Michael Pregent, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, speaks on The Washington Perspective. Photo: Rudaw
WASHINGTON, DC – The United States is not thinking for the long-term in its Middle East policy, evidenced by the decision to pull out of Syria early and abandon Kurdish allies, and this will come back to bite – again, warned an analyst.
“We’re getting into the role of establishing temporary alliances for temporary solutions,” senior fellow at the Hudson Institute Michael Pregent said on The Washington Perspective.
US President Donald Trump shocked both friends and foes when he announced last month that he was pulling American troops out of Syria. Chaos followed as his advisors worked to convince Trump to walk back that decision. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition Brett McGurk both resigned in protest.
Trump has since eased up, saying the withdrawal will not be rapid but will take place over time. On Friday, US military officials confirmed they have begun moving equipment out of Syria, though no troops yet.
But whether the withdrawal happens quickly or slowly, Washington has made it clear that it is a “wavering ally,” said Pregent.
“We don’t do difficult well. And we do easy wrong, all the time,” he said, summing up Washington’s foreign policy.
“We have to stop giving our proxy allies examples of betrayal,” he said, pointing to the example of Kirkuk where the US did not intervene to stop an Iraqi incursion against the Peshmerga in October 2017, to the dismay of the Kurds.
In Syria, Kurdish YPG forces are now exposed to an imminent attack by Turkey who considers them a terror organization.
The Kurdish administration in the self-autonomous region of northern Syria now has to turn to Russia, and Iran for protection, said Pregent.
While the United States switches out its diplomatic teams every two years and so can only react to the nearest threat, Russia and Iran are playing a much longer game, he explained. And they are not in Syria to defeat ISIS.
He argues the United States should build better ties with Sunni Arabs in Syria in order to combat the roots of extremism and shouldn’t send out the message that they’ll abandon their allies.
And in Iraq, the US should work with their natural allies – the Kurds, Sunni Arabs, and the large under-30 population that are eager for economic and cultural ties with the West, not military ones.
“This is the best time, if the United States actually knew Iraq,” he said.
“We have a great opportunity here. We just continue to rely on the traditional parties that are failing the Iraqis, that are continuing to allow Iraq to incubate these existential, international threats… It will result in 10-year-old Americans going back to Iraq as 20-year-olds because this will continue to be an issue.”