Will the US Ever Get Out of Syria?

Recently, the Biden administration announced that they had no plans to withdraw US troops from Syria. Given the backlash Joe Biden received from the military establishment after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, this was not unexpected. Despite Trump’s multiple attempts to do so during his administration, he ultimately yielded to the Israel lobby, Saudi businessmen, and arms manufacturers who are always behind these kinds of wars. With Biden’s history of solidly being a pro-war, establishment Democrat, any near-future withdrawal from Syria was a lost cause from the start. All of this will be at the cost of millions of Syrians who will be killed, injured, impoverished, starved, or otherwise subjugated by the belligerents in the now 10-year-old Syrian civil war.

Unlike in Iraq or Afghanistan, the United States cannot, by any twisting of words, claim that it is trying to bring Democracy to Syria. From the start, the United States’ mission in Syria has been to overthrow the Ba’athist regime of Bashar Al-Assad by any means necessary, in order to counter Iran’s influence in the region while eliminating threats to Israel. This, of course, means that the US would be willing to back the worst people imaginable to achieve these goals. Starting in 2012, the United States CIA began Timber Sycamore, in which it funneled billions of dollars to Syrian rebel groups. While the CIA claimed these were "moderate rebels", who wished to bring democracy to Syria, in reality, almost all of these groups were Islamist militants, such as Al-Nusra and Al-Qaeda. Any remaining secularist elements left over from the Arab Spring the year before were simply swept along into the more militant and powerful Islamist factions.

This directly led to the rise of ISIS during 2013 and 2014. These jihadist groups, now empowered by US funding, were able to create a massive Islamic State which then spread into Western Iraq and Eastern Syria. At this point, the western media took notice of ISIS and began reporting on it almost non-stop. However, they did not bring up the fact that America was instrumental in its rise, and instead simply blamed it on the Obama administration deciding not to launch an Iraq-style invasion of Syria in 2011 and called for more intervention. Thus, instead of simply withdrawing support for rebel groups in Syria, the United States simply began bombing the same terror groups it helped create, while at the same time, aiding other, less well-known jihadist groups in their fight against Assad, as well as the far-left Kurdish separatists. Had Russia not intervened in 2015, the Syrian capital of Damascus likely would have fallen to ISIS, leading to the collapse of the government and Islamist takeover of much of the country. There are also the Islamist groups which Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE are backing in the country, which further the conflict even more. Many of these groups are "ethnic units", who come in from other countries around the region and often attempt to settle it for themselves. One such example would be the Turkish-backed Uyghur militia groups which are fighting in northern Syria.

At the same time, Syria has been under almost ubiquitous sanctions by the US, NATO, and other regional allies. These sanctions are complete with a blockade of almost all goods and services flowing into Syria. This, along with the war that the west started there, has led to Syria losing over half of its GDP in the first few years after the conflict started, experiencing little growth in the time since. Infant mortality has risen, poverty has increased, literally no one in Syria has benefited other than the militants receiving foreign aid. The intervention, in addition to the rest of the War on Terror, has also directly led to the European refugee crisis in the years since, with a majority of the migrants coming from either Iraq, Syria, or Afghanistan. This indiscriminate destruction is not unintentional, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken has explicitly said that the US, "opposes the reconstruction of Syria"

The war in Syria was simply one part of the US foreign policy "redirection" which began during the Bush administration as a result of Iran being strengthened through the Iraq war. This policy involved countering Iran in any way possible, even backing the worst people in the world to do it. Such anti-Iranian regime change efforts also took place in Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and North Africa. Syria, however, with its strategic location near Israel, their dispute over the Golan Heights, the alliance they had with Russia, and the length of time that the Assad family had ruled the country for was the crown jewel of these interventions. Had the US withdrawn from Syria, the rebel groups (including ISIS), having been thoroughly established as authoritarian foreign puppets in the years prior, would have fallen to the secularist Assad government within months, if not weeks, much like the Afghan national government did. There were so many institutional interests keeping America in Syria that any withdrawal from Presidents willing to compromise with the war profiteers who should be in prison, such as Trump and Biden, was impossible. Trump, already facing an uphill battle with the military-industrial complex, did not want to appear "soft" on Russia any more than he already did (which was simply a propaganda piece to begin with). And Biden, having been a puppet of the MIC for years, would never have withdrawn.

Syria seems set to become America’s next 20-year war. There is virtually zero chance that a withdrawal will happen before the end of the Biden administration. Kamala Harris is unlikely to be any more open to a withdrawal either. Given that there are few potential candidates in the running for 2024 who would be willing to stand up to the MIC, it seems likely that the war in Syria will continue until it simply cannot anymore. This will come with either the total collapse of the US economic system, or a nuclear war.

Starté Butone was born in the United States and is interested in foreign affairs. He regularly listens to the Scott Horton show and reads Antiwar.com.