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Memo to Lindsey Graham on Syria

Your recent views on Syria, expressed here, are mistaken and confused.

“If we withdrew our troops anytime soon ISIS would come back…” This prediction is mistaken. If ISIS reconstitutes, the Syrian coalition (Syria, Syrian Kurds, Hezbollah, Iran and Russia) will defeat it again. Remember, “ISIS has suffered consecutive defeats at the hands of separate but simultaneous offensives in Iraq and Syria by the Russian-backed Syrian forces and allied militias as well as U.S.-backed Iraqi and Syrian fighters.”

“If we withdrew our troops anytime soon…the war between Turkey and the Kurds would get out of hand…” You are confused and mistaken. You appear to have forgotten that the U.S. supplied arms to Kurds, while irking Turkey. You forget about the border force: “U.S.-led coalition helps to build new Syrian force, angering Turkey.” The U.S. precipitated the Turkish invasion against the Kurds in Syria. It is because U.S. troops are there aiding the Kurds that this facet of their long-running war began. This conflict has been going on since 1978. The U.S. presence has only made matters worse.

“If we withdrew our troops anytime soon…you would be giving Damascus to the Iranians without an American presence. Russia and Iran would dominate Syria.” This is wild exaggeration. If Americans leave Syria, then Assad can tone down the coalition, which means the Iranian presence will recede. Russia and Iran didn’t dominate Syria before 2011, even if they maintained friendly relations. Obama’s support for ending Assad’s reign facilitated the rise of ISIS and motivated the closer support and presence of both Russia and Iran. You have matters backwards, Senator Graham. The American presence draws both Russia and Iran in to Syria.

“We got ISIS on the ropes. You want to let them off the ropes, remove American soldiers.” It’s not true that “We [Americans] got ISIS on the ropes.” It was not a single-handed affair. Assad’s coalition forces did most of the vital heavy lifting. American soldiers can go home. If Assad’s battle-hardened military can clean up Ghouta, it can clean up remaining ISIS pockets.

Senator, you raise this concern: “There are over 3,000 ISIS fighters still roaming around Syria.” Maybe so, but they are out in desert areas. They are not currently strategic threats to the Assad regime or to the region. Assad’s using his forces where they count the most right now. ISIS is not such a big bad bogeyman that it calls for American forces to intervene in Syria indefinitely.

Senator, the statement of yours that most genuinely reflects your feelings is your allusion to Russia and Iran having a presence in Syria but not the U.S. You can’t stand the idea of somehow “losing” Syria or not “gaining” Syria or not breaking it up into pieces.

Senator, your attitude reflects a view that Syria is not a country of the Syrians, by the Syrians and for the Syrians. You treat it as land that’s up for grabs among other powers. You treat its peoples as pawns in a big power game. Syria, however, has a history that goes back thousands of years. “The Greek name appears to correspond to Phoenician ʾšr “Assur”, ʾšrym “Assyrians”, recorded in the 8th century BC Çineköy inscription. Writing in the 5th century BC, Herodotus stated that those called Syrians by the Greeks were called Assyrians by themselves and in the East.”

Senator, the U.S. loses nothing by leaving Syria. If you are really concerned about oil security, it doesn’t require invasions of Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria to obtain that. It doesn’t require arming Saudi Arabia or invading Iran. It doesn’t require utterly absurd amounts of money ($2 for each and every gallon of gasoline) spent supposedly to protect foreign oil. All that oil security from Saudi Arabia requires is a clear statement of U.S. protection of the oil-bearing territories and sovereignty over them, even if their cash flows go to the Saudis.

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2:07 pm on April 1, 2018