America’s Illegal Sojourn in Syria

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Written by Philip M. Giraldi; Originally appeared on strategic-culture.org

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Donald Trump administration has recently affirmed that it has a perfect legal right to remain in Syria as long as it wishes because it is fighting terrorism. The argument goes something like this: Congress has approved a bill that permits the US military to seek out and destroy al-Qaeda and associated groups wherever they may be. It is part of what is referred to as the Authorization to Use Military Force or AUMF. According to the White House, an associated group, the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS), remains currently active in Syria and the United States military presence is therefore legal until the group is completely eliminated, requiring no additional legislation or authority to remain in the country.

The Trump legal finding was spelled out in two letters released by the undersecretaries for policy at the State and Defense departments. They were in response to requests made by Senator Time Kaine of Virginia who has for several years been asking the White House under both Barack Obama and Donald Trump to clarify what legal authority has permitted it to base 2,000 American soldiers in Syria without any declaration of war, any United Nations authorization or any invitation by the legitimate government of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. Kaine has cited the restrictions imposed by the War Powers Act of 1973, which permits a president to use military force in an emergency situation but after 60 days it is necessary to go to Congress for approval.

The State Department letter heightened the ambiguity of the US position with its explanation that “The United States does not seek to fight the government of Syria or Iran or Iranian-supported groups in Iraq or Syria. However, the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend US, coalition, or partner forces…”

There are a number of problems with the White House justification to stay in Syria, starting with the fact that al-Qaeda and ISIS are not in any way associated and might best be described as rivals or even enemies, rendering the whole AUMF argument irrelevant. In addition, the reason for American forces being in Syria at all has been variously described by senior administration officials. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been busy emphasizing that a prolonged stay is needed to block the resurgence of ISIS and also to prevent the Syrian government from retaking areas currently occupied by American-supported rebel groups. He curiously describes such areas freed from government control as “liberated.” He has also stated that the US will stay in place to put pressure on Bashar al-Assad to step down, i.e. regime change.

Tillerson uses the example of Libya to support his argument, observing that Libya was not occupied and “stabilized” by the nations that combined to overthrow the government of Muammar Ghaddafi. He has also cited President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw US forces from Iraq as a contributing factor in the rise of ISIS, apparently unaware that American military was forced to leave by the Iraqi government.

But last Friday President Trump sent a different signal, stating during the press conference with the Australian Prime Minister that “We’re there for one reason: to get ISIS and get rid of ISIS, and to go home. We’re not there for any other reason and we’ve largely accomplished our goal.”

There is considerable spin being generated by the Administration to support its claims. Nevertheless, it should be accepted that the Syrian regime of al-Assad is nearly universally recognized to be legitimate and sovereign in its own territory, a fact that is even acknowledged by the United States, which is, at the same time, supporting rebels seeking to overthrow that government. And the US intention to maintain a continued presence minus any viable al-Qaeda threat in the country is completely illegal under both domestic and international law.

In short, the continued United States presence in Syria bears all the hallmarks of yet another US policy wrapped in top level ambiguity that is a failure even before it starts. Not only illegal, it is impractical, with 2,000 US advisers spread thin supporting Kurdish proxies who are already heavily engaged fighting the Turks. Eventually Washington will become weary of the effort and leave. May that day come soon.

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  • Manuel Flores Escobar

    The question is what will do SDF in east eufrates and FSA in Al Tanf…when ISIS have been eliminated?…to advance towards Damascus?…to take gas oil fields in Homs?…I dont think so….among others reason Russian forces are deployed near them…..the only reason is to provoke attacks vs SAA (Deir Ezzor) and wait a Syrian response…for example launching S-200 vs US jets..then USA would have the excuse to launch airstrike vs SAA in Damascus!…but I think if Syrian air defense receive new air defense systems and increase the number….can perfectly oppose such airstrikes!

    • I believe Putin will defend its Syrian ally in such a case. That much has he said, at least in regards to nuclear attacks against Russia’s allies.

      • George King

        I believe his statement included “conventional annihilation” threat as well.

  • Serious

    It’s easy. Americans are not enough in Syria. Some Kalibr missiles in precise locations and USA is doomed.

    Putin go if you have some nuts.

    • AM Hants

      Think he has been letting the US know that he is almost there, just this week.

      Wait till after the election, when he will be a lot more flexible.

  • Serious

    USA needs his sunni terrorist puppets. That’s the way USA invades countries. Sunnis are american best useful idiots.

    The second american useful idiots are the secular stupid human rights garbage that always talk about human rights but never when USA is involved. XD. So, when the american soldiers rape iraqi children, you never heard about these garbage human right activists.

    So, no wonder why “when the west goes, terrorism follows”. And expect nothing from USA and her followers unless shit.

  • Pave Way IV

    “…Eventually Washington will become weary of the effort and leave…”

    You’ve got to be kidding, Mr. Giraldi. Israeli-firster, dual-citizen Washington tired of protecting Israel? Nonsense. Money-grubbing psychopaths in Washington tired of being showered with bribes from the GCC? Preposterous. CENTCOM/SOCOM are the US Middle East branch of the ForeverWar® – there are no provisions for them to shut down, ever. If Mattis can’t have troops in Syria under command and control of the US military (Title 10 authorization), then they’ll rebrand those same troops as US Intelligence assets (Title 50 authorization). They got more loopholes then the US has laws, and they honestly believe God is on their side. Never question the resolve of a psychopath – they got more staying power than anyone can imagine because that’s who they are.

    US leaders will punish or kill every last man, woman and child in the Middle East until they submit to Israeli/GCC rule. Freedom on your knees for an eternity. I think they call it western democracy.

  • AM Hants

    I thought Trump campaigned to get out of Syria and focus on domestic policies. Then along came his good mate Murdoch, with interests in Genie Energy and the Golan Heights. His daughters playing with Ivanka and the kids, and Trump just could not resist keeping old Rupert happy.

    Why does Trump not believe that international and domestic law applies to him?

    No declaration of war.
    No UN authority.
    No invite from the sovereign Government of the democratic nation, to come and invade.

    Is it compulsary for US President to want to be recognised for their war crimes?

    • FlorianGeyer

      Recent US Presidents should also be charged with Crimes Against Stupidity.
      Or is that an Oxymoron ?

      Oh, I nearly forgot. Solomon Krupachek is now posting on the Al Masdar News site. :)

      • AM Hants

        Think they are all desperate to follow Boy George Bush, and just pick up the War Crimes Award. Clinton, Bush, Obama and now Trump. They must be so proud of themselves.

        • FlorianGeyer

          Sadly I think they are so deranged with the idea of US Exceptionalism that they are indeed ‘ proud’.
          That’s what makes them so dangerous of course.

      • EoF

        Solomon is still posting on southfront. As velociraptor.

      • AM Hants

        Thanks for the recommendation of the Al Masdar News Site. I have just been reading some seriously interesting comments, from an article on Fort Russ, that you were partaking in. Must admit, the comments were fantastic, seriously informative and well worth reading.

        This was the article and excuse the capitals, but, too lazy to type out the title, so just pasted it.

        TURKISH FORCES CAPTURED STRATEGIC RAJO TOWN FROM YPG IN AFRIN… https://southfront.org/turkish-forces-captured-strategic-rajo-town-from-ypg-in-afrin/

        • FlorianGeyer

          It is only in the last decade or so that opinions can be shared around the globe in seconds and without this exchange of information ,the US plans to further plunder the Middle East would have likely succeeded.

      • AM Hants

        Was Solomon Krupachek one of the SF trolls? Did he get banned? Will avoid Al Masdar News Site, if it is who I think it is.

      • velociraptor

        It is not my problem, that you can onanize only af you see me. :DDDD

      • goingbrokes

        Solomon’s still around, I can feel it! A sort of dinosaurian smell lingers about the place!

    • Serious

      Why ? Do you believe why Trump says ??? XD

      • AM Hants

        Easy, when he was campaigning and choice number 2 was Hilary. Would I now? Absolutely not.

    • Merijn

      Obama made a lot of promises…..and all the others before him too….the last one that seemed to be pretty honest got his brains blown out….. it’s just a choice that American Presidents have to make…..

      • Redadmiral

        “If”.
        These Presidents murder on average 10,000 men, women and children every week they remain in office. That is tens of thousands more times people than Ratko Mladic & his partner Radovan Karadzic, managed during the break up of Yugoslavia. And who orchestrated that? Again the main suspects are the usual criminals. Yanks, Brits, French and the Germans. If you have a couple of hours and have not already watched, “Weight of Chains”, it is time well spent.

        • Merijn

          Haven’t seen it yet, I will thanks. It’s this Worldwide Spiderweb they’ve created that is their protection. They all made themselves Inviolable….. but I see a little change appearing on the horizon….knowledge is power & time is on our side….Pandora’s Jar is opened….

        • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

          Toss Canada into that mix as they were the ones that created the safe haven which pawned Vukovic mass murderer Bosnian muslim and Croatian militia groups against all norms and protocols of UN peacekeeping.

  • Ariel Cohen

    There are Mexican “crime cartels” operating in Miami. By this insane reasoning Russia reserves the right to forcibly enter North East Florida and carve out a zone of influence … all to further the fight against terrorist cartels, of course . .

    • FlorianGeyer

      Forced Regime Change in the USA :)
      That’s a thought :)

      • Merijn

        If America & Europe stay on the same course…. The world should ignore these imperialistic Idiots…. and continue without them….that’ll work a lot better….and they can take their Israhell with’m…..

  • velociraptor

    Yanks last days intensiveli bomb SAA.

    this is the last report

    https://twitter.com/EuphratesPost/status/970076500149112832

    turky kill syrian troops in large-scale mode, in bulks.

    https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/turkey-kills-50-syrian-pro-govt-fighters-one-week/

    and russia does nothing :(

    ruskiefans, you can applause to pierrot pootin.

    • PZIVJ

      And what does Russia have to do with this?
      I think some of these NDF groups are just plain stupid.
      But smarter than a dinosaur. :D

      • velociraptor

        What does America, when someone attacks its ally? Do not make a stupid guy form yourself.

        These are no crazy ndf boys. In DEZ re troopes whch took several towns on the opposite side of Eufrates nearby DEZ city. Months ago. They do not attack anybody, SDF, kurds and yanks attack them.

        And in Afrin are troops sent by Assad.

        Russia is a sperm country. No friend, no allied. As teh sperm USSR was. I rememebr this and the !modern” russia is the ghost of ussr. same terribel behaviour. Ruskies begin a lot of thing, but never finish. This was in Cuba, in Nicaragua, in Chile, in several african states. And this do now in syria, in donbas.

  • Feudalism Victory

    Time to put up or shut up.

  • alejoeisabel

    ”The argument goes something like this: Congress has approved a bill that permits the US military to seek out and destroy al-Qaeda and associated groups wherever they may be. It is part of what is referred to as the Authorization to Use Military Force or AUMF. ”
    The US vassals create Al Qaeda, and US can invade any country (Syria) because Congress has authorized. Under international law only the UN Security Council can authorize military force. Again, the US is an international criminal.