Europe dumbfounded over US decision to pull out of Syria

BRUSSELS, European politicians, analysts and the media are voicing surprise and concern over the unexpected decision by US President Donald Trump to pull American troops out of Syria.

The US currently has 2,000 soldiers stationed in the war-torn country.

European commentators are expressing fear that the US withdrawal will boost the power of Russia and Iran, strengthen the Assad regime and weaken the fight against terrorist groups.

A European Union spokesperson said that the 28-member bloc would continue to work with the Global Coalition against the so-called Islamic State (IS/Daesh) “to fully defeat Daesh as well as to stabilize northern Syria but also Iraq.

“Our immediate concern at this stage is continued humanitarian access to northern Syria by those forces present in the area,” said the spokesperson.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass commented that “the abrupt decision of the USA to withdraw their troops from Syria is surprising not only to us.” French Defense Minister, Florence Parly, said that “Islamic State has not been wiped from the map, nor have its roots. The last pockets of this terrorist organization must be defeated militarily.” The leader of the Liberals in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt warned that the US pull out is a “victory for Russia, Iran, Turkey, Turkish proxies and the Syrian regime.

“Unsurprisingly, it leaves Europeans more vulnerable – and shows how wrong it is that we do not have a defense force able to help stabilize our immediate neighborhood,” said Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister.

The Brussels-based think-tank, the International Crisis Group, noted that the US “has not laid the political groundwork for withdrawal without precipitating new conflicts.

“Its Syrian partners fighting IS, led by Kurdish fighters, will be vulnerable to attack by either the Syrian regime or neighboring Turkey. The ensuing conflict could have devastating humanitarian consequences and provide IS with the chance to regroup,” it said.

Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter warned that Trump’s decision would have serious consequences. “Trump’s most important foreign policy motto so far has been that Obama did everything wrong. In the case of Syria, it’s striking how Trump’s actions resemble those of his predecessor,” it commented.

EUobserver, a Brussels-based news portal, said the US pullout could also “embolden the Syrian regime and its main allies Iran and Russia to attack the last rebel stronghold in Syria’s Idlib province, prompting an even larger exodus to Europe.

“But even if the foretold massacres did not take place, it would leave Russia as the main foreign power in the country, fulfilling Putin’s objective to gain a strategic foothold in the Mediterranean Sea region,” it said.

The French daily Le Monde commented that “the very slogan ‘America first’ loses its meaning when the president acts against America’s fundamental interests.

“And the country’s helmsman unfortunately seems to be able to do nothing but add chaos to chaos,” it added.

Source: Kuwait News Agency