February 22, 2019

Can Israel Count on Trump for "Protection" from Syria?

“President Donald Trump’s “rapid” and “full” withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria appears to be in doubt after a week of rebukes from his fellow Republicans, U.S. military leaders, the United Nations and recently even his own admission.

Trump’s December announcement to pull out the 2,000 or so troops came as a big surprise to the Pentagon (his defense secretary quit in protest), to Israel and to the U.S. Senate – which is traditionally consulted or at the very least briefed before such decisions.

So it was equally surprising when Trump told Margaret Brennan on CBS television’s “Face The Nation” last Sunday: “We’ll come back if we have to. We have very fast airplanes, we have very good cargo planes. We can come back very quickly, and I’m not leaving. We have a base in Iraq and the base is a fantastic edifice.”

Trump spoke in a long, often incoherent interview in which he also vowed to keep U.S. troops in Iraq to “watch Iran,” adding that military intervention was still an option in Venezuela. The interview was the opening shot in a week of contradictory statements from the president on the issue.

On Monday, the Republican-led Senate passed legislation to go on the record opposing Trump’s planned withdrawal and any future plans for an abrupt withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan. The rebuke may be the biggest foreign-policy schism between the Republican leadership in the Senate and Trump thus far in his presidency.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell championed the legislation himself, which was passed as part of a larger bill. On Tuesday, he sat with hands folded when Trump declared in the State of the Union Address that “great nations do not fight endless wars,” later adding that it was time to give our “brave warriors in Syria a warm welcome home.””

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