Turmoil in the Middle East, Are We the Ones to Blame?


With the recent shift in United States foreign policy flooding the news, the question of why U.S. troops were removed from northern Syria, and the consequences associated with that decision, has only continued to get answered as the rise of conflict and devastation between Turkey and Syria continues to get worse. As military and political upheaval intensifies between the two nations, the question of whether or not US-Syria relations can ever be amended remains imperative in deciding what next steps to take.

   The news of the withdrawal was released on Oct. 6, when the White House officially announced President Trump’s decision to take U.S. troops out of northern Syria. “I don’t think our soldiers should be there for the next 50 years guarding a border between Turkey and Syria when we can’t guard our own borders at home,” Trump said during a campaign rally at the Value Voters Summit in Washington. Many experts on Syria criticized President Trump’s decision and expressed fear of the potential political repercussions of the withdrawal, exclaiming that the abandonment of U.S. troops could widen the eight-year Syrian conflict, cause a Turkish incursion and threaten the progress made towards establishing security between Syria and the Islamic State. “Allowing Turkey to move into northern Syria is one of the most destabilizing moves we can do in the Middle East,” Arizona Representative Ruben Gallego stated in a tweet that Sunday. “The Kurds will never trust America again. They will look for new alliances or independence to protect themselves.”

   United States involvement in Syria dates all the way back to World War II, with much of the focus in recent years being on ISIS and ways to avert its expansion. Since the removal of U.S. troops, Turkey has begun military action in northern Syria, causing many Syrians to flee their homes in search of asylum. According to a recent United Nations report, over 100,000 people were displaced only three days into the Turkish military invasion, and over 400,000 are searching for sources of water and medical assistance. Violence has gotten so bad that many goverments, such as in Russia, China and the EU, are pushing efforts toward reconciliation between Syria and Turkey, with some nations such as France and Germany going as far as suspending artillery exports to the Middle East. As more Islamic State attacks are released  northern Syria, the concern for the expansion and growth of ISIS becomes more of a prevalent issue as well.

   Amid the current devastations of the withdrawal, the pullout of U.S. troops came as a shock for many, especially the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). “The statement came as a surprise, and we can say that it is a stab in the back for the SDF,” spokesman Kino Gabriel told Arabic TV station al-Hadath. The shift in U.S. foreign policy went against the advice of many senior officials in the Pentagon as well, with former U.S. presidential envoy Brett McGurk saying the pullout displayed a “complete lack of understanding of anything happening on the ground.” Although U.S. troops were removed from northern Syria, the Senate is hoping to reverse the decision that President Trump made and introduce an opposing resolution. “A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran and the Assad regime,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “It would increase the risk that ISIS and other terrorist groups regroup.”

   So why shouldn’t President Trump have withdrawn troops from Syria? There are several reasons, the first being the likelihood of ISIS resurfacing. The United States has been working with Syria for years, with the hopes that by stationing U.S. troops in the region, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) would be decimated. But by withdrawing the U.S. military, the chances of ISIS reclaiming their land is extremely high and very likely. The other reason is the fact that Turkey will now have no reason not to invade northeastern Syria and Kurdish territory. For the past few years, the United States collaborated with Syria on ways to prevent a Turkish incursion. But now, the pullout of U.S. military has opened the door for Turkey to push back America’s former allies, occupying northeastern Syria and potentially causing a national Syrian genocide and political refugee crisis.

   The conflict between Turkey and Syria is only getting worse. With over hundreds of casualties already, the withdrawal of U.S. troops has only caused devastation and harm to northern Syrians and Kurds. And as the progression of Turkish invasion continues to escalate, the question of whether or not foreign policy should only consist of self-interests and domestic gains remains essential in determining if there is still room for basic human compassion within the political sphere.