BLOG 419 January 28, 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 began 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.  In the following week there has been a flurry of activity supporting that reality.

Because of President Donald Trump’s arbitrary statement that the US was pulling out of Syria, frightening repercussions have followed. The Jerusalem Report magazine reported Trump saying he was giving a Christmas present to US troops. Reporter Yossi Melman said, “His decision is, in fact, a Christmas gift to US enemies and rivals, above all Russia and Iran, and indirectly China, and a bombshell dropped on Israel and the Sunni Arab world.”

Apparently, this is a gift that keeps on giving.

In the area of southern Syria, a new order is emerging. Assad is settling accounts with rebels who worked with Israel and Western countries during the rebellion. The central role in this surfacing new order has begun taken by Iran and its allies. Iran has begun to surface as the force behind the Assad throne. Without the stabilizing effect of US troops, the government has a free hand to do as it pleases. After announcing an amnesty to the rebels if they would “normalize their status,” the Syrian government has actually begun killing the former rebels that were promised pardon. The body of Ghanim al-Jamous, former head of the Syrian Police in the town of Dael was found on the roadside. Enough said?

Meanwhile, Senator Lindsay Graham flew to Turkey to meet with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erodogan to quiet the flap in which Erodogan called Trump a traitor after the American president made conflicting promises to Erodogan. Graham is calling for a much, much slower withdrawal that is smarter than Trump’s announcement. Turkey had refused to allow security adviser John Bolton to come to Turkey because of his threats that Kurds would be protected by the US. During the visit Graham contradicted Trump’s statement that ISIS had been defeated. Senator Graham’s concern was that the entire situation could turn into another dangerous mess.

“Really? How big a mess do we already have in Syria? Sitting across the ocean, it is easy to pontificate about quick pull outs, etc.. It is an entirely different matter when you are in Israel or a Kurd or a former rebel that will now face certain death.

American politicians can debate whether the US should be there at all. However, we are. We can’t turn our backs on our responsibilities because it is politically expedient to do so.

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