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World Brett McGurk earns allied anger over Syria-Iraq withdrawal maneuvers

15:06  26 november  2021
15:06  26 november  2021 Source:   washingtonexaminer.com

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He's highly ambitious, but Brett McGurk's legacy may not age well with the Biden administration's military withdrawal from Iraq (announced by the President on Monday) and prospective military withdrawal from Syria.

Brett McGurk wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Washington Examiner

Major American allies in Syria already feel betrayed by the White House coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa.

The leader of the Syrian Democratic Forces in northeastern Syria, General Mazloum Abdi, has been particularly disheartened by McGurk's actions under the Biden administration. Mazloum was instrumental to the U.S.-led effort to drive ISIS out of its Syrian strongholds. His kinship with America was forged in blood. But I'm told that on a recent visit to northern Syria, McGurk failed to even meet with Mazloum to discuss Biden's withdrawal of support for U.S. economic development investments. Those efforts are supported by the U.S. intelligence community, the SDF, and affiliated Sunni Arab tribes in the area. Regardless, McGurk apparently deployed State Department diplomats to deliver the bad news to the general rather than do it himself in person. In the respect-oriented Kurdish culture, this could even be taken as offensive.

Iraq Militias, Seeing Taliban's Success, Plan to Force U.S. Troops Out After Dec. 31

  Iraq Militias, Seeing Taliban's Success, Plan to Force U.S. Troops Out After Dec. 31 "The Iraqi resistance was earlier than the Afghans in forcing the United States to withdraw from Iraq in 2011, and today the Iraqi resistance is stronger and more numerous," the Hezbollah al-Nujaba Movement spokesperson told Newsweek."The Iraqi resistance was earlier than the Afghans in forcing the United States to withdraw from Iraq in 2011," Nasr al-Shammary, spokesperson for the Hezbollah al-Nujaba Movement, told Newsweek, "and today the Iraqi resistance is stronger and more numerous.

What's odd here is that McGurk resigned from the Trump administration in protest over its plans to withdraw U.S. military forces from Syria. Why McGurk is now suddenly happy to support Biden's similar withdrawal policy is not clear. While a Biden administration official, on Tuesday, suggested to Politico that the U.S. will retain forces in Syria, those forces will not serve much purpose if they do not provide cover for economic and political activity independent of Bashar al Assad, Iran, and Russia. It's not just about the investment and associated signal of long term U.S. support to allies. Russia is aggressively pushing for control over the Syrian oil fields and Iraqi border transit points.

McGurk, however, is a proven political survivor. A senior Middle East hand for the Bush, Obama, Trump, and now Biden administrations, McGurk is renowned for his ability to find a role at the center of ideologically diverse administrations. Yet his critics say that this record is less a function of his Arabist skills and more a product of his penchant for D.C. political maneuvering. This maneuvering was the significant focus of Paul Wood's less-than-favorable April profile of McGurk for Newlines magazine.

Joe Biden, country killer

  Joe Biden, country killer President Joe Biden met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi at the White House on Monday. © Provided by Washington Examiner It wasn't just any leader-to-leader meeting. Biden announced that the United States would soon end its combat mission in Iraq. The move comes just a few months short of the 10th anniversary of America’s last withdrawal from Iraq. Back then, Biden was optimistic. "I can tell you that when we came to office, we had, we had over 150,000 folks there, a war with no political end in sight.

In that sense, a Syria withdrawal to match that from Iraq would at least allow McGurk to maneuver his way into some new friendships. Back in January, Al Monitor suggested that "His expected appointment will likely send a strong signal to Turkey and could complicate the Biden administration's efforts to reset relations with the NATO ally."

Perhaps no longer. McGurk's treatment of America's Syrian-Kurdish allies may win him VIP treatment by Recep Tayyip Erdogan's reflexively Kurd-hostile regime.

Still, the issue of reliability extends to Iraq.

During McGurk's visit to Baghdad less than two weeks ago, Al Arabiya's Joseph Haboush noted that the Iraqi government said McGurk had discussed an imminent U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq. The Biden administration shamelessly denied this, even though we now know it to be the truth.

The Iraq withdrawal will certainly bolster McGurk's credentials with the Democratic Party progressive wing. But it may not earn him new friends on the moderate political center ground. Consider that China, now viewed by bipartisan majorities as the exigent challenge to U.S. international order in the 21st century, is moving quickly to dominate the Iraqi oil market amid America's evacuation. Iran will be the most major beneficiary of Biden's action.

Russia, China Offer Support to Syria Amid Biden Moves in Afghanistan, Iraq

  Russia, China Offer Support to Syria Amid Biden Moves in Afghanistan, Iraq A joint statement by Russia and Syria argued that "an illegitimate stay in Syria of foreign military contingentsimpedes stabilization in occupied areas," and China issued "unwavering support for Syria's efforts to safeguard its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity."Unlike Kabul and Baghdad, however, the Syrian government in Damascus has opposed U.S. military presence in the country, receiving assistance instead from Moscow and Beijing.

McGurk's reliable chirpiness should not be taken as a positive sign.

Back in 2011 McGurk praised the Obama administration's withdrawal from Iraq as the "beginning" of a positive stable relationship between the U.S. and Iraq. That withdrawal was actually the quite predictable beginning of ISIS' Caliphate.

Whatever his political maneuvering skills, what now happens in Syria and Iraq seems set to define McGurk's political future.

Tags: Opinion, Beltway Confidential, Iraq, Iran, ISIS, ISIL, Kurds, Syria, Russia, China

Original Author: Tom Rogan

Original Location: Brett McGurk earns allied anger over Syria-Iraq withdrawal maneuvers

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