America’s adversaries cheer, allies fear Trump’s abrupt Syria withdrawal

America’s adversaries cheer, allies fear Trump’s abrupt Syria withdrawal

By Luke Vargas   
Published
Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a year-end press conference with reporters. December 20, 2018. Photo: Kremlin Press Office
Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a year-end press conference with reporters. December 20, 2018. Photo: Kremlin Press Office

Contrary to Trump's assertion, Vladimir Putin vocally cheered on the US retreat from Syria, saying the US never had permission to there in the first place.

UNITED NATIONS – Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the announced pullout of American troops from Syria on Thursday, noting that the U.S. never had permission to be there in the first place.

“Only the [U.N.] Security Council can make this decision, or you can be there on the invitation of the Syrian government. And we are there on the invitation of the Syrian government. You do not have either of those decisions, so if you have made that decision then this is the right decision.”

Separately, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova praised the U.S. withdrawal, saying it created “genuine, real prospects for a political settlement” to end the Syrian war.

Those comments contradict Trump’s characterization of how his announcement is being viewed overseas. Trump tweeted Thursday morning that, “Russia, Iran, Syria & many others are not happy about the U.S. leaving, despite what the Fake News says, because now they will have to fight ISIS and others, who they hate, without us.”

As America’s adversaries celebrated Trump’s troop withdrawal, top allies were quick to challenge the president’s assertion that the Islamic State had been defeated.

British Defense Minister Tobias Ellwood said he “strongly [disagreed]” with Trump’s assessment, arguing that the terror group had instead “morphed into other forms of extremism and the threat is very much alive.”

Even the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC, which has vocally cheered most of Trump’s Middle East policy to date, took issue with the rationale for the troop pullout, saying Trump should be setting policy in conjunction with allies in the region to make sure Iran doesn’t expand its presence in Syria.

In a possible sign that ignoring America’s allies could be causing divisions within the Trump administration, Defense Secretary James Mattis wrote in his resignation letter Thursday night that, “My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues.”

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