التقرير الدوري لمراكز الابحاث الأميركية : د. منذر سليمان

 

 

 

A Weekly Bi-Lingual Report & Analysis of U.S. Think Tank Community Activities

Published by the Center for American and Arab Studies©, Washington, DC

 

التقرير الدوري لمراكز الابحاث الاميركية

 

نشرة دورية تصدر عن وحدة

"رصد النخب الفكرية"

في

مركز الدراسات الأميركية والعربية

Center for American and Arab Studies

 

12/ كانون الثاني - يناير/‏ 2019     01/12/2019

 

Introduction 

 

Most of the think commentary in this issue of the Monitor is about the US decision to withdraw from Syria.

The analysis this week looks at the vacillation seen in America’s Syria policy in the past month and the Bolton and Pompeo trips to the Middle East.

 

 

المقدمة      

سوريا وانسحاب القوات الأميركية وسرعة تراجع الرئيس ترامب لمنح مزيد من الفرصة الزمنية، تحت ضغط القيادات العسكرية، أشرت على بلوغ الصدام الداخلي مرحلة متقدمة، لا سيما بعد "إقالة" وزير الدفاع واستقالة مدير مكتب موظفي البيت الابيض.

 قرار الانسحاب وما رافقه من تعديل معلن في السياسة الأميركية، سيكون موضوع التحليل، والذي اعتبره البعض مؤشر على تخبط بارز في آلية صنع القرار نتيجة الانكفاءات الميدانية الجارية، لا سيما في كل من اليمن وسوريا، والمتغيرات المحلية والدولية.

 

 

ملخص دراسات واصدارات مراكز الابحاث

قرار الحرب لمن؟

        قرار شن الحرب، او التورط العسكري، دائم الحضور في الجدل بين السلطتين التنفيذية والتشريعية، اللتان تسعى كل منهما على قضم ما تستطيع من نفوذ لصالحها، مع ادراكهما الوثيق بأن للرئيس صلاحية مطلقة شن "حروب محدودة" زمنياً ".. شريطة إطلاع الكونغرس (خلال 48 ساعة والا تتجاوز العمليات العسكرية  60 يوما بدون موافقة الكونغرس ) وان يتم بعدها الانسحاب خلال 30 يوماً."

        صوّب معهد كارنيغي بوصلة النقاش فور انعقاد الدورة السادسة عشر بعد المئة للكونغرس الجديد مشيراً إلى أن من بين القضايا الملحة على جدول الأعمال ينبغي إثارة مسألة "متى وأين يجب نشر القوات العسكرية الأميركية المدهشة .. إذ أن الدستور يمنح صلاحيات إدارة الشؤون الخارجية لكلا الكتلتين المتصارعتين، الكونغرس والرئيس؛" مطالباً السلطة التشريعية باستعادة دورها في "الإشراف الشرس" عليها. واستدرك بالقول أنه من الطبيعي أن يقلق البيت الأبيض كونه لا ينظر بعين العطف لأي دور "اشرافي" للكونغرس وليبقي على تمركز صنع القرار بيده. وحث البيت الأبيض على "الترحيب بدور شراكة تامة مع الكونغرس في قضايا تمس الأمن القومي والذي من شأنه تشذيب السياسات المتبعة وسبل تطبيقها معا."

https://carnegieendowment.org/2018/12/17/can-congress-stop-forever-war-pub-77987

سوريا

        أكد مركز الدراسات الاستراتيجية والدولية الشائع لقناعات ومواقف كبار السياسيين الأميركيين لتعثر استراتيجية الحروب "سنة تلو الأخرى" والتي بدأت ".. لمحاربة الارهاب عام 2001؛ وحروب مستمرة في الخليج منذ عام 2003؛ والتخبط في سوريا منذ عام 2011." واعتبر المعهد جولة الاتهامات المتبادلة حاليا على خلفية إعلان الرئيس ترامب انسحابه من سوريا بأنها "ليست أكثر سذاجة أو عُقم من االجدالات السابقة حول ملامح السياسة الأميركية نحو سوريا .. وتخلو من أي مضمون حقيقي، كما سابقاتها، حول طبيعة الاستراتيجية الأميركية في الشرق الأوسط والخليج منذ عام 2001." وأضاف أن مستويات النقاش انحدرت تدريجيا بحيث أضحت "بلا هدف استراتيجي واضح، وفشلت في التحكم بأي من القضايا المتعددة التي تسهم في بلورة استراتيجية أميركية في المنطقة."

https://www.csis.org/analysis/iraq-iran-gulf-turkey-and-future-meaningless-debate-over-trump-strategy-syria

        سخر معهد أبحاث السياسة الخارجية من قرار الانسحاب من سوريا "المفاجيء .. والذي تم بلورته (على عجل) بين طواقم وزارتي الخارجية والدفاع؛ ثمرة لمراكمة الاخطاء." وجادل في فرضية صواب القرار الرئاسي "حتى لو جاء نتيجة اسباب لا يدركها الرئيس ولن يتحمل مسؤولية الاستشراف" لتداعيات القرار.

https://www.fpri.org/article/2018/12/leaving-syria/

         اتهم معهد كاتو دائرة المستشارين الضيقة المحيطة بالرئيس ترامب "بكبح والغاء تطلعاته الواقعية" التي بادر بها بدءأ من اعلانه الانسحاب من سوريا واكبه اعلان آخر بتقليص عدد القوات الأميركية في افغانستان الى النصف، تقريبا. واضوح أن الفريق المعارض للقرارين معظمه من "صقور المحافظين الجدد بتأييد من الليبراليين من أنصار الحملات العسكرية الإنسانية .. مما يقوض المصالح الأميركية في البلدين."

https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/why-trumps-advisors-keep-quashing-realist-whims

        استعرض معهد واشنطن لسياسات الشرق الأدنى تداعيات قرار الانسحاب من سوريا "من وجهة نظر اسرائيل .. وحرص المسؤولين فيها على عدم توجيه انتقاد علني للرئيس ترامب؛ بيد أن ما يضمرونه تحت السطح تميز بعدم الرضى والقلق والرغبة في استثمار الخطوة لما قد يبنى عليها من ايجابيات." وأوضح أن الاتصالات المكثفة التي أجراها بنيامين نتنياهو مع "الرئيس ترامب هاتفيا، ولقائه وزير الخارجية مايك بومبيو على هامش لقاء البرازيل، واستضافته لمستشار الأمن القومي جون بولتون استثارت بمجملها ضمانات أميركية علنية حول أمن اسرائيل." وأضاف أن بعض كبار القادة السياسيين خفف من غلواء إعلان ترامب بالتأكيد على تواضع التواجد الأميركي هناك وغير مؤهل لمواجهة التقدم العسكري لإيران." واستدرك بالقول أن تلك المروحة المتعددة من ردود الفعل "لا تعكس كامل الحقيقة."

https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/trump-departs-syria-an-israeli-perspective

          وفي استعراض موازٍ اعتبر معهد واشنطن جولة وزير الخارجية مايك بومبيو المكثفة في المنطقة قد تم الإعداد لها "قبل أعلان" الانسحاب، وهو يرمي " للترويج وتفسير قرار الرئيس بأننا في طريق الخروج من سوريا لأصدقاء الولايات المتحدة." وأوضح أن سوريا بالنسبة لتلك الدول لا تشكل أولوية بل "التصدي لنفوذ ايران ونشاطاتها العسكرية" هناك.

https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/eight-days-in-middle-east-puts-pompeos-diplomacy-to-the-test

ايران

        أعرب المجلس الأميركي للسياسة الخارجية مرور الذكرى السنوية الأولى على الاحتجاجات الشعبية في ايران بأنها دليل على "استمرار هاديء للقوى المناوئة للثورة (الاسلامية) والتي استطاعت تحويل مطالبها إلى حركة تتحدى شرعية النظام الديني .. رغم تجاهل وسائل الإعلام لها." وأوضح أن المطالب "المحقة" للمحتجين تجد صداها في تدهور الحالة الاقتصادية للبلاد "فمؤشر التضخم في ارتفاع، ومعدل التضخم السنوي وصل لنحو 40% .. بينما اقر البنك المركزي الايراني بمعدل تضخم يفوق 50% خلال السنتين الماضيتين." وخلص بالقول أن تجديد الولايات المتحدة للعقوبات على ايران تلعب الدور الرئيس "بيد أن حقيقة الأوضاع الداخلية أسوأ مما قد تعترف بها السلطات."

https://www.afpc.org/publications/articles/a-year-into-irans-quiet-counterrevolution

   

التحليل

 

الانسحاب الأميركي من سوريا:  تأجيل وتخبط

 

        قرار رئاسي بالانسحاب من سوريا نال شبه اجماع  رافض  من قبل الأقطاب السياسية الأميركية المتعددة، واكبه ضغوط مكثفة على الرئيس ترامب اسفرت عن "تراجعه" مؤقتاً وابطاء الوتيرة بتمديد المهلة الزمنية المطلوبة.

        بيد أن الأمر كشف عن خروج الخلافات العميقة في صنع القرار الأميركي إلى العلن، عززها الرسائل والتصريحات "المتضاربة" لعدد من كبار المسؤولين أظهرت مدى "عدم الانسجام" بين مختلف مؤسسات الدولة؛ لعل أبرزها كان "تعهد" مستشار الأمن القومي جون بولتون بعدم مغادرة القوات الأميركية سوريا "ما دامت القوات الإيرانية خارج حدود ايران." أتبعه الرئيس ترامب بتصريح مناقض خلال ايام معدودة دفاعاً عن قراره بالانسحاب بأن "ايران تستطيع أن تفعل ما تشاء" في سوريا.

        تلك الرسالة وغيرها، واكبها استقالة  (وصفها لاحقا ترامب  بما يشبه  الإقالة ) وزير الدفاع جيمس ماتيس، دفعت يومية واشنطن بوست، الخامس من الشهر الجاري، القول بأنها ".. تعكس صورة التقلبات الدراماتيكية التي تطبع سياسة (ترامب) الخارجية، مما يدفعنا الى التساؤل عما إذا كان كبار مستشاري (الرئيس) ينفذون سياساته أم أنهم يتبعون أجنداتهم" الخاصة.

        كما سلطت الصحيفة الضوء على "اجندة بولتون .. لاستخدام سوريا ورقة ضغط على ايران، من ناحية، طمعاً في نفض يديه من تحمل مسؤولية قرار شن الحرب" حين اتخاذه.

وشرعت الإدارة باحتواء ردود الفعل الدولية الرافضة قيام أبرز اقطابها، وزير الخارجية مايك بومبيو ومستشار الأمن القومي جون بولتن، ترؤس وفود رسمية جالت على عدد من العواصم الإقليمية بغية "طمأنة" المخاوف من تداعيات انسحاب أميركي.

        بالمقابل، لم يكترث العديد لتصريحات الإدارة الأميركية منذ مطلع العام المنصرم تشير فيها إلى عزمها الانسحاب قريباً من سوريا، وطلبت مشورة عدد من المؤسسات الفاعلة والمؤثرة في بلورة القرار الرسمي، مما ينفي اتهام البيت البيض بالمفاجأة، خاصة عند الأخذ بعين الاعتبار تصريحات وزير الخارجية ومستشار الأمن القومي، بالتزامن، قبل نهاية العام المنصرم فحواها أن الرئيس ترامب "لم يصادق على خطة أميركية موسعة لمواجهة ايران في سوريا."

   "شعبية" الرئيس ترامب كانت أحد الأسباب التي حثت فواصل المؤسسة الحاكمة على تأييد قرار الانسحاب "ولو بشروط،" ومن ثم الانقضاض عليه؛ عززها تراجع حدة تصريحات المسؤولين، لا سيما داخل الحزب الجمهوري، عقب صدور نتائج استطلاعات للرأي، 8 الشهر الجاري، تشير الى تأييد أغلبية من الأميركيين قرار الانسحاب من سوريا وافغانستان، 56%، ومعارضة ضئيلة لا تتعدى 27%.

الانسحاب لا يعني الخروج النهائي

        غموض يكتنف حقيقة قرار واعلان الانسحاب، والذي بدأ على قدم وساق منذ مطلع الشهر الجاري، لا سيما مع أعلان وزارة الدفاع الأميركية عن ارسالها مزيد من "القوات البرية" لسوريا "لتأمين الانسحاب" إلى القواعد الخلفية في العراق، كما يعتقد، أبرزها قاعدة عين الأسد الجوية التي يرجح أن توازي أهمية قاعدة "باجرام" الأميركية في افغانستان.

        قيادة "قوات التحالف الدولي" الذي يضم 73 دولة وجهت رسالة الى الدول المشاركة، 19 الشهر الماضي، يوم أعلان الرئيس ترامب قراره، بالتأكيد على "ضرورة مواصلة التحضيرات للمرحلة المقبلة من الحملة؛" بالرغم من القرار الأميركي سحب "2،200 من جنود القوات الخاصة الأميركية،" وفق توصيف يومية كريستيان ساينس مونيتور، 28 ديسمبر الماضي.

        الحضور العسكري الفرنسي في سوريا يأتي في المرتبة الثانية للولايات المتحدة، من ناحية الأهمية والدرو المرسوم لها، إذ يتواجد "ما لا يقل عن 400 جندي من القوات الخاصة" في سوريا، إضافة لأعداد أخرى من القوات البريطانية والاسترالية والنيوزيلندا وآخرين، يقدر عددها بنحو 1000 عسكري من مختلف الاختصاصات. عند احتساب عديد التشكيلات المسلحة من مخزون المقاتلين الذين تشرف عليهم القوات الأميركية، لا سيما في قاعدة التنف جنوبي سوريا، ترتفع الأعداد الى ما بين 8000 الى 10000 شخص.

        من بين المشككين في حقيقة الانسحاب الأميركي من سوريا، رغم إعلان الرئيس ترامب، كانت صحيفة نيويورك تايمز، 7 يناير الجاري، بالإشارة الى تضمين شروط لقرار الانسحاب، كما دل عليه تصريح لجون بولتون خلال زيارته تل أبيب مؤكداً بأن القوات الأميركية "ستبقى في سوريا حتى يتم القضاء على بقايا تنظيم داعش." وأوضحت أن "بولتون ومسؤولون كبار آخرون في البيت البيض يقفون وراء حملة تجري خلف الكواليس لإبطاء مفعول قرار ترامب .. عبر تضمين عبارة انسحاب مشروط" من سوريا.

        بدورها أكدت يومية واشنطن بوست، 7 يناير، أن التطورات الميدانية في سوريا تشير إلى أن الانسحاب الأميركي لن يتقيد بفترة زمنية محدودة، وانما "سيكون مفتوحاً إلى حد ما." وذهبت أبعد من ذلك بالاشارة إلى هوية المسؤولين الكبار الذين يعرقلون عملية الانسحاب منهم "وزير الخارجية مايك بومبيو، مستشار الأمن القومي جون بولتون، والمبعوث الرئاسي الخاص لسوريا جيمس جيفري؛" مشيرة إلى تصريحات مماثلة تؤكد هدف التواجد العسكري الأميركي في سوريا بأنه "لا يقتصر على محاربة (داعش) بل يشمل التصدي للنفوذ الايراني في سوريا."

        بل صرح وزير الخارجية عشية قيامه بجولته في عواصم المنطقة بأن "الحملة الأميركية لمحاربة النفوذ الإيراني ستظل مستمرة حتى في حال انسحاب القوات الأميركية من سوريا."

        بالتزامن الاعلامي أيضاً، كشفت يومية وول ستريت جورنال، 7 يناير الجاري، عن محتوى ما في جعبة الوفد الأميركي لأنقرة برئاسة مستشار الأمن القومي جون بولتون ووضع شروط جديدة على النفوذ التركي طمعاً في حماية التشكيلات الكردية المسلحة، وبرفقته "خريطة ملونة" أعدها عضو الوفد جيمس جيفري تحدد فيها مناطق النفوذ الممنوع لتركيا الاقتراب منها، والتي "تشبه اتفاقية سايكس - بيكو" القرن المنصرم.

        يشار إلى أن "الشروط" المستجدة في خطة بولتون وفريقه لم تكن عنصراً أو مكوناً أساسياً من مكونات خطة الرئيس بالانسحاب؛ مما دفع الرئيس ترامب على تفنيد ما تناقلته وسائل الإعلام الأميركية بشأن تركيا، مؤكداً على نشرها "تقارير تعوزها الدقة فيما يتعلق بالنوايا (الرئاسية) حول سوريا .. سياستنا لا زالت على ما هي عليه، سنخرج (من سوريا) وفق وتيرة مناسبة، وفي الوقت عينه الاستمرار في قتال داعش .."

استراتيجية "المرحلة المقبلة"

        سارع وزير الخارجية مايك بومبيو للقاء "حلفاء" واشنطن في المنطقة واطلاعهم على الخطوط العريضة للسياسة الأميركية وتوجهاتها المقبلة، قوامها الاستمرار في محاربة ايران وتقليص النفوذ التركي، وأداتها تشكيل حلف أمني عنوانه مواجهة ايران بمسمى "التحالف الاستراتيجي،" تجديداً ل قولة روّجت لتحالف الناتو العربي سابقاً.

        مهد بومبيو الاجواء بعنوان مضلل لكلمته "قوة من أجل الخير: أميركا تسترد قوتها في الشرق الأوسط،" مبشراً بتوجه "جديد" يرضي غرائز عواصم الخليج بالتركيز على استمرار محاربة ايران؛ وايلاء دور أكثر فعالية لتلك الدول في سياق ركائز استراتيجية المرحلة المقبلة، والاعداد لما بعد الانسحاب الأميركي، جزئياً من افغانستان.

        اقتصرت جولة بومبيو على دول الخليج والاردن ومصر، ومن ثم العراق لاحقاً، مؤكداً فيها على ان "الانسحاب من سوريا قرار لا رجعة فيه." بيد أن غياب "التسوية للقضية الفلسطينية" كان من أبرز القضايا مما اعتبر بأن المشروع الوحيد عند الإدارة هو ترتيب التحضيرات ل "صفقة القرن،" بطي القضية برمتها وتسريع وتيرة التطبيع الرسمي مع "اسرائيل."

 

 

SUMMARY, ANALYSIS, PUBLICATIONS, AND ARTICLES

 

Think Tanks Activity Summary

 

(For further details, scroll down to the PUBLICATIONS section)

 

The Cato Institute looks at how Trump’s advisors try to change his foreign policy goals like Syria.  They conclude, “If Trump sought out qualified advocates of a foreign policy based on realism and restraint, the consequences flowing from his own intellectual limitations would not necessarily be all that negative. But he has been surrounded by utterly conventional thinkers (Mattis, McMaster, Pence) or ultra-hawks (Bolton, Haley, Pompeo). In such an environment, his worthwhile instincts often wither and his worst inclinations become more pronounced. The abrupt Syria and Afghanistan troop withdrawal decisions may be simply another volatile episode. Ideally, they are manifestations of badly needed, overdue policy changes. However, given the undesirable reversals that have occurred on other foreign policy issues during Trump’s presidency, we should not bank on the United States extricating itself from those two quagmires until the last troops arrive back on American soil.”

 

The CSIS looks at the debate on American Syria policy and note that there are more important issues in the Middle East.  They conclude, “But once again, how much attention have the Administration's critics given to these issues? How much does focusing on Khashoggi alone, and not the broader need to reduce repression as a cause of terrorisms and extremism, accomplish? What does focusing almost solely on the campaign against the Houthis, and immediate humanitarian needs in Yemen, accomplish in bringing long-term stability and security for its population? What meaningful strategic advice does this criticism offer to the President or to Secretary Pompeo on his coming visit to the region? Former Secretary of Defense Mattis has been quoted as describing Washington as a "strategy free zone." There seems to be a matching – and all too bipartisan and expert effort – to turn the Middle East and the Gulf into a strategy free region.”

 

The American Foreign Policy Council looks at the quiet counterrevolution in Iran.  They conclude, “The Trump administration has made renewed pressure on Iran a centerpiece of its regional policy in the Middle East, built around an understanding that the Islamic Republic – emboldened by the dividends of its 2015 nuclear deal with the West – now poses a grave and growing threat to American interests and allies in the region.  Accordingly, over the past half-year, the White House has sought to turn up the heat on Iran's leadership through the "snapback" of American sanctions, and by cajoling European and Asian nations to reduce their trade with Tehran.  America's greatest ally in this effort, however, might just turn out to be the Iranian regime itself. To date, Iran's leaders have managed to successfully contain the challenge to its rule represented by the ongoing protests. It has done so in large part through widespread arrests, pervasive censorship and extensive repression…Yet the longer the Islamic Republic continues its descent into economic crisis, the more compelling these calls for counterrevolution are bound to become – and the more profound the ideological challenge to the integrity of the Iranian regime will be. And that, in turn, makes the current protests the most potent force working toward creating meaningful change within the Islamic Republic.

 

The Washington Institute looks at Israel’s perspective on the American withdrawal from Syria.  They note, “Israeli decision-making circles tend to contextualize Trump’s decision as part of a perceived American trajectory of retreat from the Middle East, with Washington apparently resolved to reduce its military footprint due to various factors: fatigue following years of costly wars in the region, decreased dependency on Middle Eastern energy resources, and a desire to turn inward while shifting its focus toward the Far East. President Obama seemed to draw on this deep sentiment as well, albeit in different ways. Consequently, Israelis are concerned about the potential weakening of an important complement to their strategic deterrence and an anchor of regional stability. For the most part, Israel looks at the U.S. decision through the prism of the biggest threats to its national security—namely, Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions, and its army of proxies building up their capabilities in Israel’s immediate neighborhood. Viewed through this prism, the bottom line is negative.”

 

The Carnegie Endowment asks if there is a way congress can stop the “Forever War” the US finds itself in.  They note, “Few matters are as complex or as consequential. And Congress should not be shy. The Constitution grants competing powers in the realm of foreign affairs to Congress and the president, with the expectation—even the demand—of aggressive oversight. Having served at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, I understand that many in the White House will see this congressional role as a nuisance. But they would be well advised to welcome it, because a full partnership with Congress on national security matters will improve both the policies and their execution, while also beginning to restore the American people’s trust in Washington.”

 

The Foreign Policy Research Institute looks at the wisdom of those arguing that withdrawing from Syria is a mistake.  In addressing the issue that the US military must stay in Syria to have “skin in the game” for post civil war negotiations, they say, “If “skin in the game” means an ante that gets the U.S. government a seat at the table in some future negotiation over post-Assad Syria, then 2,000 soldiers parked out in the middle of the desert east of the Euphrates is not a remotely serious number. Worse, the assumption that there eventually has to be a negotiation of that sort is simply wrong. The Syrian regime, with its Russian and Iranian allies, means to win the war, not discuss it with its adversaries. Its notion of a negotiation is a diktat following a surrender. Anyone who doesn’t get that by now really ought to be opining on less Hobbesian matters, like Brexit and other such ennui-inducing subjects.”

 

The Washington Institute looks at Secretary of State Pompeo’s trip to the Middle East and the reason behind it.  They note, “What’s up with Secretary Pompeo’s extended tour of the Middle East? The short answer is that he is trying to sell/explain President Trump’s “we are leaving Syria” policy to America’s friends. None of these countries’ primary concern is Syria, as such. They are all much more interested in Iran’s influence and military activities there. The main elements of the trip were clearly being planned in advance of President Trump’s decision. There is a speech planned for Cairo, an annual bilateral strategic dialogue with Qatar, and another with Kuwait. But the fact that there now are eight stops in eight days probably reflects the amount of explaining that needs to be done.”

 

 

ANALYSIS

 

America’s Vacillating and confused Syria Policy

What is America’s current Syria strategy?  It depends on who you talked to – President Trump, National Security Advisor Bolton or Secretary of State Pompeo.  It’s further complicated by statements from Trump’s opponents on both sides of the aisle.  Even Trump’s ally Republican Senator Lindsey Graham announced last week that Trump is now slowing the withdrawal “in a smart way” after he met with the president.

These differences were highlighted this week as both Bolton and Pompeo visited the Middle East, with their own definition of Syrian and Middle Eastern policy.

It is a fact that Trump policy towards the Middle East has vacillated and confused allies and foes alike.  The current consternation over US Mideast policy began with a surprise tweet from Trump Dec. 19, in which he said the 2,200 US troops fighting ISIS in Syria would be coming home in short order. The apparent policy reversal sent former Defense Secretary James Mattis packing. A few days later, the president announced that Iran could “do what it wants” in Syria – contradicting Mr. Bolton, who recently had appeared to expand the purpose of the US role in Syria to staying put as long as Iran had its own forces and proxies there.

“The Middle East is still trying to figure out how to understand the Trump administration and trying to understand what is transient and what is likely to prove enduring – and it’s not obvious,” says Jon Alterman, senior vice president in global security and director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.

Despite the confusion, Trump’s policy is clear-cut and reflects the views of the American voter – rapid withdrawal.  Recent polls show that voters aren’t concerned about Syria’s internal politics and wants the US to withdraw as quickly as possible.

The only question is how quick should the withdrawal should be.

A majority of Americans support President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops fighting in Syria and Afghanistan, according to a Tuesday Politico poll. Twenty-five percent of Americans strongly support the decision to bring home troops from Afghanistan and Syria, and 31 percent somewhat support the decision, according to the poll. Only 11 percent strongly oppose the decision to bring home U.S. troops, and 16 percent somewhat oppose the decision. Just under 20 percent aren’t sure what Trump should do.

That’s why Trump’s decision a few weeks ago to quickly withdraw from Syria was more popular with the American voter than with the Washington establishment.  It’s also the reason why the Washington establishment has toned down its criticism of Trump since then.

But, that doesn’t mean that the Washington establishment is going to support a quick withdrawal from Syria.  There is too much support for American involvement in Syria within the foreign policy establishment and the neo-conservative branch of the GOP.  This was seen when National Security Advisor John Bolton visited Turkey this week.  Apparently, Bolton tried to undercut Trump’s Syrian withdrawal by imposing preconditions with Turkey.

Daily Sabah, a newspaper closely allied with Turkish president Erdogan said, “If U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton thought yesterday's visit was going to be a walk in the park, he must have had a rude awakening thanks to the lukewarm reception in the Turkish capital Ankara. In retrospect, it was probably a bad idea for Bolton to go rogue and try to impose conditions on the United States withdrawal from Syria. Keeping in mind that Turkey was already getting ready to send its troops to northern Syria before U.S. President Donald Trump's surprise announcement last month, it is time for Washington to accept that it isn't negotiating with Turkey from a position of power.”

The preconditions dealt with the Kurds and the paper went on to say, “The Turkish government had unveiled its plan to target PKK/YPG targets in northern Syria long before Trump decided to withdraw from Syria. If senior U.S. officials keep making up new rules as they go, the Turks will run out of patience.”

But, these preconditions weren’t part of the Trump plan.  On Monday President Trump slammed a New York Times piece that heavily quoted Bolton, suggesting new preconditions on the announced Syria draw down, and that Bolton had effectively “rolled back” Trump’s decision to “rapidly withdraw from Syria.”

Trump blasted the Times via Twitter, saying the newspaper published “a very inaccurate story on my intentions for Syria,” and that the policy that remains is “No different from my original statements, we will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!”

This was a clear embarrassment for Bolton, who is a major advisor to Trump on national security issues.  It will be interesting to see if this failure causes Bolton to lose influence within the Trump national security team.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Pompeo was visiting American allies in the Mid East.  Unlike Bolton, his focus was more long term and focused on limiting Iranian expansionism.  His trip was also intended to clarify the US position on withdrawing from Syria.  The trip encompasses Jordan, Egypt, and the Gulf nations.

Pompeo also made an unannounced visit to Iraq, which remains a cornerstone to America’s ISIS strategy.  The secretary of state met with Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, president Barham Salih, foreign minister Mohamed Alhakim and parliament speaker Mohamed al-Halbousi on Wednesday.

When asked earlier about the possibility of a visit by Mr Pompeo, Mr Abdul Mahdi said any meeting would involve a discussion of how to deepen Iraq’s relationship with the US-led coalition fighting ISIS.

With the US withdrawal from Syria, Iraq’s role in defeating ISIS becomes more important.

Another major focus of the tour will be sustaining a regional coalition to counter Iran, the main enemy of US allies Saudi Arabia and Israel.

"This is a coalition that understands that the largest threats -- terrorism and the Islamic Republic of Iran -- are things that we ought to work on jointly and we will be marshaling all of the resources, theirs and ours, to achieve them," Pompeo said.

Pompeo repeatedly has called Iran "the world's largest state sponsor of terror," pointing to its targeting of domestic rivals in Europe and support of Shiite movements in the region.

Additionally, Pompeo’s trip to Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also key stops as opposition in Washington is growing about the United States’ involvement in their coalition in Yemen.  The visit will reassure both nations that Trump is solidly behind them.

Although the Pompeo and Bolton trips seem to by conflicting, each has complementary goals.

The Bolton trip is designed to allow a rapid US withdrawal without any major risk to its key allies, the Kurds.  Pompeo, in an interview before his departure, said that Erdogan has given assurances to Trump not to attack US-allied Kurdish forces who fought IS in Syria.

"President Erdogan made a commitment to President Trump as the two of them were discussing what this ought to look like -- that the Turks would continue the counter-ISIS campaign after our departure and that the Turks would ensure that the folks that we'd fought with, that had assisted us in the counter-ISIS campaign, would be protected," Pompeo told CNBC television.

In order to keep Erdogan from attacking the Kurds, Bolton has made it clear that the US will not abandon the Kurds.  That’s one reason why he added preconditions to the Trump withdrawal – although it appears that his comments went beyond what Trump meant to imply.

While the Bolton trip was to impact US withdrawals over the next few months, Pompeo’s trip was designed to create a long term alliance of US allies in the region.  While the alliance would focus on Iran, there is definitely a Syria policy included.  It appears that the US envisions Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE supporting the Kurds, while the US covertly provides Special Forces assistance.  This will contain the Iranian expansionism that they all fear.

Nor did the Bolton and Pompeo missions contradict each other.  Although they had differing goals, they reinforced each other’s message.  The U.S. is also continuing to push for countries to cut off Iran and limit the country’s influence in the Middle East. Bolton emphasized the Trump administration’s continued pressure on Iran during his visit to Israel.

“We’ve got the continuing threat of Iran’s quest for deliverable nuclear weapons and despite getting out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, despite the sanctions we have little doubt that Iran’s leadership is still strategically committed to achieving deliverable nuclear weapons,” stated Bolton.

The national security advisor has also explained the U.S. is not withdrawing from Syria quickly, but instead slowly and carefully.

In the meantime, Pompeo’s key policy speech in Egypt attempted to assure leaders in the region on the United States’ commitment to peace, prosperity, stability and security in the Middle East.

Pompeo is calling for a united Gulf Country Coalition against Iran. Though, that’s complicated as other states have a blockade against Qatar, which has been in place since June 2017. Pompeo will be visiting all countries involved in the ongoing dispute.

Trump’s Policy Goals

Trump and most American voters feel that the US footprint in the Middle East is too large and unsustainable – a position that many in Washington disagree with.

What we are seeing is Trump’s attempt to reshape US Middle Eastern policy by relying more on regional allies and focusing on the key issue, Iranian expansionism.  This means withdrawing from America’s longest conflict, the Afghan War.  It also means not letting other issues like Syria or Yemen dilute American policy towards the region.

Although some may disagree with this policy, it remains in tune with the American voters.  While Americans are concerned with Iran and weapons of mass destruction, they care less about Yemen and Syria.  That may not make the Washington establishment happy, but it does help Trump retain his support in middle America.

 

 

 

PUBLICATIONS

Why Trump’s Advisors Keep Quashing His Realist Whims

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Cato Institute

January 2, 2019

 

Over a period of mere days in late December, the Trump administration made two troop withdrawal decisions that startled Washington. The first was announced in a tweet by Trump stating that the United States had accomplished its mission in Syria of defeating ISIS and that he was ordering the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from that country. Just days later, leaks from both the White House and the Pentagon indicated that a substantial draw-down of forces from Afghanistan was imminent. Some reports suggested that 7,000—roughly half of the current deployed U.S. force—would be removed. The reactions were predictable. Advocates of a restrained American foreign policy praised the moves as a key step in jettisoning two frustrating and counterproductive missions. A larger faction, consisting of neoconservative hawks along with liberal proponents of humanitarian military crusades, condemned Trump’s actions. They often did so in emotional and vitriolic terms about undermining crucial American interests in both countries.

Read more at:

https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/why-trumps-advisors-keep-quashing-realist-whims

 

 

Iraq, Iran, the Gulf, Turkey, and the Future: The Meaningless Debate over the Trump Strategy in Syria

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Center for Strategic and International Studies

January 7, 2019

 

There is nothing new about the U.S. redoubling its efforts in the Middle East after it has lost sight of its objectives. There is even less new about the U.S. going on with the same effort year-after-year without having any effective strategy. The U.S. has claimed to be fighting a "war" against terrorism since 2001, and has been fighting real wars in the Gulf region since 2003. It has also been blundering in Syria since 2011. This is why the current debate over President Trump's uncertain statement that he would suddenly withdraw from Syria needs to be put in a strategic perspective. It is no more silly or meaningless than the past focus of far too many debates over US policy towards Syria. It also is no more lacking in relevance than virtually all of the previous U.S. debates over strategy in the Middle East and the Gulf since 2001. It is a debate over levels of effort in one country that have no clear strategic purpose, and that fails to come to grips with any of the many issues that should shape U.S. strategy in the region.

Read more at:

https://www.csis.org/analysis/iraq-iran-gulf-turkey-and-future-meaningless-debate-over-trump-strategy-syria

 

 

A Year Into Iran’s Quiet Counterrevolution

By Ilan I. Berman

American Foreign Policy Council

December 19, 2018

 

Last December, grassroots protests erupted throughout Iran. Ordinary Iranians, discontented with worsening domestic conditions and their government's misplaced political priorities, held rallies and demonstrations that transformed over time into a profound challenge to the legitimacy of the country's clerical regime. A year on, the Iranian "street" is still in ferment – although you don't hear much about it in the news. Protests by Iranian workers, activists and students continue to take place throughout the country, despite the very real threat of a draconian regime response (from incarceration to death at the hands of government security forces). The reasons are not hard to discern. On virtually every economic metric, the Islamic Republic is continuing to inch up the misery index. Inflation is spiking. Iran's annual rate of inflation has surged in recent months, and now stands at nearly 40 percent, according to independent economic observers. All told, the rate of inflation in Iran has risen by more than 50 percent over the past two years, Iran's Central Bank has admitted. The causes are manifold, from renewed U.S. economic pressure to gross mismanagement by Iran's regime. But the real state of affairs in the country is almost certainly worse than authorities care to admit.

Read more at:

https://www.afpc.org/publications/articles/a-year-into-irans-quiet-counterrevolution

 

 

Can Congress Stop the Forever War?

By DENIS MCDONOUGH

Carnegie Endowment

December 17, 2018

 

When the 116th Congress—including a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives - is sworn into office in a few weeks, there will be no shortage of pressing issues demanding the attention of legislators. These include perhaps the most solemn question facing any government: when and how to deploy the awesome power of the United States armed forces.  Few matters are as complex or as consequential. And Congress should not be shy. The Constitution grants competing powers in the realm of foreign affairs to Congress and the president, with the expectation—even the demand—of aggressive oversight. Having served at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, I understand that many in the White House will see this congressional role as a nuisance. But they would be well advised to welcome it, because a full partnership with Congress on national security matters will improve both the policies and their execution, while also beginning to restore the American people’s trust in Washington.

Read more at:

https://carnegieendowment.org/2018/12/17/can-congress-stop-forever-war-pub-77987

 

 

Leaving Syria

By Adam Garfinkle

Foreign Policy Research Institute

December 21, 2018

 

“History is irony in motion,” wrote E.M. Cioran in his 1949 book A History of Decay. So could the seemingly unanimous verdict of the chatterati and the professional staffs of both the Departments of State and Defense that President Trump’s abrupt decision to pull U.S. military forces from Syria is a mistake be itself a mistake? It it possible, in other words, that President Trump’s decision to remove U.S. forces from Syria will turn out to be a good idea, even if for reasons the President doesn’t understand and can’t possibly be responsible for anticipating?

Read more at:

https://www.fpri.org/article/2018/12/leaving-syria/

 

 

Eight Days in Middle East Puts Pompeo’s Diplomacy to the Test

By Simon Henderson

Washington Institute

January 7, 2019

 

What’s up with Secretary Pompeo’s extended tour of the Middle East? The short answer is that he is trying to sell/explain President Trump’s “we are leaving Syria” policy to America’s friends. None of these countries’ primary concern is Syria, as such. They are all much more interested in Iran’s influence and military activities there. The main elements of the trip were clearly being planned in advance of President Trump’s decision. There is a speech planned for Cairo, an annual bilateral strategic dialogue with Qatar, and another with Kuwait. But the fact that there now are eight stops in eight days probably reflects the amount of explaining that needs to be done...

Read more at:

https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/eight-days-in-middle-east-puts-pompeos-diplomacy-to-the-test

 

 

Trump Departs Syria: An Israeli Perspective

By Michael Herzog

Washington Institute

January 8, 2019

 

Israeli officials have been careful not to publicly criticize President Trump’s recent announcement that all U.S. military forces will be pulled out of Syria. Below the surface, however, they have exuded dissatisfaction, concern, and a desire to make the best out of the situation. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s initial public response was lukewarm, stating that Israel will continue to take care of its security and “will not abide Iranian entrenchment in Syria.” He followed those remarks with hectic bilateral discussions on the matter, holding a phone call with President Trump, meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the sidelines of a gathering in Brazil, and hosting National Security Advisor John Bolton in Jerusalem. These discussions elicited U.S. public assurances about Israel’s security and, so it appears, opened opportunities to affect the manner in which Trump’s decision is implemented.  Some current and former Israeli officials have played down Trump’s announcement, emphasizing that the U.S. contingent in Syria is small and passive in the face of Iran’s military thrusts, that Israel alone has shouldered the burden of pushing back against these thrusts, and that Washington will support Israel even if U.S. forces are in fact withdrawn. Correct as they are, these statements do not tell the whole story.

Read more at:

https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/trump-departs-syria-an-israeli-perspective

 

Mounzer A. Sleiman, Ph.D.

Center for American and Arab Studies

Think Tanks Monitor

www.thinktankmonitor.org