It has taken a week to reshape the map of the Syrian war, in the seven days since President Donald Trump used what he called his “great and unmatched wisdom” to order the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria.
He set off a chain of events that betrayed America’s ally, the Syrian Kurds, and opened a cornucopia of opportunities for Turkey, the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, its backers, Russia and Iran, and the jihadist extremists of Islamic State (IS).
Eight years of war in Syria have shaped and changed the Middle East. This last week has been another turning point. Perhaps President Trump’s wisdom helped him to foresee events. Or perhaps his habit of following his gut instincts is a serious mistake when it comes to the infinite complexities of the Middle East.
For years it has been clear that Syria’s fate would be decided by foreigners, not Syrians. Repeated interventions have sustained and escalated the war. Writing about the contest for influence and power in Syria should start with the war’s victims. Every turn of the military screw means disaster and often death for civilians. Video of their suffering should be compulsory viewing for the leaders who give the orders. Those images are not hard to find online and on television.