On the Competition for Recognition Part X A Political Dissension in France – Islamicist Violence

If the deepest divide in the U.S. is between the right and left, whatever the divisions within each of those rivals, if the deepest divides within the UK are within the left and within the right, the deepest divides in France are between the center and left on one side and right on the other side. After all, Emanuel Macron came into the presidency by running as a centrist against Benoît Hamon for the Socialists and François Fillon for the Republicans on the right. Fillon was felled by a scandal. The Socialists had been weakened by the failing presidency of François Hollande. Macron emerged from the pack to face Marine Le Pen in the run off, with predictable results. And he managed to create his own party to run for the legislature following his election. La République en Marche won a clear majority. Initially, it had no effective opposition but also little experience on its own side. A 39-year old political novice was supported by an inexperienced cohort.

Some commentators mark the divisions in France as left, right and Muslim. This is a mistake. Six million Muslims in France constitute 8% of the population. Characterizing Muslims as marginals torn between their Muslim and French identity is simply false. Muslims are either liberal or left. In 2012, 86% voted for François Hollande. “Muslims tend to mostly cast a left-wing vote” as a “class vote of a stigmatized minority.” (Hakim El Karoui, “Is there a ‘Muslim vote’ in France?” Brookings, 27 April 2017)

The May 2016 survey of the Institut Montaign and the Institut français d’opinion publique (Ifop) concluded:

  • No “Muslim community” or organized communitarianism exists
  • Belonging to and engaging as a Muslim tends to be private
  • Muslims in France have little commitment to community-based initiatives (only 5 percent belong to a Muslim organization)
  • There are very few denominational schools in France – only 10 for 1.3 million Muslims younger than 15
  • Political choices are very weakly influenced by the candidate’s actual or supposed connection to Islam
  • Only 19% would vote for a candidate just because (s)he was Muslim
  • Because 30% are not citizens and because their sense of participation in French political life is also weak, the Muslim electorate is only 3.6% of the total, half their proportion of the French population
  • Muslim citizens mostly want a stable job (93%), a decent degree (88%), and an ability to afford accommodation (65%)
  • A higher social status is more important than a Muslim or ethnic identity

As mentioned in the blog on Britain, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) recently completed a survey of 16,500 across twelve member states. It was the second such survey – the 2018 MIDIS II, the European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey. Ignore its findings on child poverty, discrimination against the disabled, different genders and the aged. The report concluded with respect to racism that there had been no progress since its last report. With respect to antisemitism, the report confirmed the British findings, that most antisemitism is Muslim in origin. Jews increasingly, though still occasionally, avoid public events and feel wary. The problem is especially acute in France which has both the largest Jewish and largest Muslim populations in Europe.

The Islamicist attack against a Toulouse school in 2012 set off a slow Jewish exodus from France, primarily to Israel. Seven died, including the rabbi and his two children. Jump to this past year. A march was held in March to honour a Holocaust survivor, Mireille Knoll, who had been stabbed eleven times in her apartment in the 11th Arrondissement in Paris. Her body was then partially burned. Two suspects were arrested; the murder was being investigated as an antisemitic hate crime. One apparently said to the other, “She is a Jew. She must have money.”

A year earlier, a young Muslim man aged 28, Kobili Traoré from Mali was accused of murdering his neighbour, Lucette Attal-Halimi, 65, an Orthodox Jewish physician known by her Hebrew name, Sarah Halimi. The murderer tortured Sarah Salami and then threw her body off the balcony. In July 2018, Kobili was found unfit to stand trial. These are just some examples. But they have not led Jews to engage in widespread Islamophobia. For one reason, most of the attacks have not directly targeted Jews. Further, only 1 in 100,000 Muslims have participated in these terrorist attacks.

In addition to the Toulouse attack mentioned above, three major Islamicist attacks took place in France since then and before this year:

Île de France          Jan. 2015     20 killed      22 injured

Paris                      Nov. 2015  137 killed      415 injured

Nice                       July 2016     87 killed      434 injured

Two major attacks took place in 2018, in March in Carcassonne and Trèbes where 5 were killed and 15 injured, and in Strasbourg last month; 6 were killed and 11 injured. In the other 19 attacks, 18 were killed and 40 injured.

Borrowing from Wikipedia with minor edits, the following offers a more complete list of Islamicist violence in France:

Date Type Dead Inj. Location and description
11-22 March 2012 Shooting 7 5 Toulouse and Montauban shootings of three French paratroopers, a French Rabbi and three schoolchildren (aged eight, six and three) over a period of 11 days by Mohammed Merah.
23 May 2013 Stabbing 0 1 2013 La Défense attack by an Islamist knifeman against a French soldier in a Paris suburb
20 December 2014 Stabbing 0 (+1) 3 2014 Tours police station stabbing. A man yelling “Allahu Akbar” attacked police officers in Joué-lès-Tours with a knife, injuring 3; he was killed.
7-9 January 2015 Shooting 17 (+3) 22 January 2015 Île-de-France mass shooting at the antifascist satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, carried out by Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, two Islamist gunmen who identified themselves as belonging to Al-Qaeda in Yemen, and a third Islamist gunman and close friend of the Kouachi brothers, Amedy Coulibaly, who shot two and took another hostage at a Hypercacher kosher market. The three pledged allegiance to ISIL.
3 February 2015 Stabbing 0 3 3 military men, guarding a Jewish community center in Nice, are attacked by Moussa Coulibaly (not related to the January Coulibaly attacks).
19 April 2015 Shooting 1 0 (+1) Unsuccessful attack against 2 churches in Villejuif by an Algerian jihadist. He killed a woman probably when trying to steal her car but accidentally shot himself in the leg, putting an end to his plans.
26 June 2015 Beheading 1 2 Saint-Quentin-Fallavier attack. An Islamist delivery driver probably linked to ISIS decapitated a man and rammed a company van into gas cylinders at the Air Products gas factory in an attempt to blow up the building.
21 August 2015 Shooting and stabbing 0 3 (+1) 2015 Thalys train attack. An attempted mass shooting occurred on a train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris. Four people were injured, including the assailant who was subdued by other passengers.
13-14 November 2015 Shootings, hostage taking and suicide bombings 130 (+7) 413 November 2015 Paris attacks. The single deadliest terrorist attack in French history. Multiple shooting and grenade attacks on a Friday night targeted a music venue, sports stadium and several bar and restaurant terraces. 90 were killed in a siege at an Eagles of Death Metal concert inside the Bataclan. French president François Hollande was evacuated from a football match between France and Germany at the Stade de France, venue for the UEFA Euro 2016 Final, after three separate suicide bombings over 40 minutes. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.
1 January 2016 Vehicle ramming 0 2 A man rammed his car twice into 4 soldiers protecting a mosque in Valence to kill troops; jihadi propaganda images were found on his computer.
7 January 2016 Stabbing 0 (+1) 0 January 2016 Paris police station attack, a jihadist wearing a fake explosive belt attacked police officers in the Goutte d’Or district in Paris with a meat cleaver, while shouting “Allahu Akbar”. He was shot dead and one policeman was injured. The ISIS flag and a clearly written claim in Arabic, were found on the attacker.
13 June 2016 Stabbing 2 (+1) 0 2016 Magnanville: a police officer and his wife, a police secretary, were stabbed to death in their home by a jihadist. ISIS claimed responsibility.
14 July 2016 Vehicle ramming 86 (+1) 434 A 19 tonne cargo truck was deliberately driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. The driver was Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a Tunisian resident of France. The attack ended following an exchange of gunfire, during which Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was shot and killed by police.
26 July 2016 Stabbing 1 (+2) 1 2016 Normandy church attack, two terrorists attacked during a mass, killing an 86-year-old priest. ISIS claimed responsibility.
3 February 2017 Stabbing 0 1 (+1) 2017 Paris machete attack. A soldier near the Louvre opened fire on a man who attempted to enter the museum with a machete. The man, shouting “Allahu Akbar,” injured the soldier’s scalp.
16 March 2017 Letter bomb 0 1 letter bomb, probably sent by Greek anarchist organization Conspiracy of Cells of Fire, exploded at the French office of the IMF injuring one person.
18 March 2017 Shooting 0 (+1) 2 2017 Orly Airport attack injuring a policeman in the Paris suburb of Garges-lès-Gonesse; the attacker, was shot dead after trying to grab a soldier’s rifle.[
20 April 2017 Shooting 1 (+1) 3 April 2017 Champs-Élysées attack. An Islamist opened fire on police officers on the Champs-ÉlyseesISIS claimed responsibility.
6 June 2017 Melee attack 0 1 (+1) 2017 Notre Dame attack. An Algerian Islamist attacked a police officer with a hammer. He was shot by a second policeman and arrested. He had pledged allegiance to ISIS.
19 June 2017 Vehicle ramming 0 (+1) 0 June 2017 Champs-Élysées car ramming attack. A jihadist rammed his car into a police car. He was killed and the Department of Interior stated that explosives, AKM assault rifle and handguns were found in his car. The attacker had pledged allegiance to ISIS.
9 August 2017 Vehicle ramming 0 7 (+1) 2017 Levallois-Perret attack. A man rammed his car into soldiers near their barracks outside Paris. He was arrested on the highway after a shootout.
15 Sept. 2017 Melee attack 0 2 A man sought by police, who are investigating a possible terrorist motive, attacked two women with a hammer in Chalon-sur-Saône near Lyon about 15 minutes apart, shouting in Arabic. Earlier a knife-wielding man attacked and was stopped by an anti-terrorist soldier on patrol in Paris Metro train station without injury.
1 October 2017 Stabbing 2 (+1) 0 2017 Marseille stabbing. A man stabbed to death a 20-year-old woman and a 17-year-old girl at Marseille-Saint-Charles Station. Attacker was shot dead. He was heard shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’. ISIS claimed responsibility.
23 March 2018 Shooting, hostage taking 4 (+1) 15 Carcassonne and Trèbes attack. A gunman affiliated with ISIS attacked and stole a car in Carcassonne, killing the passenger and wounding the driver. He arrived in Trèbes and shot at a group of police officers who were jogging. Then, he attacked a supermarket, where three people were killed and several others were injured.
12 May 2018 Stabbing 1 (+1) 4 2018 Paris knife attack. A Chechnya-born French Muslim, armed with a knife, killed one pedestrian and injured several more near the Garnier Opera in Paris before being fatally shot by police.
11 December 2018 Shooting and stabbing 5 (+1) 11 2018 Strasbourg attack. A gunman opened fire just outside the Strasbourg Christmas Market, killing 5 and injuring 11. Killed in a gunfight with security forces two days later.

Given the character of the Muslim population in France, given the persistence of Islamicist violence, quite aside from its horrible character, why has Emmanuel Macron invested so much political capital in creating an “Islam of France” through training Imams domestically and educating Muslims in secular values? Macron seems predisposed to stamping the Muslim “community” with parallel forms of organization to other religious communities through a top-down approach considered both patronizing and irrelevant to most French Muslims. Further, there is no evidence that such organizations would undermine Islamicist extremism, especially when the most radical Imams seem to be born in France. Religion does not determine radicalization.

As I have written before with respect to the hijab, bans were motivated by the ideology of laïcité and the effort to make religion disappear from public life rather than any empirical evidence that hijabs had anything to do with Muslim radicalization. The current French government (ironically advised by El Karoui quoted at the beginning of the blog), following both its conservative and socialist predecessors, is attempting to apply its inherited ideological formulations to the Muslim population. (Prime Minister Manuel Valls in 2016 attempted to ban burqinis on beaches.) The effort is simply misguided and a waste. El Karoui believes that the headscarf has been a decisive emblem of Islamism, the political ideology that has inspired violence. Empirical evidence finally gathered by an American sociologist proved this to be unequivocally false. (See Howard Adelman (2011) “Contrasting Commissions on Interculturalism: The Hija’b and the Workings of Interculturalism in Quebec and France,” Journal of Intercultural Studies 32: 3, June, 245-259.)

It is not only the government that is misguided. In spite of all the research on the behaviour of the French Muslim population, though declining, 43% of the French public still view Islam as incompatible with the values of the Republic. The efforts of the government seem more designed to placate a misinformed public than deal with Islamicist radicals.

 

To be continued

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On the Competition for Recognition – Modern Antisemitism Part IX C (ii) Antisemitism in the Political Left in Britain

It should be no surprise then that 40% of Jews in Britain insist that they would “seriously consider” leaving Britain if Jeremy Corbyn became Prime Minister. After all, left-wingers are responsible for 25% of the incidents of antisemitic harassment in the U.K., twice that of right-wingers. (Muslims are responsible for 30% of such incidents.) Many Jews now are wary of displaying symbols of their religion on their bodies and on their homes.

A major difference between the U.K. and the U.S. can be found in the laws governing hate speech. In the U.S., hate speech is not even regulated. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the First Amendment protects hate speech as an expression of free speech. In contrast, and ignoring differences between England and Wales versus Scotland and Northern Ireland, the U.K. does regulate hate speech.

Part 3 of the 1986 Public Order Act prohibits expressions of racial hatred defined as hatred against a group of persons by reason of the group’s colour, race, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origins. Part of the restrictiveness in the application of the law arises because intent has to be proven and, also, the words must actually be threatening or abusive, sufficiently to stir up hatred. Insulting a Jew or a Muslim to a friend would not constitute illegal hate speech. The characteristic that the language could also be insulting was removed subsequently from the legislation to protect critics of Islamicist terrorism from being accused of hate speech. In 1994, the Act was amended to add a prohibition against causing alarm or distress and in 2000 to include the intention of stirring up religious hatred, both changes more concerned with Islamophobia that anti-Zionist antisemitism.

The law does not prohibit anti-Zionist antisemitism. If Zionism is a political ideology about the right of self-determination of the Jewish people, the law does not restrict any language that claims that Jews do not and should not have such a right, even when that position if often heavily larded with classical antisemitic tropes. Thus, the law would not restrict anti-Zionist antisemitism in the U.K. any more than in the U.S. In the name of freedom of speech, both countries offer a wide swath for openly and avowedly anti-Zionist antisemites. But why is it more pervasive in the U.K. than in the U.S.?

There are at least two phenomena that explain the difference. The first is the different patterns of migration to the two countries so that as a percentage of the population, Britain has a higher percentage of Muslims than in the U.S. and hence, expectedly, even if only a minority, a higher percentage of Muslims who advocate anti-Zionist antisemitism. The Pew Research Center estimates that in 2015, there were about 3.3 million Muslims living in the U.S., about 1% of the total U.S. population. The comparative proportion in the U.K. is 5%. On the basis of statistics alone, however small the group of anti-Zionist antisemites in Britain, their numbers are bound to be five times those in the U.S. The intellectual background in Britain makes the percentage of modern antisemitism even higher still.

Secondly, classical antisemitism has deeper roots in the U.K. than in the U.S. and far more frequent expressions in spite of the attack on the Pittsburgh synagogue this past year. Further, those incidents in the U.S. predominantly come from the right. The majority of such incidents in the U.K. comes from the left, even though classical antisemitism is far more pervasive with deeper roots on the right and, as expressed, had very little offensive activity in the U.K. The 2017 Institute of Jewish Policy Research in its largest and most detailed survey of attitudes towards Jews and Israel ever conducted in Great Britain, concluded that the levels of antisemitism in Great Britain were among the lowest in the world. Only 2.4% of the population expressed multiple antisemitic attitudes. Further, 70% had a favourable opinion of Jews. The difference, however, was that only 17% had a favourable opinion of Israel; 33% were very unfavourable and that position found its repository largely on the left.

However, unfavourable attitudes to Israel do not constitute antisemitism. Actions do. In 2001, there were nearly 300 antisemitic assaults, incidents of vandalism, cases of abuse, and threats against Jewish individuals and institutions. By 2005, the numbers had doubled. By 2018, the frequency had risen to 100 per month. The incidents of Jews being targeted in the street in random attacks have quadrupled in two decades. There were 1,382 incidents in 2017, an increase of 3% over the year before (1,346 incidents). Most situations involve verbal abuse randomly directed at Jewish people in public. But there are also physical assaults. Three-quarters of those incidents took place in Greater Manchester and Greater London, the two British cities with the highest population of Jews.

Stephen Silverman, director of investigations and enforcement for the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) said that, “Antisemitic crime has been rising dramatically since 2014 and that rise is not explained by an increase in reporting, and we have seen no noticeable impact from Brexit… Jews are being singled out disproportionately and with increasing violence due to the spread of antisemitic conspiracy myths originating from Islamists, the far-left and far-right, which society is failing to address, as evidenced by the ongoing disgraceful situation in the Labour Party, and because the Crown Prosecution Service declines to prosecute so often that antisemites no longer fear any consequences to their actions.”

Many commentators in the U.K. blame the pervasiveness of an irrational hatred of Israel and the evidence that authorities have turned a blind eye to Islamicist fanaticism lest they be accused of racism. However, the incidents of classic antisemitism in the Labour Party have been less than 0.1% according to Shami’s inquiry. The problem lies in modern anti-Zionist antisemitism. Corbyn’s consistent critique of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank so easily slips into a critique of Zionism per se. It can be recognized even when debates over the weaponization of Jewish suffering in the Holocaust have been bracketed.

The substitution of a one-state solution for the two-state solution, for example, has been defended on the grounds of democracy, even though it would mean that Israel could no longer defend itself as the state of the Jewish people. Instead of democracy plus self-determination, too many on the left in Britain defend democracy in opposition to Jewish self-determination and in favour of a supposedly non-nationalist self-determination of the people in Israel-Palestine, but one which would, in reality strongly favour Palestinian self-determination. National self-determination and ensuring the principle of equality for all citizens are not incompatible as the politics within Scotland indicate.

Justifiable critics of Israeli actions of forcible ethnic cleansing to some degree in 1948, where there were no immediate security issues, are falsely equated with an “eliminationist” ethic. Forcible transfer, a common practice in Europe after WWII, however disreputable now, is not equivalent to an exterminationist ethic. Those critics also somehow usually fail to note that all of non-Jewish Palestine had been made Judenrein, cleansed of Jews, including the Old City of Jerusalem. Too few Palestinian nationalists offer Jews equal citizenship in a future Palestinian state. Israel offers Palestinians equal citizenship, though it often fails to live up to that ideal.

Critics of Israel justify the unique obloquy and singling out Israel, not, as they say, for its Jewish character, but for its alleged unique impunity. Yet Israel has been denounced in the UN more than all other countries combined, including countries clearly guilty of genocide or of targeting the middle as well as upper classes in its society, such as Venezuela. The socialist tradition in Britain, whatever the degree of quality in its self-examination and self-criticism, has still failed to come to terms with the propensity to conflate classical antisemitism in the dress of anti-Zionist antisemitism.

Jeremy Corbyn is not Bernie Sanders. Ironically, while class-based analysis has seen an unusual resurgence in America, the British left has been moving away from a class-based narrative towards a primary concern with events in the Third World rather than the decline in real wages over the last decade among the working class in Britain. Jeremy Corbyn is a product of the New Left rather than the Old Left. The heroes of the New Left were Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh. Many of the remnants, like Corbyn, applauded the late Hugo Chăvez in Venezuela. On the latter’s death in 2013, Corbyn tweeted, “Thanks Hugo Chăvez for showing that the poor matter and wealth can be shared. He made massive contributions to Venezuela & a very wide world.”

Corbyn cheered Chăvez’ successor, Nicolás Maduro, for his commitment to democracy and socialist values even though Maduro banned protests and rigged democracy in Venezuela to keep himself in office. Labourites Diane Abbott, Richard Burgon, John McDonnell, and others echoed those sentiments. Meanwhile, Venezuelans, reduced to poverty, flee in droves as inflation reached a million percent while Labour Party sympathizers organized a Venezuelan Solidarity Campaign early this year.

The connection to antisemitism? Anti-Zionist antisemites are imbued with post-colonial studies that portray Israel as an imperialist colonizing outpost of the West. Corbyn is part of that heritage. He attended a ceremony in Tunisia, not in 1972, but in 2014, that honoured the perpetrators of the Olympic Munich massacre. He befriends Hamas and denounces efforts to portray jihadists in Gaza as terrorists.

That, in the end, is why the Shami inquiry missed the main point, though it confessed that Jeremy Corbyn had created a “safe space” for antisemites, as when Ken Livingstone argued that Adolph Hitler supported Zionism. That is why its recommendations focused on criticizing the use of epithets like “Paki” and on drawing parallels between Hitler and the Holocaust and pasting over the Israeli-Palestinian debate. The other recommendations focused on procedural issues and second order norms, none of which can touch the endemic deeply rooted modern anti-Zionist antisemitism in the current Labour Party.

It is ironic that when the deepest challenge Britain currently faces is Brexit, Corbyn offers so little leadership on the issue while, at the same time, he is preoccupied with “colonized peoples.”

With the help of Alex Zisman

On the Competition for Recognition – Modern Antisemitism Part IX C (i) Cultural Emphasis in the Political Left in Britain

After my excursus into the issue of Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from Syria, I want to return to the political divisions in Europe, initially the cultural divisions on the left, picking up from my analysis of the economic divisions of the left as instantiated in the Brexit fight. The real divisive question on the left in Britain can be found in identity politics rather than debates over domestic class interests and the real, as distinct from caricatured, character of regional and globalist economics.

This is not simply my view. The Labour Party in Britain launched a commission of inquiry into the apparent anti-Zionism that seemed to run like a river of lava flowing forth from under the ground and spewing not only hot molten rock dividing the party, but the noxious vapours as well that have so poisoned discussions and debates on the left in Britain. The Sharmista Chakrabarti (Shami) Inquiry was instigated after the suspension of two Labour Party members over allegations of antisemitism, Naz Shah, a new member of the House of Commons, and Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London. Controversy followed the comments made by Shah who had suggested that Israel be relocated in the U.S., and Livingstone who had claimed that Adolph Hitler had been a supporter of Zionism. These comments on both Jews and Israel were interpreted as antisemitic.

Sharmishta (Shami) Chakrabarti of Bengali heritage led the inquiry. Following the tabling of her report, she became a baroness with a life peerage (nominated by Jeremy Corbyn himself, the current leader of the Labour Party). She sits in the House of Lords on the Labour benches. Shami, trained as a lawyer (LSE), directed “Liberty” for years, an organization with a long record of promoting civil liberties and human rights. She approached her inquiry into antisemitism within the Labour Party with impeccable credentials, in spite of the criticism of her appointment by The Community Security Trust that monitors antisemitism in Britain and has as its mission ensuring the safety and security of the Jewish community there.

Shami first made her reputation fighting anti-terrorist legislation that seemed excessive and too infected with Islamophobia. She had previously been a panel member on the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking and press standards. Nevertheless, Marie van der Zyl, Vice-President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which had initially leveled the charge of classic antisemitism at the Labour Party, dubbed her report a “whitewash.” It was certainly not a whitewash, but it may have missed its target and delivered only a glancing blow to the type of anti-Zionist antisemitism that is such a powerful undercurrent in the Labour Party.

This was the case even though Shami, in her June 2016 report, had documented a strong strain within Labour of “modern anti-Zionism of a particularly excessive, obsessive, and demonizing kind.” But she also insisted that it was not pervasive. Anti-Zionist antisemitism intermixed hatred of Zionism with traditional antisemitic tropes, images and assumptions. Shami was concerned with the mixing rather than the question of whether and when anti-Zionism could become antisemitic.

The report concluded that Labour was “not overrun by anti-Semitism” or, for that matter, Islamophobia and racism. But it was infected with the new form of anti-Zionist antisemitism. Thus, although racism in Britain did target Jews – and Pakistanis and blacks – only the racism targeting Jews entailed political ideology and infected foreign policy. If the right in the U.S. now wanted to exclude Muslims and Hispanics from becoming citizens, and Blacks from becoming full citizens by limiting their right to vote, the far left in Britain, infused with a romantic version of the Palestinian struggle, sought to exclude Israel from the world of nation-states.

Though the Board of Deputies of British Jews was critical of Shami’s report, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis endorsed the report and urged “a full and unhesitating implementation of its findings.” Professor David Feldman, Director of the Pears institute for the Study of Antisemitism, concluded that, “This is an important document at a time, when more than ever, we need to stand firm against all forms of racism and intolerance. The report marks a positive step towards ensuring that the Labour Party is a welcoming place for all minority groups. It recommends steps to ensure that members act in a spirit of tolerance and respect, while maintaining principles of free speech and open debate. The recommendations are constructive and provide a sound basis on which the Party can move forward.”

Why the differences among sectors of the Jewish community in Britain? The answer is partially available in the inquiry of the House Affairs Select Committee that followed the Shami Report. The Committee zeroed in on the National Union of Students and its then leader, Malia Bouattia, whose family came from Algeria. Malia had majored in cultural studies at the University of Birmingham and did a MPhil in postcolonial theory. That theory itself postulates that Zionism, and the creation of Israel, is a product of imperialism and colonialism, and that Israel is an apartheid and colonial state that controls and exploits colonized people and their land.

Thus, although the Committee was critical of all the political parties for hosting antisemitic elements, it also accused Shami’s inquiry of serious shortcomings. Shami had recognized that antisemitism had emerged in a new form that did not simply criticize Israeli policies and actions, but sought to undermine the right of Jews to self-determination within the historic land of Israel. However, the latter antisemitic elements were underplayed in the report and insufficient attention was paid to its existence within the Labour party. As I documented in an earlier blog, anti-Zionist antisemitism also seems to be characteristic of at least two of the new members of the House of Representatives in the U.S., Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. Those views, while still belonging to a small minority, are far more pervasive in the Labour Party in Britain than in the Democratic Party in the U.S.

Further, as the House of Commons report concluded, not only was Shami’s understanding of post-WWII anti-Zionist antisemitism too limited, but the display of that antisemitism focused on insensitivity rather than cognitive misunderstanding. Thus, when a pro-Corbyn party activist at the public launch of Shami’s Report accused Jewish Labour MP, Ruth Smeeth, of working hand-in-hand with the right, Smeeth accused Jeremy Corbyn of failing to speak out in her defense. Corbyn may insist that he is not antisemitic, but, at the very least, he displays an acute insensitivity to antisemitism, especially of the anti-Zionist variety but sometimes also classical antisemitism.

After all, Corbyn himself in response to the Shami report had compared Israeli actions to that of the Islamic State. (30 June 2016) “Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organisations.” Jews generally found drawing such an equivalence to be antisemitic. Even though Chief Rabbi Mervis had endorsed the report and Shami had defended Corbyn’s comparison, Mervis said the remarks were “offensive.”

In that mindblindness, I would endorse the conclusion of the House that Shami’s report was “compromised,” not because Shami, after delivering her report, accepted an appointment to the House of Lords from Corbyn, or because the report was insufficiently sensitive, but because her understanding of modern anti-Zionist antisemitism had serious shortcomings. It may be the case that, “there exists no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party.” However, anti-Zionist antisemitism is both more pervasive and more deep-seated in Labour while classical antisemitism may be more pervasive, deeper, and possibly more subtle, in the Conservative Party.

The exploration of the fact and the explanation for that pervasive anti-Zionist antisemitism on the left in Britain requires further analysis.

 

To be continued.

 

Trump’s Withdrawal of Troops from Syria: Part IV – Concluding Analysis

I missed it. I perhaps know the Israeli issue better than I understand any other international conflict. (The reference timeline on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict sent after this blog may serve as an indicator.) But I missed it. I was preparing to write my final comments on the Islamicist Terrorist War against us and the rest of the world by initially providing a Timeline on IS Terrorism. I wanted to show (and still may do so) that we forget very easily. We forget how frequent the terrorist attacks had once been. I was sure the media would remind us. Then Trump’s withdrawal of American troops from Syria would be seen as our concern, as undermining our security.

But that has not happened as far as I can see. A number of pundits have referred to the likely increase in world terrorism as a result of the withdrawal of troops from Syria, but that possibility comes as an abstract future rather than as something which touches our guts. The emotional dimensions of the American troop withdrawal touching our deepest fears just does not seem to be present.

Certainly, there is the sense of betrayal of the Kurds and forgetting their sacrifices and hard slogging on behalf of the coalition fight against terrorism in Iraq and Syria by many Americans. Certainly, they were also opposed to Erdoğan’s Turkish regime that has been succoring Islamicist militants in Syria as his protective shield against the rise of Kurdish nationalism that he viewed as perhaps the greatest threat to his autocratic rule. After all, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu, applauded Trump’s decision. Turkey’s Defense Minister, Hulusi Akar, promised to see Kurdish fighters “buried in trenches that they dig.”

It should be clear from reading yesterday’s timeline on the war in Syria that Turkey initially plans to divide the Kurdish forces between Manjib and Kobani in the west and Qamishli and Hasaka in the east connected by Tell Abyad using returning Arab militants as allies against the Kurds. Talk about collusion. Trump made the definitive decision immediately after talking to Erdoğan on the phone. “President Erdoğan of Turkey has very strongly informed me that he will eradicate whatever is left of ISIS in Syria…. and he is a man who can do it plus, Turkey is right ‘next door.’ Our troops are coming home!”

But even the prospect of Turkey unleashing holy hell on the Kurds has not seemed to arouse Trump’s base, though it seems to have touched Lindsay Graham, a vocal Trump loyalist. “What Turkey is going to do is unleash holy hell on the Kurds. In the eyes of Turkey, they’re more of a threat than ISIS. So this decision is a disaster.” However, in general, loyalty no longer rings out as a lofty virtue and betrayal as perhaps the worst vice.

The whole effort to keep Iran’s regional ambitions in check may have been undermined. But that does not seem to have moved Trump as Israel’s strong supporter, except insofar as Iran is now a much more prominent threat to Israel.  The Promised Land must risk crossing the Russians as it bombs Iranian weapons caches in Syria. One may never prove collusion, but the steps Trump has taken, which point to re-establishing Russia as a super-power now on the borders of Israel, sure looks like it. Russia is clearly gloating as Turkey’s ties to NATO are further weakened. The Russians may have another card up their sleeve. In light of the U.S. desertion of the Kurds, Putin may instigate an initiative to reconcile the Kurds and Assad.

The prospect of ending America’s role as the world’s policeman has not alarmed evangelicals, for the base has a strong isolationist streak. Though how can one imagine, “Making America great again” by diminishing its role in the world is beyond me. I never understood making that effort by shrinking the U.S presence, and, in so doing, creating space for autocratic states and non-state nogoodniks to expand.

In the end, I have concluded that the abandonment of Israel, not the Kurds, has been the one that has touched and perhaps moved the evangelical Christian portion of Donald Trump’s base. That is the largest part of that base. It has seemed to be immoveable in the face of almost every sin in the book that Donald Trump has committed. But I did not attend. And I should have.

For twelve years, I produced and hosted a television show called “Israel Today” on a Christian evangelical station. I got to know the love of Israel by evangelicals close up. And not simply because Israel was the necessary step to a Second Coming as Rabbi Marmur insisted. The love was genuine. Evangelicals and Orthodox Jews kept going to Israel throughout the worst period of terror attacks while liberal Jewish visits declined rapidly. The love was real and I should have recognized that if that relationship was threatened, evangelicals might begin to distance themselves from their support from Donald Trump.

Trump is a braggart. He may be the moron that the ex-Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson depicted, but according to Trump himself, he knows best about military strategy – certainly more than his generals – about what will stop refugees from seeking asylum in the U.S., about law, about virtually anything. “I know better” should be his mantra, not “Make America Great Again.” Yet Jeremiah 9:23 quotes God’s message to humanity: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches.”

Donald Trump boasts of all three, and though many have questioned his wisdom in anything other than stirring up a mob, and his might for he never served in the military, allegedly because of heel spurs, and even though many have even questioned how deep his pockets really are, the real problem is not any of those qualities but, for evangelical Christians, that he should not be boasting about them.

This is not just a problem in the Hebrew Torah. Proverbs 27:2 advises: “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” It is a problem in the New Testament as well. In Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia (6:14), he instructs: “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” However, Trump’s boasting, indeed his false boasts, have not sent his followers fleeing.

Nor has his lying. Trump since he took office has lied or misled the public over 7,000 times at an average of over 11 lies or distortions of the truth per day. Yesterday I pointed out his lie that before he was inaugurated, the war against IS terror in Syria was running amok and only when he was elected did America get on the road to victory. We have become almost inured to his constant lying. Yet, although Christianity Today might advise; “If we’re created in the image of Perfect Truth, then we can’t keep speaking with the forked tongue of the Serpent,” evangelicals have managed to ignore these overt sins.

His boasting did not turn them away. Nor did his lying. Nor did the multitude of other vices he exhibits, such as adultery and the celebration of fornication. Donald Trump seemed to be made of Teflon, for every sin in the book seemed to be washed away, not as Hebrews says (10:10) by prayer, forgiveness and God’s grace, but by his base simply remaining blind to those sins.

Trump abandoning the Kurds does not seem to scare away the faithful. Nor does his boasting and lying and history of fornicating. Nor the threat to Jordan which I have not even discussed. What appears – and admittedly it is far too early to be confident let alone certain – is that Trump’s withdrawal of American troops and the removal of the barrier between Iran and its Hezbollah satraps in Lebanon and Israel, may have done the trick. Donald Trump must have sensed this when he responded and insisted that, “We give Israel $4.5 billion a year, so Israel is going to be good.”

It is not that Israel should have been surprised by the Trump move. The orangutan had signaled his intentions repeatedly. Netanyahu’s Chief of Staff, Gadi Eizenkot, the Mossad, Israeli military intelligence, had all warned the Israeli Prime Minister about the imminent possibility. But perhaps Netanyahu was so super-confident in his own powers of persuasion that he believed that he could dissuade Trump from removing American troops from northeast Syria, especially since virtually every military expert, including the Secretary of Defense, had strongly advised against such a change, quite aside from the logic and strategic arguments against withdrawal.

Jim Mattis in his resignation letter wrote, “My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues.” Mattis was strongly opposed to Trump handing the keys to Syria to Turkey, Iran and Russia. All Bibi could do was utter a feeble response that Israel will have to soldier on in Syria without an American presence.

But whatever Israel’s strengths, withstanding an alliance of Iran, Turkey, Syria and Russia is a clear and present danger. And Trump’s evangelical Christian crowd knows it. Never mind that the American troop withdrawal puts the Kurds in peril. Never mind that it puts the stability of the region in greater peril. Never mind that it may even result in putting ourselves in greater peril as a result of a resurgence of terrorism. Elham Ahmed, the co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF’s), constituted mainly by military units of the Kurdish YPG fighters from the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, said, “Fighting terrorism will be difficult because our forces will be forced to withdraw from the Deir ez-Zor front to take up positions on the border with Turkey to stop an eventual attack.”  Betraying the Kurds and our own security in the face of a resurgent terrorism did not suffice. But putting Israel in danger, putting the coming of the Christ in danger, that hits the core beliefs of many if not most evangelicals.

Has Trump’s evangelical base finally begun to turn against Trump? Surrounding himself with fools and felons does not seem to have done it. Offering all kinds of evidence that he was serving as Putin’s puppet does not seem to have done it. Evidence suggesting that he laundered Russian kleptocratic wealth does not seem to have done it. Tax avoidance and lack of transparency certainly did not do it. And Trump’s disrespect for the law and for the judiciary does not seem to have done it. Nor has his heartlessness towards refugee children. But betrayal of Israel!

Who would have thunk it? I should have. It was staring me right in the face. But I did not. For the past week, I have been focused elsewhere. And not because Trump is an expert at distraction as well as destruction, at debasement as well as dereliction of duty, not because he has been the disrupter par excellence – even of Wall Street markets – but because of my own mindblindness. And my assumption that the loyalty of his base was unshakeable. It was my failure to recognize what might shake up part of Donald Trump’s evangelical religious base. After all, Mike Pence is waiting in the wings.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Trump’s Withdrawal of Troops from Syria Part III: Violent Conflict in Iraq and Syria – Timeline

This is my Boxing Day present to you, taking “boxing” in its combative rather than wrapping interpretation.

In this installment of this series, I offer a timeline on the Iraqi and Syrian wars until the end of 2017. I do so, not only to refute Trump’s lie that until he came into office, the war in Syria was a disaster – for by now everyone should know that he is both a braggart and a liar. I want to give some sense of those wars in order to help assess the significance of any withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria. Note though that, from what I provide here, it would be difficult to form a sound judgement, not simply because the items included are only in a summary form, but also because IS was substantially defeated by mid-2017. That victory was followed by the continuation of the proxy war involving Iran, Turkey, Russia and the U.S. coalition backing the Syrian rebels. I do not even summarize that phase of the proxy war in this blog. In addition, a reader needs to recall the worldwide war against IS Islamicist terror in the period between 2014 and 2018, a summary of which I hope to provide in a subsequent blog.

Although readers may certainly derive other conclusions from the timeline that follows, I have made the following ones:

  • In November 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found no evidence of a nuclear program; Iran resumed its secret nuclear production following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq
  • The wars in Iraq and Syria cannot be assessed independently of the policy towards Iran
  • The combination of the American dismantling of the Sunni-run state and the Sunni dominated army, along with the Shi’ite dominated government policies of repression against the Sunnis, provoked and then compounded the insurgency in Iraq
  • Iran went into Iraq to fill the vacuum resulting from the withdrawal of American forces by the end of 2011; for a few years, Iraq effectively became Iran’s satrap
  • The sheer variety of the competing forces, especially in Syria – Iran, Turkey, Russia, U.S.-led coalition as well as Syrian government, various Islamicist forces, mainly IS, Tahir al-Sham, Nusra Front – make the situation very difficult to comprehend
  • In both Syria and Iran, American forces on the ground for training purposes and the American aerial war were critical to the defeat of IS
  • The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) established on 11 October 2015 in al-Hasakah was built on longstanding previous cooperation among the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, YPG) and the Women’s Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Jin, YPJ) as well as Free Syrian Army and the Assyrian Syriac Military Council (Mawtbo Fulhoyo – MFS) and the al-Sanadid Forces of the Arab Shammar tribe
  • SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces), mainly YPG (Kurdish People’s Protection Units), on the ground were also critical to the defeat of IS
  • The difficulty of keeping U.S. Special Forces advising ground troops out of harm’s way
  • The worldwide reach of Islamicist terrorism beyond Syria and Iraq into Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Algeria, Iran, Israel, Russia, U.S., Philippines, Malaysia as well as Europe (U.K., France, Spain mainly)
  • Absolute cumulative horror of acts committed by terrorists
  • New IS militant leaders pop up as soon as another killed
  • Victory over IS terrorism was insufficient; inter-religious, inter-ethnic and inter-tribal alliances were needed to forge not only victory over IS, but to provide a foundation for democracy
  • Relentless gruelling step-by-step nature of war; a slogging affair district by district, town by town
  • Wars peaked in 2016 and in the first half of 2017 before any real input from Trump
  • The war was won in Iraq with the fall of Mosul and, in Syria, with the fall of Raqqa in June 2017; clean-up operations follow.

I hope readers will find the timeline digest that follows useful as a reference.

2003-2012                                   IRAQ

Year Mo. Day Place Event  
2003 March 20 Iraq U.S.-led invasion (Operation Iraqi Freedom) – 177,000 troops  
2004     Iraq al-Qaeda in Iraq formed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi  
2005 Sept.   Iraq Al-Qaeda in Iran (AQI) declares “all-out-war” on Shi’ites  
  June 7 Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi killed in U.S. air strike

Abu Ayyub al-Masri takes his place

 
2006 Oct.   Iraq Masri forms Islamic State in Iraq (ISI)

Abu Omar al-Baghdadi declared leader

 
  Nov.   USA Republicans defeated in midterms  
2007 Jan.   Iraq U.S. troop surge – “The New Way Forward”

20,000 new troops; ISI membership at 15,000

 
      Iraq ISI driven from Baghdad into Diyala, Salahudeen, and stronghold of Mosul  
  Nov.   Iraq Deadliest period for U.S. troops – 852 dead  
2008     Iraq 2,400 ISI members killed and 8,800 captured  
2009     Iraq ISI recruitment declines from 120 to 5 per month  
      Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki targets Sunnis  
      Iraq ISI begins to grow again in Sunni tribal areas  
      Iraq ISI suicide attack in Baghdad, killing hundreds  
2010       New and expanded insurgency  
2011 March   Syria Civil uprising begins  
  April   Iraq U.S.-Iraqi operation kills Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri  
  May 10 Iraq Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi named new leader of ISI  
  July   Syria ISI spreads into Syria  
  Aug. 31   U.S. declares end to combat operations in Iraq  
      Iraq Good security, budget & inter-ethnic relations  
      Iraq Al-Maliki reconstructs state on ethnic lines, appoints cronies to army & kills protesters  
2011     Iraq Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) turns into ISIS  
  Sept.   Syria Insurgency begins  
  Dec. 31 Iraq Last U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq  
2012 Jan   Syria Abu Muhammad al-Julani, now leader of the Nusra Front (NF)  
        ISIS joins rebellion against Bashar al-Assad & uses Syria as safe haven  
        ISIS launches “Breaking the Walls”: 24 bombings; 8 prison breaks to free Jihadis  
  May Mar. Syria UN ceasefire  

 

 

 

 

 

 

2013-2014                                        Syria & Iraq

Year Mo. Day Place Event
2013 Mar. 4 Raqqa Falls to Syrian secular opposition but NF & ISIS active
  Apr. 9 Syria Baghdadi moves to Syria, claims ISIS & Nusra Front merger
    10 Syria Al-Julani rejects alliance and pledges allegiance to al-Qaeda
  July 21 Iraq ISIS launches “Soldiers of Fortune” campaign
  Aug.   Syria ISIS attacks Liwa al-Tawhid, Ahrar al-Sham, and the Nusra Front in Raqqa and Aleppo.
  Dec. 30 Syria ISIS controls Fallujah and parts of Ramadi
2014 Jan. 14 Syria ISIS captures Raqqa & declares it as Capital of ISIS emirate
  Feb. 3   Al-Qaeda disavows ISIS
  June 10 Iraq ISIS takes control of Mosul & kills 600 Shi’ite prisoners in Badoush prison
    11 Iraq ISIS takes control of Tikrit
    12 Iraq Iran “volunteers” help government retake Tikrit
    18 Iraq Government asks U.S. to launch air war against ISIS
    24 Iraq & Syria ISIS captures the strategic border crossing between Syria’s Deir ez-Zor province and Iraq and 3 other Iraqi towns
    29   Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announces caliphate stretching from Aleppo in Syria to Diyala in Iraq & renames itself

the Islamic State (IS) & himself as Caliph

  July 16 Palmyra, Syria IS launches massive attack on Shaer gas field, kills 270 of whom 200 are executed after their capture
    19-26   Shaer gas fields recaptured, but Islamicists largely escape with 15 tanks and dozens of rockets
  Aug. 2-3 Syria IS captures Kurdish towns of Sinjar and Zumar; Yazidis flee
    3 Iraq IS captures Mosul Dam
    7 U.S. Obama announces air strikes against IS to defend Yazidis
    24 Syria IS captures Taqba airbase in Raqqa
  Sept. 5 U.S. Obama announces international coalition to defeat IS after execution of journalists James Foley & Steven Sotloff
    22   IS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani threatens reprisals against U.S., French & other coalition citizens; on 24th, French tourist, Hervé Gourdel, beheaded in Algeria.
    23 Syria U.S. launches air strikes against IS targets
    27 Syria U.S. strikes IS targets in Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) in Aleppo which had been declared the administrative centre of Kobani Canton by the YPG
  Oct. 7-8 Syria U.S. ramps up air strikes in Kobani vs IS insurgents who had laid siege to Kobani
    15 U.S. Names campaign “Operation Inherent Resolve” vs IS
  Nov. 2 Syria IS & Nusra Front meet in Atareb near Aleppo to cooperate and IS sends fighters to assist NF’s attack on Harakat Hazm, a Western-backed moderate rebel group
  Dec. 31   Peak of war; 20,218 killed

2015    Conflict in Syria and Iraq – Timeline

  Jan. 26 Kobani YPG + units of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) backed by U.S. airstrikes win 4-month battle vs IS
  March 31 Tikrit Liberated from IS by Iraqi army in assault begun 2 March
  May   Iraq IS takes Ramidi
  May 21 Libya IS takes full control of Sirte
  June 17 Syria YPG + FSA expel IS from Tal Abyad on Turkey border
    22 Syria Kurds take IS military base of Ain Issa
    26 Syria IS tries unsuccessfully to retake Kobani; kills 145 civilians
  Sept. 30 Syria Russia bombs YPG forces while claiming to be targeting IS
  Oct 9 Syria IS captures 6 villages near Aleppo in northwest
    11 Syria Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) formed from People’s Protection Units (YPG), military arm of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) plus FSA units (battle for Kobani, Raqqa & Tal Abyad)
    15 Iraq Iraqi government forces recapture Baiji refinery from IS
    22 Iraq U.S. Special Forces soldier killed by IS, the first in a hostage rescue, while 20 IS fighters are killed and 6 detained
  Nov. 13 Iraq Kurdish forces recapture Sinjar from IS held since Aug. 2014
    15 U.S. Independent analysis shows that recapture of IS held territory around 4 cities (Hasakah, Kobani, Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa) only possible when air support backed SDF
  Dec. 1 Iraq Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announces Special Forces reintroduced in Iraq and ground troops into Syria to support Iraqi and Kurdish fighters targeting IS
    10 Iraq Airstrikes kill ISIS finance minister Abu Saleh and two other senior leaders in Tal Afar
    27 Iraq Government forces recapture Ramadi from IS
    31 Syria IS makes gains near Aleppo and still holds Raqqa
        IS suffers key losses at hands of SDF & Iraqi military
2016 Feb. 9 Iraq Ramadi recaptured by IS
  April 11 Iraq Government forces recapture Hit held by IS since Oct. 2014
  May 5 Syria IS reverses failed July 2014 effort; captures Shaer gas field
    19 Iraq Government forces retake Ar-Rutbah in west
    23 Iraq Gov’t forces advance on Fallujah held by IS since 2014
    24 Syria Kurdish forces launch attack to retake Raqqa
  June 26 Iraq Gov’t forces take Fallujah
  July 19 Syria SDF captures IS base in Manbij in Aleppo province
  Aug. 12 Syria Manbij totally freed from IS control by SDF
    30 Syria Abu Muhammad al-Adnani (IS) killed in a U.S. airstrike
  Sept. 28 Iraq Last oil fields freed from IS control
  Oct 16 Syria Turkish-backed Syrian forces retake Dabiq which IS prophesied would mark the final victory of IS
      Iraq Gov’t forces launch attack against IS in Mosul

 

2017    Conflict in Syria and Iraq – Timeline January to May

  Jan. 3 Hazrama Syrian Army forces seize the Air Defense Battalion Base
    9 Deir ez-Zor U.S. Special Forces capture IS fighters
    19 West Aleppo US airstrikes against Sheikh Suleiman military base in western Aleppo held by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement; 76 al-Qaeda fighters killed, including Abu Hasan al-Taftanaz
    21 Damascus Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham rebels negotiate surrender
    29 Damascus Syrian Army takes control of Wadi Barada; restores water
  Feb. 19 Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announces launch of operation to retake the west bank of Mosul
    24 Al-Bab Turkish FSA wins control of al-Bab & other towns
  March 1 Syria Arima buffer zone established between SDF & FSA
    2 Palmyra Recaptured by Syrian government backed by Russians
    9 Raqqa U.S. Marines deploy to back SDF vs IS
    17 Golan Syrian army targets Israeli jets & Israel responds
    22 Tabqa Dam US airlifts SDF forces to capture dam and cut off IS reinforcements for Raqqa
    29 Syria Iran & Qatar negotiate deal for exit of both civilians and combatants to vacate besieged Al-Fou’aa-Kafrayain, Madaya & Al-Zabadan in Idlib and Damascus cantons
      Syria Syrian forces capture Deir Hafer in East Aleppo
      Turkey Announces end to Operation Euphrates Shield
  April 4 Syria Syrian air force chemical attack against Khan Shaykhun; 100 civilians dead
    7 Shayrat Airbase In reprisal, U.S. launches 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from U.S. destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross
    12 Palmyra Syrian Army expands buffer zone around Palmyra
    19 Damascus Zabadani on west declared free of militants
    21 Mayadin Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, senior IS leader, killed
    26   IS develops IED that can be dropped from planes or launched by rifles
  May 7 Northern Iraq IS kills 2 and injures 6 in attack on military base that holds U.S. military advisers
    8 Syria Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi, IS terrorist in Malaysia, killed in Syria
    13 Aleppo Syrian government forces retake small airbase in east
    18 Syria Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) retake Sahl Sinjar airbase from IS
    24 Syria Gov’t troops kill IS Minister of War, Abu Musab al-Masri.
    26 Syria & Iraq Americans kill 3 senior IS officials, Mustafa Gunes, Abu Asim al-Jazeri and Abu Khattab al Rawi
    31 Syria Airstrike kills Turki al-Binali, Grand Mufti of IS
      Iraq IS makes last stand in Mosul Grand al Nuri Mosque
        SDF captures Tabqa dam

2017    Conflict in Syria and Iraq – Timeline June to September

  June 2 Syria SDF captures town west of Raqqa from IS
      Iraq Iraqi forces retake 1 of 4 districts in Mosul from IS
    10 Iraq IS launches counter-attack south of Mosul; 24 IS fighters die while 38 military and civilian personnel killed
    14 Iraq IS launches counter-attack in west Mosul; 40 Iraqi police and dozens of militants killed
    17 Deir Ez-Zor Syria Russians kill Abu Omar al-Beljiki and Abu Yassin al-Masri, 2 IS field commanders, in airstrikes
    20 Iraq Gov’t forces encircle Old City held by IS in Mosul
    21 Mosul IS destroys Grand al-Nuri Mosque & al-Hadba minaret
    25 Syria SDF retakes al-Qadisia district in Raqqa; U.S. shoots down Syrian fighter Jet which bombed SDF
    29 Iraq Mosul falls to Iraqi armed forces; victory declared July 9
      Syria SDF completely encircles Raqqa; by July 3, Old City
    10 Iraq Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve issues press release announcing “Iraqi Security Forces liberate Mosul” crediting Kurdish Peshmerga fighters & global coalition as well; clean-up operations follow
    11 Syria Russian killing of caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi confirmed but denied by Kurdish counter-terrorism official
    15 Syria Gov’t forces recapture Wahab, al-Fahd, Dbaysan, al-Qaseer, Abu al-Qatat and Abu Qatash oil fields
    28 Raqqa IS fighters attack SDF east of Raqqa killing and abducting civilians; estimated 2,000 IS fighters still in Raqqa; takes until October to finally clear them out
  Aug. 4 Syria Lebanon & Hezbollah officially enter Syrian civil war along Syrian-Lebanese border & engage on 18 August
    12 Syria Gov’t forces recapture last major town in Homs province held by IS
    13 Iraq 2 U.S. military personnel killed by IS in northern Iraq
    15 Iraq Gov’t forces prepare for showdown with IS in Tal Afar with aerial bombardment
    20 Iraq Tal Afar offensive by Iraqi military against IS begins and reach city limits on 22 August; retaken by end of August
    21 Syria Russia kills 200 IS reinforcements en route to Deir ez-Zor
    26 Syria Central desert (approx. 770 sq. miles) captured from IS
  Sept. 5 Deir ez-Zor Syrian armed forces break siege & Russian airstrikes kill 40 IS fighters and 4 senior commanders
    20 Syria SDF Raqqa campaign in final stages
        IS targets Iranian convoy in east
    21 Iraq Gov’t forces launch offensive in Hawija
    23 Syria SDF captures Conoco gas fields from IS in Deir ez-Zor; Syrian army controls Deir ez-Zor by the end of November

 

Trump’s Withdrawal of Troops from Syria: Part II – Apology and Clarifications

Let me begin with an apology for yesterday’s blog. That blog stimulated quite a reader response. After reading those emails and re-reading the blog, I recognize that I was guilty of three important errors. The first was a crucial omission. Second, I failed to indicate when I was still conveying the interpretation of events as told by Marmur and Brenner and not my own; some readers thought that too many of these interpretations were mine. Third, when I did insert my own observations, this compounded the problem, for instead of enabling the reader to distinguish the voice of the writer from that of others, I added to the confusion.

Yesterday, I wanted to ignore the calumny against the Obama regime. Trump claimed that when he became President, ISIS was going wild. My evaluation that the claim was invalid, along with the failure to explain why, led to some of the misinterpretations. As the timeline will make clear, ISIS was not going wild in January of 2016. ISIS control of territory in both Iraq and Syria peaked in January of 2015 not 2016. In 2016, we observed the major rollback of ISIS which was indeed largely completed during the first year of President Trump’s presidency. But that rollback was well underway in 2016. All the statement proved was that Trump remains a pompous braggart and liar incapable of giving credit where credit is due.

All of this is readily apparent in the timeline that follows, as are three other points:

  1. S. leadership and involvement were absolutely critical to the victory over ISIS; when America withdrew from Iraq in 2011, there was a resurgence of the war by radical Islamicists.
  2. The Kurdish American allies were also critical to the victory.
  3. Terrorism outside the immediate field of battle reached its peak with the success of ISIS and declined as ISIS was defeated.

Without parsing what views expressed in the last blog were mine and what views could be attributed to the two other blogs I cited, I believe my views will become clear when I respond to the criticisms.

  1. I and Ayelet Shaked were both accused of being surprised and apprehensive about the American military withdrawal from Syria.

I am apprehensive but not surprised. Trump expressed his determination to withdraw in March and then extended the deployment for only six months. Though I should not have been surprised by the way he did it given Trump’s character and pattern of decision-making, I was, but should not have been, taken aback by the style.

  1. I am making a “mountain out of a molehill” with respect to the withdrawal of American Special Forces as ground troops can be replaced in hours, especially given the American military capability if the region.

Boots on the ground to train local forces are critical until those forces are at sufficient strength and experience to take over. As the timeline will indicate, air power can help stop an advance, but more is needed to reverse it and American training and supplies of ground troops are crucial for this purpose. Ground troops cannot be replaced in hours. The agreement of the host country may be required, or, alternatively, the tacit agreement of other powers that may even be antithetical in other circumstances, such as Russia. Logistics, bases and airfields have to be available.

  1. Daesh has almost lost all its territory, though the diehards in Deir es-Zor have been putting up an extremely determined resistance for months, but they are confronting the U.S.-backed SDF, that is, Kurdish YPG. However, both these points are irrelevant since the geographical position of this last stronghold is inconsequential to both the Kurds and the Americans.

True. But American backing for the Kurds is both politically crucial and of vital importance when Assad and Erdoğan both send their forces against the YPG.

  1. A resurgent Daesh is a threat to Assad/Russia/Iran/ Iraq and pretty much everyone else. Let them handle them. Why should America be handling this?

Perhaps to protect the Kurds.

  1. Turkey wants to take over a big chunk of Syria? They may find it something they didn’t bargain for.

They may indeed. At the same time, this is no solace for the Kurds caught between Turkey and the Assad regime. Or for the prospect of another regional war.

  1. The Kurds are overextended, tired and realize that they need to consolidate before the Turkish onslaught.

All the more reason to keep the Special Forces there given the above.

  1. Trump’s surveillance of Iran is much more effective than the Iran agreement.

This was a topic I dealt with in other blogs, not the one I wrote yesterday morning.

  1. While the U.S. had only around 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria, they controlled, or at least supervised, the main crossing points between Syria and Iraq. With their departure, Liberman explained that, “we’re now talking about contiguous Shiite land between Iran, Iraq and Syria.” This will almost certainly mean a strengthening of the Iranian military position in Syria and more advanced weapons reaching Hezbollah.

This is Israel’s real fear.

  1. Trump is a horse trader; he has given the green light to Erdoğan to take Manbij and the area west of the Euphrates river in return for the Turks canceling the S-400 contract with Russia and purchasing American Patriots instead.

I agree. Trump has turned a matter of critical geo-security interest into a transactional exercise.

  1. America’s control of 60% of the world’s military might, military power that has been dramatically enhanced by the increase in the military budget; the U.S. is now even more formidable.

Only if the Commander-in-Chief shows a willingness to use it when absolutely necessary.. Further, the effectiveness of military power depends as much on trust and involvement of allies, politically as well as militarily, as on troops and military hardware. If, instead, Trump sends 5,000 troops to unroll barbed wire on the Mexican border and wants to spend that extra procurement on military parades, then the possession of enormous military might is irrelevant.

  1. America’s air force military might is being held on a tight leash in Syria because of its lethal power.  At the same time, compared to 2,000 troops on the ground, there is no contest with America’s air power.

Quite the reverse. As the timeline will indicate, air power stopped the insurgency, but did not reverse it. That required both troops on the ground and the backup of air power. At the same time, in addition to the international humanitarian norms restricting the use of air power, that air power has to be employed very carefully lest too many civilians are killed and the population turns against America.

  1. Drones still have more power than ground troops and American intelligence surveillance remain predominant in the region.

True, but so what if the President relies on instinct, impulse and TV impressions and not intelligence analysis to make decisions?

  1. These troops the U.S. are withdrawing can have better use elsewhere, which goes the same for the troops in Afghanistan.

That is the big debate. Though there are reasons for arguing for American withdrawal from Syria, I do not believe this is one of them. Further, I believe the timeline I will publish next will raise serious questions about such a claim.

  1. What can happen? Daesh will reconquer a big chunk of the Levant? Draw more pan-Islamicists to their Caliphate/hell on earth?

Again, look at the timeline I will publish. Though I think an ISIS resurgence is unlikely, it remains a real possibility.

  1. Incompetent European leaders want America to fight Daesh for them.

Then why are the UK and France remaining? Recall that the coalition was created as a U.S. initiative.

  1. Trump told Netanyahu that his support for Israel is unwavering and the USA remains on high alert in supporting Israel from any aggression.

Yes, but do Trump’s promises mean anything when he changes his      mind overnight, influenced by leaders such as Putin and Erdoğan?

  1. I underestimate the strength and superior ability of Israel to defend itself. Soldier to soldier, Israel has no peers. They are the finest best trained ground military force on the planet.

Likely true, but irrelevant. The issue is not whether the Israelis can     defend themselves, but whether and to what degree Israel can rely on American logistical backup in a military crisis. Israel has never played a crucial role in obtaining a military victory for the Americans. The Kurds have. Yet Trump is deserting them. How can any nation rely on such an unreliable partnership?

  1. Recently-resigned Israel Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the move had the potential to spark a major regional war. “The withdrawal of the US from Syria significantly raises the chance of an all-out conflict in the north — both in Lebanon and Syria.”

That is the real fear given that the presence of U.S. troops seems to play a role as a deterrent to this possible result.

  1. As for Israel, I would quote Alfred E Newman, “What me worry?”

Quoting Alfred E. Newman will not stop Jews from worrying.

  1. There is no imminent threat to Israel even though the corrupt leadership in Jerusalem “would love to have Israel surrounded by American troops.”

There is no imminent existential threat to Israel. But there are real threats and American backing is critical to managing those threats.

  1. My essay is part of a hysterical liberal crusade to rid the world of a dangerous tyrant in the White House.

My essay largely confined itself to introducing the issue of withdrawing American Special Forces from Syria, an option available to whomever occupies the White House.

  1. I mis-judge the American people and those persons in senior positions in that Government to uphold their Constitution.

This is largely irrelevant to yesterday’s blog, but I am indeed wary about the Republicans in Congress; do they have the backbone to defend the Constitution when they will also have to face the wrath of the Trump base?

  1. I chortle with delight at the mid-term election results and watch the evidence pile up that indicates an early Trump impeachment. That will never happen. Trump will resign and be pardoned of alleged crimes by President Pence, soon.

I am not a futurologist and do not know what will happen. Nor have I taken a stand on what should happen. I am still too ignorant about both the legal and political dimensions of impeachment, quite aside from the situation that all the facts of the case still have to be put before the American public.

  1. I allegedly do not understand the strength of the American military Command for Mad Dog Mattis was a hawk fired by Obama and his replacement will not bow to any Trump irrational non-Pentagon group.

Possibly, but as I read the tea leaves and watch Trump’s behaviour, I see him as growing more desperate, less ready to satisfy his minders and even more prone to irrational choices propelled by a willingness to bring the stadium down if he is trapped.  

  1. I personally believe that Congress and the Senate will never allow illegal orders of any Commander in Chief. That is one place where Republicans and Democrats agree.

I hope you are correct.

 

Next:

Trump’s Withdrawal of Troops from Syria: Timeline

Part III – Timeline and Eval

Trump’s Withdrawal of Troops from Syria: Part I

Some issues cannot wait. I planned to continue my writing on the splits within the British Left, but focusing on the cultural divide rather than the debate over Brexit. However, Friday we were hit by the political storm responding to Donald Trump’s twitter announcement that America would be withdrawing approximately 2,000 U.S. troops stationed in northeastern Syria. “When I became President, ISIS was going wild. Now ISIS is largely defeated and other local countries, including Turkey, should be able to easily take care of whatever remains. We’re coming home!”

Ignore the calumny against the Obama regime for now. The historical series of events and the situation on the ground will be dealt with in a future blog. Trump’s announcement was followed by the subsequent resignation of U.S. Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis and the State Department coordinator of U.S. anti-Islamic strategy, Brett McGurk. Just weeks earlier, the latter had insisted, contrary to Trump, that “nobody is declaring a mission accomplished,” namely, that ISIS had been “largely defeated.” Like many others, I have been preoccupied with the decision over the last few days, though, as you will see, the decision was not as precipitous as has widely been reported.

Part of that preoccupation concerns apocalyptic thinking that often accompanies Trump’s moves. This was certainly no exception. The announcement was greeted as the final spike in the international liberal order built with so much diplomatic craftsmanship in the decades since WWII. That order has been unravelling, especially during the Trump administration. However, this move seems to have rendered it asunder.

My eldest son, Jeremy, has a forthcoming article in the magazine Aeon called “Catastrophe: What Does it Mean to Write Histories of the End?” It is primarily about the narrative of global economic integration and the vision of “one world connectivity and technocratic togetherness” and how that vision has been rent since 2008. Collapse. Extinction. Gloom. Dysphoria rather than euphoria. These are typical responses to the cascade of events since 2008. The response to Trump’s decision fits into the stream of fear and distress that underpins apocalyptic thought in contrast to narratives of hope and promise which focus on a new world order arising as a phoenix out of the ashes of the old order. The fear is that we will only be left with ashes and no resurrection whatsoever.

The irony is that it has been the populists who heretofore have been the prime purveyors of the doomsday narrative. Now, though the liberals and progressives received a brief reprieve with the midterm elections, the music of a dirge once again fills the air just beneath the joyous sounds of Christmas. The “oy” undermines the “joy” the more that picture of unmediated and contending forces clashing in the dark becomes dominant.

Even in a not-very-good movie, Mary Queen of Scots, quite aside from the historical liberties taken in the film, the dominant motif is one of two Queens with every intention of bringing peace but unable to resist the dominant forces that propel the two nations towards conflict and violence. Diplomacy fails. A queen has her head severed. War ensues. The Kurds had insisted that it was America’s “duty to prevent any attack and to put an end to Turkish threats,” but Trump seems to have no sense of any American obligation to others. That attack on the Kurds by Turkey now seems inevitable.

Intractable, incompatible. Zero-sum games. This is the world of Donald Trump. Nativists in general, about whom I still plan to write re Britain and France, view globalism and interdependence as a trajectory of disaster. As much as progressives resist adopting such an outlook, it percolates beneath the flesh so that liberals scratch instead of think, tremble instead of responding with determination, or else, seem undercut immediately after expressing a renewal of hope. Disaster results when leaders cannot get their act together and prevent the onset of a catastrophe. Is there a realistic prospect of finding a route out of the valley of death that Syria has come to symbolize?

I want to set aside the outlandish way a major foreign policy shift took place, especially one with such historical and geo-political significance, quite aside from the uproar within Washington and particularly within the Republican Party. Trump’s announcement and the response stood in such sharp contrast to the way the biblical Joseph with the subtlest diplomacy reconciled with his brothers and set in place the foundations for the unity of the Israelites, one with many cross-cutting divisions and splits, but a unity nevertheless. Trump’s announcement has been the very opposite, deepening and multiplying divisions, not only in America but throughout the world.

I begin with Israel from where I received Rabbi Dow Marmur’s blog this morning. It is entitled, “DON’T TRUST THE GREAT.” One can view the screed as another installment of Dow smiling as he paints a picture of pessimism while always offering a rhetorical glimmer of hope at the end. This time, instead of the smile of a Cheshire cat, we see gloating permeating the writing. After all, Netanyahu bet on Trump, bet on the Republicans. Given Israeli intelligence rather than any advanced notice, Netanyahu, reportedly, had tried strenuously to change Donald Trump’s mind before the latter sent out his tweet thrusting the Israeli Prime Minister back on his tuchus.

 

This morning, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, from the right-wing Jewish Home Party, had to fall back on a weak response: the move was “certainly not a good thing, does not help Israel.” This was a mild prognosis to say the least. Shaked insisted that Israel would still be capable of defending itself. This anemic reply from such a normally powerful speaker, one who was absolutely bubbly when Trump decided to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the American embassy there, is now viewed by Likud and right-wing supporters as strengthening the “antisemitic war criminal, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.”

 

Does it matter whether the Trump administration is “the friendliest administration there’s ever been” if Trump’s move opened a land bridge for Iran to supply Hezbollah in Lebanon and even send “volunteers” to Israel’s border? What a feeble, impuissant response by Shaked! An unnamed Israeli official in the Department of Foreign Affairs was blunter: “Trump threw us under the wheels of the semi-truck of the Russian army, the one that transfers weapons to Syria and Hezbollah.”

 

The move ran totally opposite to John Bolton’s promise a few months ago that U.S. troops would remain in Syria as long as Iranian forces were there. Only a few days ago, John Bolton was quoted in the New York Times: “we’re not going to leave [Syria] as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders,” including Iranian proxies and militias.” (That is, Hezbollah and Iraqi Shi’ite forces)

 

As Marmur wrote, Trump has been fickle, ignorant and unreliable, and even the right-wing press in Israel vociferously denounced the move.

  • Shimon Shiffer of Yediot Achronot: “Trump is now responsible for abandoning Israel which has to face Iranian aggression in the region alone. As long as Russia is the region’s boss and there is no American deterrence in Syria, what is to prevent Iran and its heavily armed sidekick Hezbollah from turning the Syrian side of the Golan Heights into a military outpost?”
  • On the Kurds: “The American move points to Washington’s weakness, and perhaps even a betrayal of its allies. The Kurds in Syria are the first to be affected by the decision, for by pulling out of Syria, the US is essentially spilling the blood of allies who helped liberate swathes of the country from IS.”
  • Jonathan Tobin of JNS Daily Syndicate: “A Syria pullout is incompatible with the goal of ending the threat from ISIS and Iran. Until Trump understands that – and the unfortunate consequences of this decision may teach him a lesson his advisors apparently couldn’t impart to him – there’s no use pretending that ‘America First’ isn’t a pale imitation of Obama’s flawed foreign policy.”
  • Sarah Stern of The Endowment for Middle East Truth: “moral beacons do not desert their friends…This precipitous exit can only come from someone who lacks even the most fundamental understanding of the nature of the Middle East, as well as the psychology of some of the actors.”

 

However, and ironically, some on the left welcomed Trump’s initiative. Michael Brenner in his blog, while acknowledging the incoherence, the obscurity and the illogic of Trump’s move, in his typical contrarian voice took on the critics. He questioned even the imperative to suppress ISIS on the rationale that if they are not defeated over there, they will come to America and repeat the terrorism of 9/11. For Brenner, ISIS lacks both the capacity and the intention; it is a myth that they still command 20,000 fighters.

 

In any case, building an oppressive caliphate in the Middle East does not pose a military threat to the U.S. ISIS may inspire. ISIS may abet. But Islamicist terrorists are mostly born or raised in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Further, terrorists do not need to control turf to commit their heinous acts. For Brenner, the issue is not whether ISIS has or has not been defeated, but whether ISIS poses a direct threat to the U.S. He declared that it did not.

 

On Jake Trapper on CNN this morning, Paul Rand in his support of Trump’s announcement of the withdrawal echoed the view that withdrawal was long overdue. Under the water and in the air, America has enough of too much fire power to pulverize the terrorists if they regroup. American troops on the ground, even if only as Special Forces to backstop and train the Kurds, provide a stimulus to create more Islamist terrorists against the U.S.

 

In any case, Brenner contended that American policy-makers were hypocrites for the U.S. failed to target terrorists in Syria who were more directly a threat to the U.S. – Al-Qaeda and Ahrar al-Sham concentrated in Idlib province – simply because they were enemies of Assad. The U.S. even supplied these so-called “moderates” with arms. Americans were self-contradictory in another dimension. The American military never tried to destroy the source of wealth for the terrorists, namely the oil fields they controlled or the transport trucking that oil to nearby safe havens.

 

Then, Turkey is purportedly an ally of America and a member of NATO. Yet Turkey has been the incubator for ISIS in the effort to weaken the Kurds. The Kurdish YPG forces have served as America’s boots on the ground to occupy Raqqa, expand south and southeast to capture and control territory from ISIS and prevent Assad from taking over. But the YPG has its own agenda, not simply to re-establish an autonomously Kurdish controlled territory in Syria’s north and east, but to link up with the autonomous Kurdish area in northern Iraq and, according to Erdoğan, also to join with and support the Kurdish separatists, the PKK, in Turkey, named by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, while Erdoğan harasses and persecutes all Kurds in Turkey.

 

Turkey has openly declared that it wants to conquer, control and even annex a part of Syria along its border. Iran wants a land route through Syria to Lebanon as well as to expand its influence in Syria and Iraq, even as Iran has actually reduced its military presence in Syria. The withdrawal benefits Turkey in its long war with the Kurds. Trump’s announcement, however, not only abandons the Kurds to their own fate, but also seems to betray its ally Saudi Arabia, which is a sworn enemy of Turkey. Turkey wants to push the terrible embarrassment inflicted on the Saudis over the murder of Khashoggi and get the Saudi regime to lift its blockade of Qatar as well as have the Saudis pay a huge ransom to Turkey for ending the drip drip of terrible evidence on the murder. In return for the American withdrawal, did Trump get Erdoğan to commit to future silence on MBS?

 

Israel loses. The Kurds lose. The EU, particularly the UK and France, also both lose for, although very minor players, they were allied with the U.S. in backstopping the Kurds and now insist they will stay, but that is akin to saying that all the ants do not have to be eliminated for the Russians, Iranians, Turks and Syrians to enjoy a picnic. The Republican neo-cons, the centrists and the interventionist liberals with their bleeding hearts for the Kurds, all lose. Iran gains, if only because America has withdrawn as a threat to the Syrian regime which Iran supports. Turkey gains. Most of all, Russia gains because, without firing a shot, America has left the battlefield to allow Russia to solidify its control over its Syrian satrap.

 

Further, Putin, since his successful venture into Syria to prop up the Assad regime in 2015, now acquires even more leverage over Israel. He can now resist Israeli airstrikes against his Syrian allies in the Assad regime, not only by upgrading Syrian air defences with Russian-manned S-300 batteries, but can now draw a red line that any further direct attack on air defences in Syria will entail a direct clash with the Russians. Russia ran circles around American policy in Syria. The withdrawal of the 2,000 troops is simply an open acknowledgement of defeat that retaining a foothold cannot disguise.

 

The reality is that after this long seven year very destructive civil war, the Syrians themselves have perhaps the most to lose from the American withdrawal. Russia, Iran and Turkey together do not have the funds to rebuild the devastated infrastructure. The West will not, leaning on the stated policy that help will only be forthcoming if Assad leaves. That is definitely not going to happen now. Assad will gain because he and his henchmen will escape being tried by the international court for war crimes. The Syrian refugees will lose because the monies to rebuild and re-establish themselves in Syria will be sorely lacking.