Why is the US withdrawing troops?
BY MIKHAIL MAGID
Specialists in the Middle East will have to learn Chinese, along with Persian, Hebrew and Arabic. Confrontation between America and China is playing an increasingly important role.
News about the withdrawal of US troops from Syria within 60-100 days (later Trump agreed to slow down the process), as well as the withdrawal of half of the American contingent from Afghanistan sounded for many politicians and the expert community as a bolt from the blue. Israel and other countries are negotiating with the Americans, trying at the same time to understand what happened and how it will change the situation in the Middle East. But why is the US withdrawing troops?
First, we must take seriously all of Donald Trump's promises. He has already proven that he is responsible for his words. What he promises, he tries to do. During election campaign Trump promised to reduce the expensive presence of US troops abroad. Presently he is going to leave Syria and Afghanistan.
Secondly, the withdrawal meets the expectations of the Americans, most of whom oppose America's participation in wars. Thus, according to polls, 68% of Americans opposed the entry to Syria in 2013: that is why President Obama decided not to go Syria. Trump sent troops (from 2 to 5 thousand) to help the Kurdish forces (SDF) break ISIS. So today ISIS is defeated, there are several hundred or a couple thousand fighters who commit guerrilla and sabotage attacks, but the war with them takes a long time. The main mission of American army in Syria is fulfilled. At the same time, Trump begins a new election campaign and seeks to gain the support of the Americans. The political class of America, ruling groups of the bureaucracy and military, do not approve him. But Trump's actions can still bring victory in the new elections in 2020.
Third, Trump's actions are connected with the strategic retreat of the US from the Middle East. The failure of George W. Bush's adventure in Iraq and Afghanistan has long effect. The US has suffered sensitive human losses in both wars and spent $ 6 trillion (it is about a third of America's GDP)! The United States has a huge public debt (about 20 trillion), economy is threatened today by a slowdown. The US can no longer afford such spending. In addition, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan has led to geopolitical catastrophes. As a result of the shift of anti-Iranian Sunni regime of Saddam Hussein, the influence of Shiite Iran, based on Shiite majority in this country, has strengthened in Iraq. The huge Iranian Empire (Shia Crescent) - network of States with strong Iranian influence (Iraq, Syria and Lebanon), reached the Mediterranean sea. Iran is considered to be the main enemy of the United States in the region, and this is the result of American policy. As for Afghanistan, it is even worse. 17 years after the start of the US war with Taliban this movement controls up to half of the country. Todey there is a turning point in favor of the Taliban. At the same time, the US population as a result of unsuccessful wars, received traumatic neurosis, as well as after Vietnam war, and now it negatively perceives military expansion. In other words, traumatic experience of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has shown the United States does not have financial, intellectual or psychological resources to conduct military expansion so widely.
But there is a fourth factor that might be considered as a key. America's interests are shifting towards East Asia. It has half the world's population and produces about half of the world's GDP. There is a new economic and military colossus has risenin in recent decades - China. It is a threat to U.S. interests simply because it has the second GDP in the world and a population of 1.4 billion. American politicians fear the transformation of this country into a giant Hong Kong, and therefore into the richest state in the world. But it's not just that. Currently, the United States has a negative consensus on China. President Donald Trump, his opponents from the political class (Democrats and a significant number of top Republicans) and big business are strongly dissatisfied with China. They are annoyed by China's surplus in trade with America, protectionism in the Chinese economy and industrial espionage of monstrous proportions. All together strikes at the interests of American business and state. China is trying to grow toothy competitors, covering them with protectionist barriers and pumping them with cheap loans and stolen technologies. Trade surplus with the United States increased by 17.2% compared to 2017 and reached $323.32 billion. Finally, China is currently engaged in an ambitious initiative called "One belt, One road". It has a goal to create a network of roads, ports and pipelines linking the economy of Eurasia into a single whole, closely linking it to the economy of China. At the same time, it is not just about the economy. China is building dual-use ports, using them as military. Asian countries such as Burma, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and a number of others are becoming financially and politically dependent on China. The new powerful infrastructure of these States will be under the control of China as it will be served by Chinese engineers and managers while Asian States will have to repay tens of billions dollars in loans to the Chinese government.
So for now the main strategic and geopolitical task of America is to block the growing influence of China by the creation of a belt around it. This belt is loyal to the United States and hostile to China: India, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, Japan, may be even North Korea (today it is discussed by American politicians and experts).
In the middle East Americans are primarily interested in the Persian Gulf region, where a significant part of the oil entering the markets of China and India is produced. In America, which will increasingly enter into confrontation with China, there is no more opportunity to get stuck in the Sands of Syria or mountains of Afghanistan. US interest in Middle East and even Europe will diminish as China's importance grows. Trump understands this issue. Here is the trade war against China, attempts to rapprochement with Russia (probing the possibility of its transition to anti-Chinese positions in exchange for the lifting of sanctions) and the reduction of US influence in the Middle East.
Of course, the weakening of the US role creates a political vacuum, which draws competing regional powers into itself. It leads to increased political turbulence in the region.
President Trump is concerned about Iranian influence. Moreover, his administration is probably the most Pro-Israeli in US history. So he continues to provide great support to Israel. But the specialists in the Middle East will have to learn Chinese, along with Persian, Hebrew and Arabic. Confrontation between America and China are playing an increasingly important role.
The author is a Russian analyst and Middle East expert.
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