US Playing Shell Games in Syria
TEHRAN (FNA)- Retiring Syrian Envoy Jim Jeffrey has said what had been known for years that the United States has thousands of troops stationed in Syria with no intention to withdraw them anytime soon.
Jeffrey is also recommending that the incoming Biden administration stick with Trump’s foreign policy in the Middle East, acknowledging that his team routinely misled the world about US troop levels in Syria.
“We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there,” Jeffrey said in an interview. The actual number of troops in northeast Syria is “a lot more than” the two hundred troops Trump agreed to leave there in 2019.
For Jeffrey, US troops should continue to operate in Syria, denying Russian and Syrian territorial gains and preventing the country’s reconstruction efforts: “What Syria withdrawal? There was never a Syria withdrawal. When the situation in northeast Syria had been fairly stable after ISIL, Trump was inclined to pull out. In each case, we then decided to come up with five better arguments for why we needed to stay. And we succeeded both times. That’s the story.”
It means what it means. Despite Washington’s claims to the contrary, American forces will remain in Syria for the long haul. For terror proxies like ISIL, Al-Qaeda as well as alliance of militias dominated by the Kurdish YPG, also known as the People’s Protection Unit, the US has a “strategic interest” in staying in the region. The YPG is closely linked to the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK, which is deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, another US ally.
The US has a strategy policy for decades to come. There will be military, economic and political agreements in the long term between the proxy forces of the northern areas of Syria and the US administration. This includes stealing the Syrian oil and selling it in international markets to fund the occupation regime.
The US has even talked about the possibility of securing an area to prepare for a military airport. These are the beginnings. The US is not providing all this support to its proxies for free. This could be an alternative to its Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.
The facts on the ground mean that the US wants to extend its illegal presence in Syria on the pretext of fighting ISIL. It has benefited from the long-standing project of destabilizing Syria. The decision to stay and entertain is also an attempt to protect Israel.
This is while Damascus says the presence of any US troops on Syrian soil is against international law, as they were never invited by the Syrians or authorized by the United States. Further US-led occupation and terror will only prolong the conflict and increase the human cost of the conflict.
In the meantime, the occupation regime will never help the US gain any strategic position in the Middle East. The idea that the US must be kicked out of Syria is universally unprecedented. Russia has been involved in Syria since the beginning of the conflict, and held great sway until the Syrian government and its allies defeated the terrorist groups. In other words, the US is only exhausting itself in Syria.
As the Biden administration enters the scene, there is a risk that the policy to occupy Syria permanently might morph into bad policy because of military advisors wholly committed to the status quo that the Syrian government seeks to challenge. Doing anything other than withdrawing all US troops from the Arab country amounts to crimes against humanity.
That is madness. It was dumb for the Obama administration to launch a regime change campaign against Damascus, and it would be stupefying if the Biden administration goes that route in 2021. It’s time for Washington to take back control from its status-quo advisors, end the silly shell games and leave Syria or else it will be expelled.