Though criticism of President Trump has become an almost all encompassing past time for most members of the legacy media, movie stars, and entrenched politicians, he has drawn particular ire this week for his decision to pull U.S. Ground Forces out of Syria. Senator Lindsey Graham called the withdrawal, “Withdrawal of this small American force in Syria would be a huge Obama-like mistake,” which is interesting, because it was under the Obama administration the U.S. backed the Arab-Spring that turned Syria into such a complete disaster. Though he originally said this in December of 2018, Graham reiterated this comment almost word for just a few days before this writing. The New York Times claims that calamity came fast as Turkey is, to an unknown degree, scrambling forces in the area. It appears that Russia may have some involvement as well, though there are serious flaws in the claims made by some media outlets aside from CNN and ABC showing footage of a Kentucky gun range and claiming it was Syria.
None of the media’s chicanery or the dubious criticisms of Senators is really the point, however. Though it appears no one told the New York Times, the Middle East has been calumnious for approximately six thousand years, or perhaps longer, because the first writing we have found make it clear that sophisticated militaries had already developed. It isn’t exactly like true peace in the region has ever been anything but ephemeral and caused by one Empire or another conquering territory and executing dissenters. To think that the presence of 50 special forces operators is somehow going to magically change the innate effects of the region’s geography over the millennia is insane. Aside from the fact that the U.S. presence in Syria, which is still a sovereign nation, is probably illegal (the U.S. is somewhat sketchy on that stuff anyway) do we have any sort of strategy that will lead to stability in that country other than us being there? Has it occurred to anyone that the longer the world’s hegemonic power hangs out in a particular country to “bring peace” the more the local peacemakers are forced to deal with them and lose their own legitimacy? The Roman Empire brought peace by crucifying thousands who wouldn’t be peaceful and displaying their bodies. The Assyrian Empire (no relation) brought peace by moving ethnic groups hundreds of miles away from their original homes and putting to the sword those who would not listen. The American Empire will not bring peace by just spending money and hoping everyone forgets they hate each other.
No matter how anyone feels about it, Bashar al Assad is the legitimate ruler of Syria. Syria was relatively stable, though autocratic, under his father and him until the U.S. sponsored the Arab Spring with the help of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It should be self-evident that theocratic monarchies have little interest in spreading democracy, but apparently previous administrations have felt otherwise. The middle-east is by no means a monolith, and neither is Islam, though most Americans do not understand this. There are well over 50 ethnic minorities with long standing ties to the region. Islam is by no means monolithic, either, and though some may be familiar with Shi’a-Sunni divide, few in the Western world seem to grasp that neither group has got along with the other since the death of Muhammad and the animosity between Iran and Saudi Arabia is the direct result of this. A breakdown of this particular conflict is outside the scope of this article, but think of it like this; imagine if the violence, sometimes personal, sometimes state sponsored, that immediately followed the reformation in Europe had continued for 1400 years and, by the way, one of the factions had to celebrate Christmas in a country controlled by the other faction. That’s their conflict. In the confines of the Middle-East they are somewhat divided with Shi’a tending toward the Northern parts of Iraq and almost all of Iran and a minority of Syria. One of the key factors in Syria has been that Assad and most of the Syrian Ba’ath party are Alawites, Muslims who, because of their long standing isolation were in many ways different. They drink alcohol and celebrate Christmas. More importantly they’re Shi’a and so tend to see Iran as more natural allies.
In the milieu of a region with so many different ethnic groups and religion that tends toward theocracy that has a definite split (not to mention all the various sects) alliances can shift quickly and be of great import. The true problem in Syria is that the Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia and Qatar want Assad out of power. This is because Assad refused their request to build a natural gas pipeline through Jordan and his country into Turkey and on to Europe, or at least to the Mediterranean so that it would be easier for them to sell their surplus of natural gas. This is not rocket science, or even a secret, John Kerry even told Congress the Saudi’s and Qatar offered to pay for a U.S. invasion. It should be obvious that Iran and Shi’a majority Iraq are not happy about this, and it would be foolish for Assad to give two theocracies heavily influenced by a sect of Sunni Islam that holds people like him are apostates who should be killed a foothold in his country. We should remember, if Assad loses power he will almost certainly be killed and his family will likely face a similar fate. That certainly has been the trend for deposed rulers in the Middle East.
Thus Assad is playing for his life. What is the United States playing for? We have already ceded far too much global influence to both Saudi Arabia and Qatar through the insane monetary policy of the Petrodollar. This is the system in which oil exporters will only accept U.S. dollars for their hydrocarbons. This system allows the U.S. dollar to remain the global reserve currency, and theoretically prevents States from printing too much money on their own because they will still have to convert it to U.S. dollars. Unfortunately it places an undue amount of power in the hands of countries that whose ruling class rose to power with the strength of the Wahabis, an extremely hardline form of Sunni Islam that regards most of the world’s people as evil and in need of cleansing. That aforementioned ruling class has largely grown corrupt and fat (quite literally) living extravagant lifestyles the Wahabis do not approve of. The Royal Families of these countries would love to have an outlet to send Wahabis to wage holy war and simultaneously fill their coffers.
To answer the question, what is the United States playing for? We are playing for increased stability in the region and the prevention of further mass migration that destabilizes Europe. The problem is that we’ve been playing on the wrong side. Many politicians, pundits, and average Americans see our withdrawal from Syria as a betrayal of the Kurds. Superficially this is true, but only superficially because our presence in Syria is a short term answer to a long term problem that requires a solution. Media reports are sketchy at best, but it appears that elements of the YPG and the Syrian Democratic Forces have rushed to the border with Syria to repel Turkish aggression. Nothing brings people together like a common enemy, and the best bet for Assad, the Kurds, and the SDF is to join forces. None of the minority groups in Syria win if Turkey takes over. President Trump has already announced economic sanctions against Turkey, which prevents the weird sticking point of the U.S. possibly fighting a NATO “ally” that has invaded another country we’re in illegally and whose government we tried to overthrow. How socialist or secular either the Ba’ath party or the YPG are is a matter up for debate at any given moment, however, theoretically they both are again, nothing brings people together like a common enemy. If we continue to support the YPG and SDF we’ll feel better in the short term, unfortunately they will lose legitimacy and eventually depend on our continued support to maintain their own governance before collapsing when the political winds in the U.S. shift once again. See our experience in South Vietnam, Iran under the Shah, the Philippines, Panama, et cetera.
Is this guaranteed to work? No. Geopolitics is a dirty business and not for the faint of heart. The smartest thing for these various groups that occupy the teetering State of Syria to do is to band together with Assad’s government and fight Turkish incursion and continue to reject Saudi influence. They all have more in common with each other than they do with those who wish to extend their reach into their bit of dirt. Will Iran continue to try to influence Syria in unhealthy ways? Probably, though perhaps less so or a more coalition based Syria would be less willing to accept some of the more nefarious plots. Is it possible that Syria will continue a downward spiral and descend into complete chaos with Turkey and Iran fighting over the pieces? Perhaps, but Iran cannot afford to allow another Sunni country that would ally itself with Saudi Arabia box them in. We already have heavy sanctions on Iran, does anyone believe they would not fight or start their own proxy war via Shi’a Arabs in Iraq if Turkey or Saudi Arabia wrests control of the country? Of course they would. The key to stability in any region is governments that are viewed as legitimate by the people they govern regardless of how heavy handed they are or how much we don’t like them. Assad has the ability to project legitimacy, no one we support with ground troops will simply because we support them with ground troops. This is the hand we’ve been dealt, and folding is the only way to win the game.
 Tom Vanden Brook and David Jackson, “Trump Orders US Troops out of Syria, Declares Victory over ISIS; Senators Slam Action as Mistake,” USA Today (Gannett Satellite Information Network, December 20, 2018), https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2018/12/19/syria-troop-withdrawal/2361385002/.
 Ahmed Bensaada, Arabesque américaine: Le rôle Des États-Unis Dans Les révoltes De La Rue Arabe (Montréal: Michel Brûlé, 2011).
Shadi Hamid, “The Spectacular Failure of America’s Do-Nothing Policy in the Middle East,” The Atlantic (Atlantic Media Company, October 13, 2015), https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/10/middle-east-egypt-us-policy/409537/.
 Bill Chappell and Richard Gonzales, “’Shocking’: Trump Is Criticized For Pulling Troops From Syrian Border,” NPR (NPR, October 7, 2019), https://www.npr.org/2019/10/07/767904589/shocking-trump-is-criticized-for-pulling-troops-from-syrian-border.
 David E. Sanger, “Trump Followed His Gut on Syria. Calamity Came Fast.,” The New York Times (The New York Times, October 14, 2019), https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/14/world/middleeast/trump-turkey-syria.html.
 Harriet E. W. Crawford, The Sumerian World (London: Routledge, 2013).
Joshua J. Mark, “War in Ancient Times,” Ancient History Encyclopedia (Ancient History Encyclopedia, October 14, 2019), https://www.ancient.eu/war/.
 Doug Bandow, “End America’s Illegal Occupation of Syria Now,” Cato Institute, June 14, 2019, https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/end-americas-illegal-occupation-syria-now.
 Robert Baer, Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude (New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 2004).
 Charis Chang, “The One Thing We’ve All Missed in Syrian Conflict,” NewsComAu (news.com.au, December 2, 2015), https://www.news.com.au/world/middle-east/is-the-fight-over-a-gas-pipeline-fuelling-the-worlds-bloodiest-conflict/news-story/74efcba9554c10bd35e280b63a9afb74.
- William Engdahl, “The Secret Stupid Saudi-US Deal on Syria. Oil Gas Pipeline War,” Global Research, March 2, 2018, https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-secret-stupid-saudi-us-deal-on-syria/5410130.
 David Martosko, “’Offer Is on the Table’ for Arab Countries to Pay for Full-Scale U.S. Invasion of Syria, Says Secretary of State John Kerry,” Daily Mail Online (Associated Newspapers, September 11, 2013), https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2411806/Offer-table-Arab-countries-pay-scale-U-S-invasion-Syria-says-Secretary-State-John-Kerry.html.