Small Wars Journal

With U.S. Leaving, Rival Powers Seek to Move Into Syria's East

With U.S. Leaving, Rival Powers Seek to Move Into Syria's East by Sarah El Deeb – AP

The planned U.S. troop withdrawal opens up a void in the north and east of Syria, and the conflicts and rivalries among all the powers in the Middle East are converging to fill it.

The American decision to pull out its 2,000 troops has forced a reassessment of old alliances and partnerships. The Syrian government, the Kurds, Russia, Iran, Israel and Turkey have all had a hand in the country's nearly eight-year war — each in a way, fighting its own war for its own reasons within Syria. Now all of those conflicts play out in the territory being abandoned by the Americans, creating new tensions, potential chaos and bloodshed.

To reassure jittery allies, Washington sent national security adviser John Bolton to Israel on Sunday, where he said U.S. troops will not leave northeastern Syria until IS militants are defeated and American-allied Kurdish fighters are protected. The comments put the brakes on a withdrawal abruptly announced last month and initially expected to be completed within weeks. The announcement upset regional allies and Pentagon officials who disagreed with the assessment that IS was defeated…

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