President Trump’s hasty withdrawal from northern Syria clearly applies only with respect to the Turkish invasion. The White House, mainly under Pentagon pressure but also no doubt to ease the troubled minds of agitated Republican senators, decided to hang on to the country’s oil fields to the south-east merely to deny them to the Assad régime. And ISIS leader Al-Baghdadi – whom only the Washington Post seems to admire – was cornered by the Americans and blew himself up under the noses of the Russians. This demonstrates that Trump will continue to act at will and, where reasons of state demand, send in special forces regardless of whose zone of influence is being trampled on.
Not telling the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi – fresh from yet another first class trip to exotic locations, in this case Afghanistan and Jordan – and the House Intelligence Committee, is perfectly understandable, since the Committee is not actually overseeing Intelligence any more but instead subbing for the Judiciary Committee in seeking Trump’s impeachment. But not telling the Russians? Trump says he did tell them that the Americans were overflying their positions in northern Syria. And, even if he had not, the Russian military should have been able at the very least to track their movements.
But the Russian Ministry of Defence is incensed and sulking. Its spokesman, General Igor Konashenkov, who is a radio electronics man, an air defence engineer-cum-journalist but hopefully a better engineer than a journalist, has had great difficulty containing his indignation to the point of issuing outright lies. “Why does the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation not recognise the death of al-Baghdadi?” demands the deputy editor of Nezavisimaya gazeta. Andrei Riskin points out that both the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson and the Kremlin’s spokesman have acknowledged the event and have responded very diplomatically to questions as to whether Moscow was forewarned. So Konashenkov’s bad temper seems one more indication of deep-seated problems between the military and the rest of the Putin régime which the Syrian escapade is bringing to the fore. It is quite possible that others might now be giving him a wide berth at Kremlin receptions.