Two weeks later, it is beginning to look like I got fooled again, and the United States is not in fact leaving Northern Syria. But I’m not as crushingly disappointed as I was the last couple times Trump pulled this back in December of 2018, or back in March of 2018. After telling everybody we were withdrawing, we are apparently going back to Northern Syria to “take the oil”. I’m not as bothered by this, because this Syrian intervention is just too ridiculous to survive.
US intervention in Syria has always been darkly absurd and absurdly selfish. We spent billions to take down Assad, which created ISIS, which weirdly ended up with us spending billions to protect Assad from the Islamic State in the most convoluted way possible. But this new Trump initiative is too absurd to last. Trump seems to think he can just steal the oil, which is a moral and legal atrocity. The horror of it wouldn’t keep it from happening, but what will keep it from lasting is the pointlessness. Despite massive efforts from OPEC, Oil can’t get over 60 dollars a barrel, and Syria doesn’t have much oil at all. Neither Exxon nor any other US company has any serious interest in getting involved in something with such high risk and such little reward. The Pentagon isn’t actually arguing for Trump’s silly heist plan. What they want is to keep the oil from Assad, to keep the civil war going, and they are saying that they want to keep it from ISIS, which is pretty ridiculous, because as I’ve repeated again and again, it’s US involvement that keeps ISIS going.
The reason none of this really bothers me is that it can’t possibly last. When I ran a video last year claiming that Washington DC had won the war in Syria, it was the Kurds that were at the heart of that victory. The Kurds, or the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were the perfect imperial tool for the United States. Because of the threat from Turkey, they were a capable militia force that desperately wanted to keep the United States in Syria for as long as possible. Thanks to Trump’s weird choices, the SDF is now protected by Assad, not the United States. And Assad happens to be the legal sovereign authority in Syria. He wants his oil back, and if anybody in the US or the world wants to preserve a pretense of international rule of law we will have to give it to him. This oil adventure could last as long as a year or two, but US power in Syria has been comprehensively broken, and that’s something that Syria, the world, and the people of the United States can continue to be grateful for. And, very weirdly, as this video shows, we owe it to Donald Trump.
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Video Transcript after the jump…
Hey there. I hate to admit this, but I think Donald Trump may have just made the world a much safer place. Over the past week world politics has been roiled by Turkey’s invasion of Northern Syria. I agree with a few of the basics of the story we’ve been hearing. Turkey’s invasion is a bad thing, and Trump has absolutely stabbed our Kurdish partners in the back in a really egregious way. Beyond those basics though, almost nothing of what we are being told about this conflict is true.
The Betrayal Of The Kurds
Did we betray the kurds? Yes we absolutely did. But we betrayed Turkey first. Turkey is invading Northern Syria to get at the YPG, a Kurdish militia that helped the United States solve that Islamic State problem we created. Most sources will mention that Turkey claims the YPG is linked to the PKK, a US designated terrorist organization. This is often mentioned dismissively, as if it’s some kind of nasty rumor that the Turks invented as an excuse to do some genocide. It is not a nasty rumor.
The PKK and the YPG are directly linked. As the Washington Post reluctantly admitted in a recent article “Both Groups operate under the same command structure, and fighters move freely between them.” When the YPG took Raqqa, they celebrated by flying a flag with the face Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader who has spent the past 20 years in a Turkish jail. The US government is embarrassed about this, and has tried to rebrand it’s Northern Syrian allies as the Syrian Democratic Forces, but everybody knows that the YPG is the motivating force behind the SDF.
These absurd branding exercises have been one of the greatest curses of the war in Syria. Media willingness to swallow farcical US government naming conventions are the reason why Washington DC got away with arming and funding Al Qaeda in Syria for most of a decade. The Turkey-Haters still play these name games. They’ll tell you that “Turkey supported ISIS and Al Qaeda”. They’re not actually wrong about that.. But what the Turkey-haters don’t mention is that Turkey supported those groups because the United States asked them to.
Cliiiip with the pops Afrin vid I think
This whole misbegotten war in Syria was built out of a US Turkish partnership to overthrow Assad. Turkey-haters like to point out that Turkey bears some responsibility for the horror of the war, and the half a million Syrians the war has killed. That’s very true. But the United States is just as guilty.
When people point out that the US decided to ally itself with a terrorist group dedicated to the destruction of Turkey, the standard response is that well, we had to deal with the terrible crisis of the Islamic State. The Islamic State has killed a handful of Americans in Iraq and Syria. If you, like most Western Media, choose to wholeheartedly believe the Islamic State marketing department, they were also somehow responsible for a couple lone wolf attacks in the United States, and some slightly more organized attacks in Europe, amounting to a couple hundred victims. The Turkish fight with the PKK has killed 40,000 people, in Turkey.
That number is the result of thirty years of fighting, but thanks in part to the war in Syria the conflict against the PKK intensified in 2015. Over the past four years, thousands of Soldiers, insurgents and civilians have died. There have been multiple PKK bombings targeting civilians in Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey’s largest cities.
There’s a lot to question in Turkey’s treatment of the Kurds. But there isn’t any question about the US decision to support the PKK aligned Kurds in Northern Syria. It was a betrayal of a NATO ally. An ally we have 70 year old treaties with, not a bunch of illegal half promises that should never have been made. Legally, economically, practically, and yes, morally, I’d argue that our betrayal of Turkey over the past 5 years is a lot worse than what we have been doing to the Kurds over this past week.
Do Kurds and Turks have to fight?
So does this mean that I support Erdogan’s invasion? Hell no. I think it’s a terrible idea.
Since the modern Republic of Turkey’s founding in 1923 the Turks have wisely maintained a powerful military that they have almost never used. Turkey’s founders remembered the overextended Ottoman Empire before them, and it’s humiliating 200 year fall. The tragic thing is that for the first decade or so of his time in power Turkish President Erdogan seemed to agree with this. He advocated zero problems with his neighbors and even showed real political bravery in starting peace talks with the PKK, and promoting new freedoms for the Kurds in Turkey. Erdogan was proving that Turks and Kurds could live together peacefully and profitably. Theeen he started losing elections and intentionally fucked it all up.
In 2015 Erdogan lost his parliamentary majority because of a Kurdish party, so he successfully restarted the civil war with the PKK to win his majority back. This week’s new war has a lot to do with the fact that Erdogan destroyed the economy, and lost Istanbul’s biggest cities in the local elections in March and June of this year. He’s probably going to get a political boost out of destroying Syrian Kurdistan, but if he keeps at it I think Syria is going to start looking like Turkey’s Vietnam.
Is the US really withdrawing?
So for the past week, until last night really, I have been thinking about an old song by the band the Who. You know the one about how we Won’t get fooled again. The Most striking thing about this freak out over Syria, is that at the beginning it felt like we had seen it before. Washington DC did exactly the same freak out 10 months ago, when Trump surprised everybody by announcing his intention to pull US troops out of Syria.
That clip was from 10 months ago. Everybody was working the same script last week. Up until Sunday it was easy to believe we would have the same result. Trump proposes something Washington DC hates, then they talk him down and nothing changes. But this time is different. Because last time both Erdogan and Assad were just as surprised as Washington DC was. This time they were not.
Last Sunday, October 6th, Trump announced, after a phone call with Erdogan, just like last time, that he was going to withdraw troops to let Turkey invade. By Wednesday October 9th Turkey was bombing Northern Syria, and by Thursday October 10th ground forces were invading. By Sunday October 13th the Kurds had done a preliminary deal with Assad, and his forces were racing in to take over many Northern Syrian cities. On Sunday morning the US Secretary of Defense went on TV and announced that US troops were pulling out of Northern Syria. I, and a lot of more serious commentators spent Sunday scrambling around not believing him.
But as of Tuesday morning it looks like it’s really happening. Rather than risk Benghazi times 100, with US soldiers caught between Syrian government and Kurdish militias on one side and Turkey and the Jihadist militias we used to support on the other side, we are pulling out. We will maintain our desert outpost of Al Tanf in the South for now. But if Assad regains his control of the North, which is happening as we speak, our soldiers in Al Tanf will be both very safe and isolated, and completely useless.
This all seems almost coordinated. It’s Turkey that made this happen now, so their speed isn’t all that surprising. What’s interesting is the way that Erdogan’s great enemy Assad wrapped up his most recent offensive in Idlib weeks ago. It’s Almost like he was waiting for something. It now seems likely that Assad will reassert control over the vast majority of Northern Syria. So what does this mean for the Kurds?
What Does This mean For The Kurds?
The Kurds have a dirty secret that the US media and government try really hard to hide. They aren’t really rebels against Assad, and they never have been. They have been working with him across the whole war.
The Kurdish regions of Northern Syria did not become autonomous by fighting Assad, the Kurds took over to defend themselves from US funded Jihadists when the Syrian government retreated. Remember Assad’s murderous siege of Aleppo? Well a detail that usually got left out on CNN is the fact that Assad and the Kurds always held the majority of the city, and they collaborated in kicking the Jihadists out. Throughout the war, the government has kept a serious presence in Qamishli, one of the country’s most Kurdish cities, running the airport among many other things.
It’s only in the last year or three that the Kurds have been tempted by empty US promises to be more disrespectful to Assad. There has never been any serious fighting between the two though. Assad is an unforgiving sort, but I do think this could still work out ok for Syria’s Kurds.
Assad still has more rebel areas to take, and the Kurds are a well armed, effective fighting force. It’s entirely possible that they will be able to win some limited autonomy for the small parts of Syria that are actually Kurdish in return for helping Assad take Idlib.
So for the past week, my main complaint about what Trump did to the Kurds was that if he had given them fair warning, they could have gotten a better deal with Assad from a position of strength. But the universal DC freak out has made it clear that that could never have happened. The Kurds have tried to reach an accommodation with Assad multiple times. DC has crushed it every time. This calamitous disaster might have been the only way we would ever leave. And Donald Trump may have made it happen.
What Was The US Really doing in Northern Syria?
There has been a lot of hand wringing about ISIS over the past week. Prisoners are escaping, and the US won’t be dropping any more fabulously expensive bombs on them any more. Everybody is convinced that ISIS will come back. I don’t think so. What nobody else will tell you, but anybody with a calendar can see, is that since 2017, the U.S. mission in Northern Syria has been to prolong ISIS’s existence, not end it.
Sigh. So comparing people to germs is always gross and Nazi like , and I apologize in advance but if anybody has earned it the Islamic State has.
So say Syria is a body, and Jihadist insurgencies are the disease. Each escaped ISIS fighter is like a germ running around that really could break out into a new insurgency. The US presence in Northern Syria has been like a massive battle axe wound across Syria spawning Jihadist infection everywhere, and it always has been. Trump’s blundering into a US withdrawal may finally allow Syria unify again, and finally achieve real peace.
Thanks for watching please subscribe, and I recommend watching the rest of my Everybody’s Lying About the Islamic State video if you still think we were the good guys in Syria.