BLOG 418 January 21, 2019
WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST ~ Each week Robert L. Wise, PhD, explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.
Last week I concluded with the statement. “Let’s face the facts. The enemy is Assad and the threat is Iran and Russia. ISIS remains fighting and is not defeated.
One week later, the headlines in the media screamed, “Syria Attack kills 4 U.S. Citizens.” The suicide bombing killed at least 16 people. The Associated Press reported, “The strategic northeastern town of Manbij highlighted the threat posed by the Islamic State group despite Trump’s claims.” In seven days, the reports confirmed the fact that ISIS is far from dead.
The arbitrary and abrupt withdrawal of US troops has left the door open not only for more killing of American personnel, but for a power play that will further destabilize the region. Who is applauding the sudden retreat of the USA? Russian and Iran.
The foregoing is not my opinion, but what allies and particularly Israel are currently saying.
What further complicates the situation are the divergent opinions expressed by National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo trying to assure the Kurds and Israel that Trump didn’t really mean what he said. Yet, the most recent reports seem to indicate military equipment is currently being withdrawn. Who knows what the reality of the situation actually is! The impression one receives is that informed leaders in the current administration are trying to temper Trump’s uninformed decision.
The immediate wild-card is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erodgan. On December 14, 2018, President Trump said Erodgan assured him Turkey would not attack the Kurds. On December 17, 2018, Erodgan reiterated his threat to attack the Kurds. If that threat is carried out, one of America’s most faithful and consistent allies are open to an assault from the Turks.
Even though a NATO ally, Turkey has been on a path of authoritarianism and support for the Sunni faction of Islam. In addition, Erodgan has been deliberately increasing his ties with Russia. This situation makes Trump’s talk of withdrawal all the more ominous.
So, where are we? Not in a good place!