The Trump administration has begun to roll back the president’s announced pullout from Syria. On Dec. 19 Trump said Islamic State had been defeated; his officials now acknowledge not entirely. Trump originally ordered a withdrawal within 30 days, then administration officials said it would take four months, and more recently they announced that there is as yet no fixed timetable. The departure was originally unconditioned, now it is explicitly conditioned on receiving assurances from Turkey regarding their treatment of the Syrian Kurds – a demand that caused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to snub National Security Adviser John Bolton during Bolton’s Tuesday visit to Ankara.
President Donald Trump’s planned withdrawal of American troops from Syria, a move that prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, was the right decision in the wrong way and at the wrong time. Unless modified it could have disastrous consequences.
The joint statement issued by the American and North Korean leaders after Tuesday’s Singapore summit is a shorter and weaker version of promises made by Kim Jong Un’s father and grandfather – and those made by the younger Kim to South Korean President Moon Jae-in less than two months ago.
Many regard the invasion of Iraq as the worst foreign policy move in the history of the American republic. Now we arguably have a competitor. The decision to abandon the nuclear agreement with Iran isolates the United States, reneges on an American commitment, adds to the risk of a trade war with the United States’ allies and a hot war with Iran, and diminishes the prospects of a durable and truly verifiable agreement to eliminate the North Korean nuclear and missile threat.
In his recent meeting with Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again urged the United States to fix the Iran nuclear deal — or else abandon it. The U.S. president has always seemed eager to scrap the Iran deal, calling it “the worst deal ever.” Soon we will know if he’ll get his wish.
Is North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s Olympic diplomacy simply an effort to divide South Korea from its American ally, as many commentators have suggested? Was Vice President Mike Pence upstaged in Pyeongchang by Kim’s sister, the enigmatic and photogenic Kim Yo-jong? Above all, what will this effort at North-South rapprochement ultimately produce?
When anecdotal and empirical data diverge so widely, as they do in this instance, most observers will conclude that the truth lies somewhere in between.