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    Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking at the year-end press conference on Thursday, has called Donald Trump's decision to rapidly withdraw US forces from Syria “correct”. The White House announced the pull-out on Wednesday. Radio Sputnik discussed this with Fred Weir, Russia correspondent for the Boston-based Christian Science Monitor.

    Sputnik: Speaking about Donald Trump's announcement on pulling American troops out of Syria, Putin also noted that the US regularly stays after they've pulled out. In your view, how likely is it that the US will actually leave Syria?

    Fred Weir: Scepticism is warranted; we've had a cycle of wars in the Middle East that just keep dragging on or reinventing themselves. The thing in Syria is a case in point, where I think this is the third time Donald Trump has said: "we need to get out of this war, we have no reason to be there".

    He actually ran on the promise to do that. So, yes, it sounds pretty definite coming from the White House and it got the pushback from all kinds of establishment figures, which has accompanied every time he said something like this, so it remains to be seen. Yes, I would welcome a pull-out from Syria, I think it's completely useless for the United States to be there.

    Sputnik: How would you, overall, evaluate the American presence in Syria?

    Fred Weir: There's no doubt that they've played a big role in defeating ISIS [Daesh*] there in the northeast of Syria, in conjunction with the Kurds they really have played a role there, and it may never be finished. Let's face it, look at the last almost 20 years now in that part of the world, Islamist extremist groups keep popping back up. I'm not sure that the United States ever needed to be in Syria, but if defeating Daesh was the reason, it is pretty much done.

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    Sputnik: Actually following the US announcement, Syria's envoy to China said that withdrawal from Syria would be a major blow to the Kurdish militia. What position is this move really leaving the Kurds in?

    Fred Weir: It's leaving them holding the bag. This would not be the first time the United States has betrayed the Kurds, but they certainly would be doing that. They wound them up, they armed them, they gave them American military support, they moved far beyond their natural boundaries in northeast Syria with American protection and support. So, yes, they will definitely be left holding the bag if the Americans pull out.

    Sputnik: It's been said and many have been saying that the Kurdish army shouldn't be trustful of the American government, but the fact that the US did leave in this way. Do you think it's going to negatively impact the US reputation as an ally in the region?

    Fred Weir: No, as Henry Kissinger said "the only thing more dangerous than being an enemy of the United States, is being a friend", and that remains true; it's an old axiom. No, I think the United States has often done this sort of thing, they cut and run when it is no longer convenient for them, leave other people holding the bag, and it would actually be the best for almost everybody, except the Kurds, if they did it this time.

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    Sputnik: France has announced that Daesh has not been wiped out in Syria and that they would remain and they would maintain participation in the coalition fighting Daesh. What benefit does Paris garner from remaining in Syria and how much success can they have in their mission without American troops?

    Fred Weir: I think it is the United States that provides the infrastructure and the diplomatic cover for that whole operation in Syria, that so-called "coalition operation", and if the Americans leave I don't think any of their friends will say.

    Sputnik: President Putin has said that Russian-UK ties are at an impasse, going back through to the press conference and that it is at the interest of both countries to break the deadlock. Do you think that we will see any attempts by the British government to ease the Russian rhetoric and the tensions that exist between the two countries right now? What does the UK really gain by keeping the tensions at the level they already are, or even increasing them?

    Fred Weir: Well this is not a new thing, there just is a certain level of anti-Russian sentiment in the United Kingdom and if you open The Daily Mail or The Mirror or the Express on any given day, you will find plenty of evidence of how there is this mood, certainly in wide sections of the British establishment. I'm not sure what purposes it serves, but it is ingrained deeply, it's not going to change under the current government, that's for sure.

    There are reasons, you know the whole Skripal affair and so on, they have committed heavily to viewing Russia as an imminent threat to the United Kingdom and they've invested a lot of rhetoric and diplomatic muscle in that; so that's not going change.

    It might change if Jeremy Corbyn comes in, but not that much, I think people expect too much. A Labour government would just re-orientate priorities and downgrade this, which is mostly sound and fury, this conversation with Russia; it doesn't have much substance at all, it is just shouting and I do think a Labour government would just tone that down.

    Views and opinions, expressed in the article are those of Fred Weir and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik

    * Daesh (ISIL/ISIS/IS/Islamic State) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia

    Tags:
    military withdrawal, US troop withdrawal, US withdrawal, Daesh, Henry Kissinger, Jeremy Corbyn, United Kingdom, Russia, Syria, United States
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