It seems there have been other reasons for U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull American troops out of Syria, either instead of or in addition to those he explained to media last week.
In a wide-ranging 38-minute cabinet meeting attended by some of the White House press corps, Trump talked about a little-known problem that has apparently been taking place for some time — and his administration’s unsuccessful efforts to put a stop to it.
Many people are concerned about what will happen to Syria’s Kurdish population when U.S. forces pull out. The Kurds have fought alongside the Americans against ISIS; now Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced his nation plans a military campaign to target their forces in Syria.
Trump’s remarks, however, have shed light on why he seems not to be so concerned about the Kurds, and another possible reason for his decision to withdraw American troops, other than his obvious desire not to allow Syria to become another Afghanistan, Iraq or a Vietnam.
Here’s what he said:
“We don’t want Syria. Obama gave up Syria years ago…
I gave up Syria when I shot 59 missiles into it, but that was a long time later. You know, making a threat is okay but you always have to follow through with that threat if you’re gonna make that threat. You can’t make a threat and then do nothing. So Syria was lost long ago.
“Besides that – we’re talking about sand and death. Sand and death. That’s what we’re talking about. We’re not talking about vast wealth.
We’re talking about sand and death.
“Now the Kurds . . . I didn’t like the fact that they’re selling the small oil they have, to Iran. And we asked them not to sell it to Iran. But the Kurds, our partners, are selling oil to Iran. And I’m not thrilled about that. I’m not happy about that at all. (ed: bold added for emphasis)
“At the same time, they fight better when we fight with them. Though when we send 30 F18s in front of them they fight much better than they do if we don’t.
“But we want to protect the Kurds nevertheless,” he added, making it clear he doesn’t intend to allow Turkey to carry out its plan to annihilate Syrian Kurds.
“But I don’t want to be in Syria forever, Trump reiterated. “It’s sand. And it’s death.”
To provide some context on another matter relating to the American military presence in Syria, international media has been all abuzz with a comment made by Trump, that was said in an off-the-cuff, throwaway manner, that Iran “can do what they want” in Syria. But the remark had little meaning on its own.
Here’s the president’s narrative the went along with that issue:
“Iran is no longer the same country. Iran is pulling people out of Syria, they can do whatever they want there, frankly, but they’re pulling people out. (relevant segment in bold for emphasis) “They’re pulling people out of Yemen. Iran wants to survive now. Iran was a power in the Middle East. They were going to take over the whole Middle East. They were going to take over everything. That was what they wanted to do. And destroy Israel while they were at it.
“Iran is a much different country right now. They’re having riots every week, in every city, bigger than they have ever had before. Their currency is under siege, thanks to us. A lot of bad things are happening. When we do all of the things that we’ve done, monetarily to Iran, Iran is in trouble. And you know what? I’d love to negotiate with Iran, they’re not ready yet, I don’t think, but they will be.“