US President Donald Trump has announced in a series of tweets the imminent withdrawal of US forces from northern and eastern Syria. “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” he said. Senior administration officials confirmed on Wednesday, Dec. 19, that there would be a “full and rapid withdrawal.”
DEBKAfile notes that this is not the first time that President Trump has decided to pull the 2,000 US troops out of Syria. He decided this in March but was persuaded to hold off by Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. They explained that, as soon as American troops were out of the way, the Russians would move in and take control of the Syrian-Iraqi border and pro-Iranian forces would swarm across. Iran would be gifted its biggest military triumph ever by achieving a land bridge under its control up to the Mediterranean. Hizballah too would be further strengthened.
Trump accepted their arguments at the time but is now reverting to his consistent belief that US troops have no business in Syria since accomplishing their mission and Syria should be left to the Russians. Whether or not Mattis and Pompeo will again succeed in postponing the US military exit from Syria cannot yet be determined. If it does go forward, Israel will face a new and disastrous military reality against an unbridled Iranian-Syrian lineup on its northern front. This situation would virtually reduce the IDF operation against Hizballah tunnels to comparative irrelevance.