Sputnik: Why has Washington balked again at withdrawing forces completely, as Donald Trump announced back in December, do you think?
Lorenzo Trombetta: Step by step the US administration is recognizing that the situation on the ground is much more complicated and they have to deal with many factors, including not only the Islamic State*, but also the increasing rifts between Turkey and the Syrian wing of the PKK. The Syrian Democratic Forces led by, as we all know, the strong PKK Syrian wing — that is the main issue that is slowing down, or at least nuancing the US position towards the withdrawal announced in a surprise announcement last December by President Trump. And we also had some description from the American press regarding the refusal by the UK and France in fulfilling the eventual void left by the withdrawal of US troops in eastern Syria.
Lorenzo Trombetta: As I was telling before, the US should be very careful in trying to make clear to their allied powers in the region what their purpose for being in eastern Syria is. Strategically speaking, everybody knows that the US is interested in saving their priorities in the Gulf, mainly looking at Iraq as the main bridge, as the main corridor to save their interests. In this sense, being a part of the so-called stabilisation process in eastern Syria could be coupled with the US priorities in western Iraq. As far as I understood, in the last weeks, several generals from the United States have visited western Iraq in order to try to make coherent, consistent US policies between eastern Syria and western Iraq. So the news of today 200 troops are more or less nothing [in] comparison to the need of the eastern Syria stabilisation process, but if we look at eastern Syria connected to western Iraq — that is a priority for the US — this would add perhaps more clarification on what is the US perception of the importance of this side of Euphrates valley.
Lorenzo Trombetta: It is very hard to answer this question. As we know that the balance of power in the United States has very clear and rigid procedures, but we also know that each president manages to bypass or try to leverage different, sometimes informal, levels of powers. But as the situation is today, President Trump has his own power to continue towards his decision of withdrawing. We should also always remember that this decision, perhaps, was made in order to satisfy more public opinion requests than based on a strategic vision of safeguarding the interests of the United States in the Middle East and abroad. Trump needs to continue to address to his public core, the public consensus at home and to show that he is resolute in acting as he was saying in the public electoral campaign. So I think that Trump will go forward towards this withdrawal no matter the costs in terms of political and strategic loss of the United States' perception in the region. No other power in the US administration and in the Congress could really oppose this decision. Even if the Congress, as we have seen in the Yemen conflict, for instance, tries to oppose White House decisions, at the end of the day Trump has his veto powers to bypass any congressional position on this external policy.
*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State/IS) is a terrorist group banned in Russia, US and many other countries.
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