Syria pullout blowback: Netanyahu, Trump weigh in

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by WorldTribune Staff, December 24, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump followed through on one of his campaign promises when he announced on Dec. 19 that American troops would withdraw from Syria.

In short order Republican senators Lindsay Graham and Bob Corker called the decision a mistake, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he would resign and Brett McGurk, an Obama-era holdover who is U.S. envoy to the global coalition fighting Islamic State (ISIS), also announced his departure.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced his resignation one day after President Donald Trump said he would pull U.S. troops out of Syria. / Getty Images

In public resignation letter, Mattis said that Trump deserved a defense secretary whose views “are better aligned” with his and expressed concerns about the administration’s treatment of its allies.

Trump fired back, tweeting: “….We are substantially subsidizing the Militaries of many VERY rich countries all over the world, while at the same time these countries take total advantage of the U.S., and our TAXPAYERS, on Trade. General Mattis did not see this as a problem. I DO, and it is being fixed!”

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the U.S. withdrawal from Syria would not change Israel’s policy of not allowing Iran to establish a permanent military foothold in Syria.

McGurk, in his resignation letter, said that ISIS was not yet defeated and that the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria could allow them to regroup.

Trump tweeted: “For all of the sympathizers out there of Brett McGurk remember, he was the Obama appointee who was responsible for loading up airplanes with 1.8 Billion Dollars in CASH & sending it to Iran as part of the horrific Iran Nuclear Deal (now terminated) approved by Little Bob Corker.”

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told reporters the resignation of Mattis was an indication of “chaos” in the U.S. administration, while Nancy Pelosi, soon to be the House speaker, said she was “shaken” by Mattis’ resignation letter.

“You have great leaders who have left this administration in dismay,” Pelosi said at a press briefing. “Others have left in disgrace.”

Virginia Democrat Mark Warner, the Senate Intelligence Committee vice chairman, wrote on Twitter that “this is scary” and that “Mattis has been an island of stability amidst the chaos of the Trump administration.”

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida wrote on Twitter: “Just read Gen. Mattis resignation letter. It makes it abundantly clear that we are headed toward a series of grave policy errors which will endanger our nation, damage our alliances & empower our adversaries.”

Trump tweeted: “To those few Senators who think I don’t like or appreciate being allied with other countries, they are wrong, I DO. What I don’t like, however, is when many of these same countries take advantage of their friendship with the United States, both in Military Protection and Trade…”

Netanyahu on Dec. 23 said “The decision to withdraw 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria will not change our consistent policy. We will continue to act against Iran’s attempts to entrench itself militarily in Syria, and to the extent necessary, we will even expand our actions there.”

Netanyahu added that cooperation with the United States would remain in place, even with a U.S. pullout.

“Our cooperation with the U.S. will continue in full and finds expression in many areas: Operations, intelligence, and many other security spheres,” he said.

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