US Syria pullout will have wide ramifications

US Syria pullout will have wide ramifications
In this file photo taken on December 18, 2018, US President Donald Trump speaks during a roundtable discussion about school safety in the Roosevelt Room of the the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP)
Updated 20 December 2018

US Syria pullout will have wide ramifications

US Syria pullout will have wide ramifications
  • Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, said in September that the US would keep a military presence in Syria as long as Iran was active there
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who remains concerned about Iranian efforts in the area, reacted in noncommittal fashion after talking with Trump by telephone

WASHINGTON: The withdrawal of US troops in Syria will have an impact on the battlefield and well beyond, with wide-ranging geopolitical ramifications.
Here is a look at some of the likely effects of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out the 2,000 US troops as he declared the defeat of the Daesh group:

Among the most alarmed at a US pullout will be Kurdish fighters who form the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces, an opposition force that has seized about a quarter of the country with Washington’s backing.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed this week to “remove” the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which he sees as linked to the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, the force that has waged an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.
Turkey had earlier been forced to tread cautiously in Syria, with any injury to US troops certain to trigger a crisis.
Hours after Trump’s announcement, the United States said it had approved a $3.5 billion missile package for Turkey, a NATO ally that had earlier angered the United States by signing an arms deal with Russia.

Kurdish fighters who were on the frontline of fighting the Daesh movement, will certainly shift focus if they come under attack from Turkey.
The United States has not announced an end to its air war in Syria, but it would be relying on significantly less intelligence without troops on the ground.
Critics of Trump’s decision noted that Daesh sprouted in Iraq after former president Barack Obama, also eager to end a foreign intervention started under his predecessor, withdrew.
Ilan Goldenberg, a former US diplomat now at the Center for a New American Security, said that a successor to Daesh could similarly re-emerge, prompting a fresh US intervention.
“We’re about to make the exact same mistake in the Middle East that we’ve been making again and again for the past 20 years,” he wrote on Twitter.

As the United States withdraws, Assad’s allies Russia and Iran have shown no sign of leaving.
Russia sees longtime ally Syria as a strategic asset in its quest to restore a global role, while Iran’s Shiite clerical state sees a religious imperative in fighting Sunni hard-liners and protecting President Bashar Assad, a member of the heterodox Alawite sect.
Jonas Parello-Plesner, a Danish diplomat at the Washington-based Hudson Institute, said that Trump’s move “would make Russia decisively the outside power-broker in Syria.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly pledged to “defend ourselves” in Syria, an allusion to Israeli strikes on targets of Iran and its Lebanese-based ally Hezbollah.

While the Daesh group has lost virtually all of its territory in Syria, it is believed to have thousands of supporters who may carry out attacks overseas, often blending into local populations in Europe.
The US withdrawal leaves France, which still has a small contingent of special operations troops in Syria, and Britain, which according to media reports has quietly deployed a number of soldiers.
Former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt said a US withdrawal would be a victory for Russia, Iran, Turkey, Turkish proxies and the Syrian regime.
“Unsurprisingly, it leaves Europeans more vulnerable — and shows how wrong it is that we do not have a defense force able to help stabilize our immediate neighborhood,” he wrote on Twitter, amid French-led calls for a European-wide army separate from NATO.

Trump — much like Obama, despite his distaste for his predecessor — has called for an end to long-term foreign military interventions, which are costly and have limited support in the general public.
Trump’s decision nonetheless was condemned both by the rival Democrats, who said he had not thought through his decision, and Republicans, who feared the geopolitical effects.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, usually a loyal supporter of Trump, charged that Daesh was not defeated and that a withdrawal would embolden Iran and abandon Kurdish allies.


Lebanese protesters break lockdown: ‘Death by COVID-19 is better than starvation’

Lebanese protesters break lockdown: ‘Death by COVID-19 is better than starvation’
Updated 26 January 2021

Lebanese protesters break lockdown: ‘Death by COVID-19 is better than starvation’

Lebanese protesters break lockdown: ‘Death by COVID-19 is better than starvation’
  • Hundreds of people took to the streets in Tripoli, Sidon, and Beirut to denounce the suspension of the economy

BEIRUT: The closure and curfew period in Lebanon has been extended for two more weeks to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), prompting people in Tripoli, Beirut, and Sidon to take to the streets.

The protests were spontaneous, considering that the neighborhoods from which they started are poor, where the residents work for daily wages.

The Minister of Social Affairs and Tourism in the caretaker government Ramzi Musharrafieh said on Tuesday that “230,000 families in Lebanon benefit from aid and have been receiving 400,000 Lebanese pounds ($263) per month since the beginning of the crisis.” He added that “25 percent of the Lebanese people do not need aid.”

Hundreds of people took to the streets in Tripoli, Sidon, and Beirut to denounce the suspension of the economy and the failure to provide people with alternatives.

One of the protesters said: “Contracting COVID-19 and dying of it is easier than having my family and myself starve to death.”

Protesters in Tripoli took to Al-Nour Square on Monday after days of expressing their impatience and protesting outside the houses of the city’s officials.

One of the protesters said: “COVID-19 does not scare us. We cannot tolerate this life of humiliation anymore. The officials in power have starved and robbed us.”

The protesters clashed with the security forces — the army and the Internal Security Forces — hurling stones and water bottles at them. 

Their chants demanded financial compensation for the poorest families, who have not been able to work for two weeks and must wait a further two weeks before they can return to their jobs, resulting in a whole month without any financial income.

The protests spiralled out of control and turned into riots that ended with dozens of arrests. Several army personnel were deployed to control the situation in Al-Nour Square and its vicinity. Riot police used tear gas to disperse the protesters.

The Lebanese Red Cross said it brought in six ambulances as 41 people were injured during the protests. The organization transferred 12 people to hospitals, while 29 were treated at the scene.

In support of the Tripoli protests, dozens gathered at the Ring Bridge in central Beirut.

Activists gathered in Sidon’s Elia Square for a vigil, amid security measures. The protesters chanted slogans denouncing the political authority’s arbitrary decisions, which they argue worsened the economic collapse. 

Some protesters said that 60 percent of the poor people in Lebanon are suffering because of these decisions, which were not accompanied with support for people who were laid off due to lockdown measures.

The protests extended to Taalbaya in the Bekaa and the coastal town of Jiyeh. The protesters moved from the poor neighborhoods of Beirut to Corniche el Mazraa and blocked the road, but the riot police reopened it.

Bechara Al-Asmar, head of the General Labor Union, told Arab News: “Things are heading toward chaos, and the authorities’ decisions are ill-considered. When forcing people to stop working, it is important to give them incentives and compensation. There are 120,000 daily workers impacted by the closure, which has come amid a severe economic crisis.”

He added: “They must exempt the factories that suspended production so that they can survive and not lay off their workers if the closure results in stopping operation. 

“What can the factories that have agreements with clients abroad do to deliver their products? This is the only sector that is bringing Lebanon fresh money and giving people jobs.”

Al-Asmar said that aid provided by the government “covers 47,000 families, and a further 8,000 taxi drivers have been added to them. This is a small percentage compared to the need among the general population.”

He continued: “Employees are now receiving half a salary or a very meager salary if they don’t lose their jobs as employers prefer shutting down their businesses to continuous losses.”

Bechara added: “We are facing a major social crisis. The daily workers are complaining of their inability to put bread on the table, while the state is unable to hold coordination meetings, so how can it provide compensation for those affected?”