help the United States in World War II and on the beaches of Normandy!
A logic so twisted that we must wonder who he hoped to convince.
How about this hallucinatory letter dispatched to the Turkish president on the day of the invasion and made public last Wednesday? “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” he wrote in the letter, as if talking to a child. In fact, the American media at first believed it to be a hoax.
Finally, how about his reaction to the truce negotiated by his emissaries in Turkey? He found a way to make a mockery of the crisis.
“It was unconventional, what I did. I said, ‘They’re going to have to fight a little while.’ Sometimes you have to let them fight a little while. Then people find out how tough the fighting is ... Sometimes you have to let them fight. It’s like two kids in a lot, you’ve got to let them fight and then you pull them apart,” he said in front of his supporters in Texas. Earth to Trump: More than 500 people have so far been reported dead, including dozens of civilians.
At the same time, on Twitter, he described this development as “a great day for civilization.” It’s as if, after lighting a fire that ravaged a city, the arsonist congratulated himself upon seeing that the firefighters were able to limit the damage.
This is not the first time since Trump’s arrival that we have had to pinch ourselves to be sure we are not dreaming. But all the same, it is necessary to admit that he’s really outdone himself.
And if we can assume that the crisis is not over, we can also be certain that the president of the leading world power will give us, regarding this issue that is too sensitive for him, more opportunities to let out sighs of disappointment.