Israeli analysts question Trump’s Syrian troop pullout push

While Israeli security analysts generally expressed praise for the allied strikes on Syrian chemical weapons facilities, there is deep skepticism over Trump’s claim of “mission accomplished.”

By: Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

US President Donald Trump has managed to stump some Middle East analysts who have heard his repeated claim of “mission accomplished.” There is also confusion about the White House’s reiteration that Trump is still planning an early troop pullout from Syria.

The White House statement came in response to French President Macron’s claim that he convinced his US counterpart to stay engaged in Syria “for the long term.”

Trump on Sunday defended his use of the phrase “mission accomplished” to describe a U.S.-led missile attack on Syria’s chemical weapons program, tweeting Sunday that the strike was “perfectly carried out” and that “the only way the Fake News Media could demean was by my use of the term ‘mission accomplished.’”

On Saturday, Trump tweeted “mission accomplished” after U.S., French and British warplanes and ships launched more than 100 missiles, nearly unopposed by Syrian air defenses.  Despite Trump’s claim, the Pentagon said the pummeling of three chemical-related facilities left enough other facilities intact to enable the Assad government to use banned weapons against civilians if he so chooses.

According to the White House, U.S. President Donald Trump still wants American forces in Syria to return home as soon as possible. Responding to the Macron quote, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement, “The U.S. mission has not changed — the president has been clear that he wants U.S. forces to come home as quickly as possible. We are determined to completely crush ISIS and create the conditions that will prevent its return. In addition we expect our regional allies and partners to take greater responsibility both militarily and financially for securing the region.”

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Seeming to contradict the White House, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the United States won’t be pulling troops out of Syria right away, saying U.S. involvement there “is not done.” Haley listed the three U.S. goals for accomplishing its mission as “making sure chemical weapons are not used in a way that could harm U.S. national interests, defeating the Islamic State group and having a good vantage point to watch what Iran is doing.

Haley added, “We’re not going to leave until we know we’ve accomplished those things.” Haley said the joint military strike “put a heavy blow into their chemical weapons program, setting them back years” and reiterated that if Assad uses poison gas again, “the United States is locked and loaded.”

Dan Diker from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs gives a lot of credit to the US air strikes. He told World Israel News (WIN), “Trump managed to reestablish the US role in the prevention of the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD’s).”

‘He does not just tweet’

According to Diker, “Trump’s new team including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton will play an increasingly important role in the Middle East. The strike was measured and successful, demonstrating that the US and allies Britain and France were able to stand together and quickly and powerfully deliver a message to Syria, Russia and Iran. He does not just tweet, he also acts. They hit the most important strategic center in Syria for non-conventional weapons. Russia failed to deter the US and Iran was delivered a message of US resolve. Firing over 100 missiles into Syria was a definite wake up call. Trump did all this without incurring even a little blow-back from the Arab world.”

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Diker is skeptical about a possible US pullout from Syria. “Trumps team is very strong on the issue of pushing back against Iranian adventurism, and they understand the importance of the American presence in the region,” he said.

A policy of ‘greater isolationism’?

Dr. Efraim Inbar from the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies was less impressed with the US strike in Syria. Inbar told WIN, “The Trump administration is moving toward a policy of greater isolationism. Trump has made it clear that he wants to pull out of Syria. This air strike was the bare minimum. Assad will not be deterred by this. He will continue murdering his people, one way or another. This response sent a weak message to Russia and Iran that its okay to keep murdering civilians by the hundreds of thousands. The strategic equation has not changed, and Iran must be quite pleased with the outcome.”

Former Israeli Ambassador to the US Danny Ayalon told WIN, “’Mission accomplished’ relates to very narrow objective regarding the use of chemical weapons. For now Trump has deterred them, but for the long run there is work to do. The US still must rebuild and explain its wider mission objective.

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“Namely, Iran and its proxies must be forced out of Syria. Russia must be made to understand that they are not the only global player in Syria. It is of vital interest to Israel that the US remains a strong presence in the region. Trump talking about a pullout reflects his isolationist tendencies, but people are telling him that an early pullout would compromise US security and its status as a global power. There is no choice other than keeping the US engaged, if not with boots on the ground, then with the navy and air force deployed nearby.”