US President Donald Trump has bowled another googly by ordering the withdrawal of American troops from Syria, declaring that he had achieved the objective of defeating the Islamic State terror (IS) group – the reason that the troops were there in the first place. This will certainly have huge implications for the Middle East. There’s no denying that IS no longer holds territory and has been flushed out of all urban centres in Iraq and Syria. True, the terror outfit still has some presence in Syrian rural areas. But it is no longer the threat it used to be a few years ago.
Those apprehensive of Trump’s troop withdrawal fear that it will lead to another Iraq-like situation where America’s decision to pull back under president Barack Obama seemingly created a vacuum that IS took advantage of to rise in the first place. But this is a misreading. IS wasn’t created because the US pulled out of Iraq. IS was created because US invaded Iraq under president George W Bush. The military intervention in 2003 was wholly illegal and based on a lie that Iraq was harbouring weapons of mass destruction. The US actually dismantled Iraq’s functional regime and disrupted its sectarian balance. It took apart the Iraqi army and foisted a puppet regime on that country. All of these measures created IS.