Admittedly, Donald Trump himself has always sided with those who support abandoning the fight, for obvious reasons of respect for his electoral promises (withdrawal of all operations in external theatres). He had shown it for the first time, on 20 December last year, by deciding on a complete withdrawal of American forces from Syria - already following a conversation with President Erdoğan. However, he had been convinced by his Republican allies in Congress and by his own collaborators to leave a residual force behind. This summer, a compromise was also reached between Turks and Americans on a limited "security zone" in Syrian territory, with joint Turkish-American patrols - thus reducing Turkish frustration.
All this was swept away in a few days at the beginning of October 2019. On the 6th, in a telephone conversation with Mr. Erdoğan, Trump gave the green light to a Turkish offensive against Northeast Syria. He ordered the withdrawal of American special forces stationed at the border. On the 9th, the Turkish army began bombarding Kurdish positions and entering Northeast Syria into areas of Arab settlement (the cities of Tall Abyad and Ras al-Ain). As it is now the modus operandi in the region, bombardment does not spare the civilian population. Hundreds of families fled, the Turkish army deployed Arab militias grouped under the name of the Syrian National Army, which represent little more than mercenary bands. These auxiliaries immediately began to commit acts of violence and murders.
A Defeat for the West
One could have imagined, during the first 48 hours, that Washington's ignominious abandonment of the Kurds would not be total. However, the scenario of a lesser evil - failure by the Turks to cross a line 30 kilometres from the border, maintenance of Western protection of Kurds in the rest of the territory - very quickly vanished. On the 13th, the White House and the Secretary of State for Defense, noting that the attackers were assailing the lines of communication and even American positions, announced a complete recall of American special forces. The next day, the YPG, while seeking the protection of the Russians, called on Bashar al-Assad to have his forces take up positions in certain cities it had controlled until now. An agreement was reached, under the auspices of Russia, "inviting" FDS fighters to join the ranks of the Fifth Syrian Army Corps, which includes militiamen who had joined the regime.
Under these conditions, the Westerners have not only lost a series of battles in Syria, they have now lost the war. Their defeat, already well under way, is now consummated. A truly incredible video shows Syrian army vehicles crossing US army vehicles on a road leading to Kobane. Russian troops set up in the evening in camps hastily abandoned in the morning by American soldiers. For now (the future may still hold surprises), the main beneficiary of this situation is none other than the regime of Bashar al-Assad - and perhaps Daesh, who can only take advantage of the chaos surrounding the recent events.
Donald Trump’s statements reached the height of surrealism when he accused the YPG of treason, since he submitted to Assad, and, contradictorily, threatened to impose the worst economic sanctions on Turkey to encourage it "not to go too far". On this last point, he promised to work with Congress, as domestic politics never loses its rights (the Turkish offensive and Trump's approval are largely due to domestic political motives). The American President triumphantly tweeted the "End of endless wars". As a result, an air of moral disarray and unworthy hysteria floats in Washington around a strategic defeat that he himself has planned.
Neo-authoritarians: Winners of the Syrian Chaos
The image of a defeat of the West may seem excessive from Paris, Brussels or New York. Yet it permeates the reactions of the various actors in the Middle East. A remarkable article by Martin Chulov written on 14 October from Northeast Syria for The Guardian bears witness to this. "The public handover on show was that between the Assad regime and the Kurds, but the real power shift was between Washington – whose fighting troops have all but left the region, 16 years after invading Iraq – and Moscow, whose reach and influence across the Middle East has now been cemented". It so happens that Mr Putin has been welcomed, on 14 and 15 October, with the greatest respect, in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. I myself have been in Abu Dhabi in recent days for the Beirut Institute Summit, which brings together a number of Middle East leaders.