Trump Sees No Way of Overcoming Iran, Russia Aid in Syria: Ex-US Diplomat
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – An American author and former diplomat highlighted reasons behind President Donald Trump’s recent decision to pull US troops out of Syria and said he “could see no way of overcoming Iranian and Russian aid” to the Damascus government.
“Naturally, President Trump could see no way of overcoming Iranian and Russian aid; that help obviously proved decisive,” Michael Springmann, the former head of the American visa bureau in Saudi Arabia, said in an interview with the Tasnim News Agency.
“Additionally, and this is pure speculation, Trump or someone close to him finally recognized that the US had illegally invaded Syria,” he said, adding, “Since Iran and Russia had been invited to help Bashar al-Assad fight his enemies, the idea likely coalesced that remaining in Syria in a losing war would be, in the long run, against American Interests elsewhere.”
J. Michael Springmann served in the US government as a diplomat with the State Department's Foreign Service, with postings in Germany, India, and Saudi Arabia. He left federal service and currently practices law in the Washington, DC, area. Springmann’s works and interviews have been published in numerous foreign policy publications, including Covert Action Quarterly, Unclassified, Global Outlook, the Public Record, OpEdNews, Global Research and Foreign Policy Journal.
The following is the full text of the interview:
Tasnim: As you know, US President Donald Trump has recently decided to withdraw all US troops from Syria. Given that Trump is a businessman and thinks only about profit, what are the reasons behind this decision? What do you think about the possibility of the total withdrawal? Would he keep US strongholds in Syria?
Springmann: Bob Corker (R-Tenn), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, commented that President Trump’s proposed unilateral withdrawal of American soldiers from Syria is pure politics.
I agree. It was not Trump the business man acting. Rather, it was Trump the politician. During his campaign for president, he promised to end the Forever War in the Middle East. And now he’s apparently moving towards fulfilling his promise. Additionally, it may have percolated through to Trump that the US has been overextended in the region for years. Moreover, Trump, like Obama before him, is shifting resources to counter imaginary threats from Russia and China.
As yet, there is no timetable for removing the stated 2,000 US soldiers from Syria. Nor is there confirmation that America will not continue to bomb that unhappy country or that the US will cease its support for the various extremist groups it has been backing over the years.
In my opinion, the US will likely keep some kind of presence in Syria. It and its “allies” already control about one-third of Syria, including much of its oil, gas, water, and fertile land.
Because of the US withdrawal, I believe the Israeli Apartheid Entity will continue to wage war in Syria, in the hope that it will finally destroy the country. Saudi Arabia may well become more deeply involved there as well. And, of course, Turkey will seek to press farther into Syria, both to seize land that had once been part of the Ottoman Empire and to continue its war against the Kurds, including those in Syria who have been fighting ISIS.
Tasnim: Trump’s withdrawal plan has been met with widespread opposition inside and outside the US. France's President Emmanuel Macron has said he deeply regrets the controversial decision. “An ally must be dependable,” said Macron, who reportedly called Trump to warn him against the plan. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the US envoy to the global coalition fighting the Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) terrorist group, Brett McGurk, resigned in protest over Trump’s decision. In your opinion, why is Trump insisting on his decision?
Springmann: President Trump is sticking to his positions on Syria despite resignations of former Secretary of Defense James Mattis (General, USMC, retired) and Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS.
As noted earlier, his reasons for doing so are likely fulfillment of his campaign promise to leave the Forever War in the region, end US overextension in the Middle East, and re-orient American forces to counter non-existent threats from Russia and China.
Moreover, according to CNN, Mattis was seen as creating problems with his tight control of matters. In my opinion, another factor was his military background. Unusual for a former Marine, the Defense Secretary seemed to want the failed war’s continuance.
Brett McGurk’s objection to the pullout was right in keeping with his former service in the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. Apparently, a Neocon, migrating to Trump, McGurk espoused the quintessential reason for remaining in an endless war created by the US and Israel. He is quoted as saying that as soon as America leaves, it will create a vacuum into which extremists will move. This is the same line that has been repeated down the years, in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. “Although we wrecked the country, we must stay because, without the US presence, things will only get worse.”
Predictably, the old European colonial powers objected to the US retreat. France vowed to remain in Syria. Britain said it disagreed with US policy. The Germans commented they were surprised because the “threat” is still there.
Only Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, welcomed the move. He noted that ISIS had been defeated and there was no longer a reason to keep the illegitimate US invasion forces in Syria. However, he speculated on whether the Americans would really leave, adding that, despite 17 years of promises, US soldiers were still in Afghanistan.
Tasnim: Some analysts say that the US withdrawal would be a victory for Iran. What is your assessment of the Islamic Republic’s role in developments which led Trump to take such a decision?
Springmann: I would not necessarily say, as some analysts have, that the US withdrawal from Syria is a victory for Iran. Instead, I would remark that the expected drawdown of American forces is a distinct advantage for the Islamic Republic.
Here’s why. The Americans, if in fact they do leave, will no longer be in Syria to confront Iran. There will be fewer chances for a deliberate or mistaken attack on Islamic Republic advisers. There will be fewer opportunities to urge an attack on Iran proper, under the guise of protecting US forces from the possible effects of Iranian assistance to Syria.
Iran’s role in removing American soldiers from Syria has been to help irregular forces, allied with the government, in fighting the terrorists. In seeking to overthrow the legitimate government there, the US backed an incredible number of extremists, including the “White Helmets”. Iran’s advice and counsel proved invaluable in helping groups like Hezbollah deal with the better-armed groups and cooperate with the Syrian government’s army.
Naturally, President Trump could see no way of overcoming Iranian and Russian aid. That help obviously proved decisive. Additionally, and this is pure speculation, Trump or someone close to him finally recognized that the US had illegally invaded Syria. Since Iran and Russia had been invited to help Bashar al-Assad fight his enemies, the idea likely coalesced that remaining in Syria in a losing war would be, in the long run, against American Interests elsewhere.
Let’s hope that this withdrawal is not the end of the beginning, but the beginning of the end of a cruel, needless war.