Iran hawks in Washington crafted disastrous Syria policy – Foreign Policy

Responsibility for the instability caused by Turkey’s military operation against Kurdish-led forces in northeast Syria this month rests with Iran hawks in the U.S. government who attempted to block President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw from the country, Foreign Policy’s Lara Seligman reported.

Citing conversations with more than 12 U.S. and Kurdish officials, Seligman said top U.S. officials including former National Security Adviser John Bolton and Syria envoy James Jeffrey had attempted to reverse Trump’s plan to pull troops out, “culminating in a disastrous Turkish invasion that has destabilised the region”.

Washington partnered with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeast Syria after Islamic State swept through the region capturing vast swathes of land.

SDF fighters spearheaded the international coalition against the extremist jihadist group, but the U.S. support for armed groups linked to Kurdish militants viewed as terrorists by Turkey set the foundations for a long-running rift between the NATO allies.

Moreover, the presence of U.S. forces in Syria ran counter to Trump’s vow to withdraw troops from the Middle East, one of his main campaign promises.

Jeffrey publicly acknowledged that the partnership with the SDF was transactional and temporary, but officials told Seligman he and Bolton had attempted to block Trump’s plans to withdraw and instead attempted to stay in the country indefinitely and use the Kurdish-led forces as a bulwark against Iranian expansion.

This amounted to a “fundamental miscalculation” of Turkey’s position, Seligman’s sources said.

“Jeffrey completely misunderstood and misjudged Turkey every step of the way,” Seligman quoted a State Department official as saying. “It was a totally fundamental misunderstanding of how Turkey prioritised its interests and how it prioritised acceptable outcomes in Syria.”