Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed snap] Pullback and chaos


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : US withdrawal from Syria


With the withdrawal of US forces from north-east Syria under Kurdish control, Trump is attempting to fulfill his promise of extricating the US from the conflicts it has been embroiled in across the globe ahead of the 2020 US presidential elections. 

Regional scene

    • The manner of the troop withdrawal sharpened the conflict in the region.
    • It also increased the influence of Russia in West Asia. 
    • Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan ordered his troops into the region, and there are reports of civilian casualties. US troops had suffered minimal casualties and were a buffer protecting the Kurdish forces. 
    • Erdogan is facing a violent Kurdish-led in the insurgency in his own country. He is seeking a deeper strategic buffer through military control of Syria’s autonomous Kurdish region. 
    • Russia and Iran are expected to back the Assad regime, filling the power vacuum left by the US. 
    • Erdogan seems undeterred by the threats of sanctions and other diplomatic consequences by the US and NATO.

Impact of the withdrawal

Trump’s sudden withdrawal is likely to be counterproductive. 

    • The claim that the “ISIS caliphate” has been defeated may be technically true, but many IS fighters retreated into remote parts of Iraq and Syria. 
    • Since the conflict in Syria began in 2015, the Kurds were instrumental in the fight against the Islamic State. Now, remnants of the IS may be emboldened
    • Assad regime has consolidated and its influence is growing along with that of Russia. 
    • An aggressive and expansionist Turkey could pose a long-term challenge to the regional balance of power. It has long been a NATO ally and even houses a US military base with nuclear capabilities.

Way ahead

In the near term, what is required is well-thought-out, firm diplomacy by the US and other world powers.

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