US President Donald Trump promised to end America’s wars, and bring the troops home; however, as his four years in office are coming to a close, he was unable to fulfill his 2016 campaign promise, but it remains to be seen if President-elect Joe Biden might do It.
The US involvement in Syria has been complex and has also been complicated by competing desires in Washington to please Israel, and Turkey while containing Iran.
Syria has been divided, with control of the eastern portion under the US occupation forces, allied with the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, while the government of President Assad controls the center, and Turkey’s President Erdogan controls the northwest, where he shares control with the Al Qaeda terrorist group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.
Biden is an institutionalist and a traditional US political leader. Erdogan will be unable to circumvent the proper channels of the US government and go directly to Biden, expecting a side deal, which was the hallmark of the “Deal Maker” Trump era.
Biden and the Obama war on Syria 2011-2016
Biden was a partner to a legacy of failed wars in the Middle East, from Libya to Syria. Many will be wondering if he can fix the mess he and President Obama started.
Many of Biden’s senior team presided over US policy throughout Syria’s most deadly years of 2011-2016, and some have voiced regret over the tragedy of the US-NATO attack on Syria for regime change.
After nine years of conflict, over 500,000 Syrians are estimated dead and one-third of the population has left the country as refugees or economic migrants.
Obama and Biden were criticized by many for not attacking Syria and conducting a full invasion and complete military occupation to complete a regime change for the Syrian opposition, which were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who have offices and members across the US, UK, and Europe. The Muslim Brotherhood is a global political party that follows ‘Radical Islam’ as a political ideology and is neither a religion nor a sect.
Biden intends to walk the middle path, to mitigate the damage unleashed by wars that started during his tenure as Vice President and those in Iraq and Afghanistan that he signed off on as a Senator.
“It’s long past time we end the forever wars,” Biden said in New York in 2019, which marked his first speech on foreign policy. He opposes the war in Yemen and wants to push the Saudis toward diplomacy, and is likely to support Congress should they pass another resolution to stop the sale of weapons to Riyadh.
US occupation troops are stealing the oil
Trump ordered the American military to remain in occupation of one of the main oil wells in Syria, and to prevent Damascus from using that oil to heat homes during winter, and generate electricity for homes. Biden may not like the US to be stealing state resources that belong to poor war-ravaged people in Syria, and he may stop the Trump theft order.
US military occupation raises the price of bread
More than 90% of Syrians now live under the poverty line, while huge inflation has thrown Syria into an economic crisis, with severe fuel and wheat shortages. The price of bread has risen recently, due to the US military occupation of the wheat-belt of Syria in the northeast. The US allies there are using the wheat crops themselves and selling the rest. Damascus is prevented from baking their bread, and feeding the citizens in most of Syria, which is shocking for a nation which used to be self-sufficient in wheat, while exporting hard Durham wheat to Europe for the Italian pasta industry and French croissants.
US ally Turkey’s role in the foreign occupation of Syria
A Biden administration is a setback for Erdogan, who managed to establish a close and personal relationship with Trump, that protected him from Congressional leaders’ criticism of Turkey’s aggressive foreign policy and intensifying authoritarianism.
Erdogan has invaded Syria, sent troops and ships to Libya and has challenged the Greek and Cypriot exclusive economic zones in the Eastern Mediterranean, which the EU has warned against.
We should not be surprised if Turkish-American relations are sailing stormy waters once Biden takes office.
Turkey’s invasion of Afrin in 2018 and northern Syria in October 2019 forced more than 250,000 people, mostly Kurds, to also become refugees.
Turkish-backed terrorist militias are filled with former ISIS and Al Qaeda extremists who attack churches, Yazidis and non-Sunni Muslims, and Turkey has exploited poor Syrians to fight as mercenaries in Azerbaijan and Libya.
Biden is on record saying “Turkey is the real problem,” and that he would tell “Erdogan that he will pay a heavy price.”
Turkey was repeatedly warned by the US and its allies of severe consequences if it went ahead with the Russian S-400. Turkey had planned to earn billions of dollars by producing and exporting F-35 parts to the US but now is excluded from this income. The US Congress voted for further sanctions against Turkey.
Erdogan, the AKP party, and the media, which is all state-controlled, have made clear their dislike of Biden. His past statements suggesting that he would communicate with the Turkish opposition have accused Biden of supporting regime change in Turkey, as Erdogan does not forget that Biden was US vice president during the 2016 attempted coup that Erdogan has consistently blamed on the US.
UN resolution 2254 status
The Trump administration chose to not participate in the UN resolution 2254 road-map to peace in Syria, instead, he out-sourced the work to Russia, Iran, and Turkey.
Biden is seeking to repair relationships with allies, build on multilateral alliances, rejuvenate diplomacy, and take back America’s place in the international community. We may see a Biden administration launching a diplomacy-first approach to the Syrian crisis, and pursue a negotiated settlement that would allow for the withdrawal of American troops.
The US not legally represented in Syria, as the US Embassy was closed in 2012, and the US envoy for Syria engagement, James Jeffrey, has only been dealing with separatists, and areas occupied by Al Qaeda terrorists. Only days ago, Jeffrey announced to the Kurds he was retiring.
UAE foreign minister says Syria needs a new plan
Anwar Gargash, the United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, has suggested a solution to the crisis in Syria needs a new approach.
“Violence cannot continue in its ugliest form, as if it were normal news. The Arab approach and role are necessary to end the violence and fighting through a realistic and pragmatic vision,” he tweeted as the US presidency was heading toward Biden.
Gargash is a prominent voice in the UAE and leads an attempt to create a regional alliance against extremism, which means confronting the Muslim Brotherhood, which is linked to Hamas in Gaza and the ruling AK Party in Turkey, as well as confronting Iran and Hezbollah.
This emerging alliance system is in contrast with the policies of Qatar, Turkey, and others, and seeks stability after years of war. The “Arab approach” to Syria would be coordinated with the Arab League and other regional agreements and appears to confront the attempt by others to take over Syria and partition it.
An Arab approach could put Syrians first, rather than the goals of others and this could also lead to more moderate voices and groups playing a role.
US allies in the Middle East have a crucial role to play in achieving peace in Syria, and in recent months, several Arab countries have begun reopening their embassies in Damascus.
Photo Credit: Ivan Omar Hassib