US President Donald Trump’s sudden decision to withdraw troops from Syria has sown a whirlwind of chaos cutting a swath across the Middle East, Europe, NATO and at home in the US.
Conceived in the heat of the impeachment inquiry moving into his inner circle and the heightened confrontation with the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, Trump’s abrupt action has far-reaching consequences around the world that he probably had not foreseen as he sought to end the US involvement in the eight-year Syrian civil war.
But Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives said on Wednesday that Trump was having a “meltdown” after she and other Congressional leaders of the Democratic Party walked out of a meeting with him on Syria when he heaped personal insults on them.
Turkey is a member of the NATO making it a military ally of the US and several Western European countries, but it has had a difficult relationship with all of them.
Loosening its ties to the alliance, Ankara opted to buy the Russian $-400 missile defence system angering Washington, which refused to sell it the advanced F-35 jetfighters.
The House adopted a bi-partisan resolution on Wednesday condemning the troop withdrawal and demanding that Turkey end its invasion of the Kurdish-held areas in Syria.
As a humanitarian crisis arises with as many as 100,000 Kurds uprooted from their homes and a terrorist threat looms from the breakout by thousands of IS jihadis detained by the Kurdish forces, international concern grows.
The Security Council “expressed deep concerns over the risks of the dispersion of terrorists from UN-designated groups, including ISIL, and over the risk of a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation”, its President Jerry Matthews Matjila said.
While the Council did not call for a Turkish withdrawal, most members individually or in groups have called for a ceasefire.
Trump has dispatched Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on a fire-fighting mission to Turkey, where they are expected to meet with Erdogan on Thursday.
Trump has threatened to “swiftly destroy” Turkey’s economy if it persisted with the invasion and attacks on Kurds and imposed sanctions on some Turkish officials involved in the invasion.
But Erdogan is undeterred as he has a powerful weapon to threaten Europe: His country is host to millions of refugees whom it has restricted from going to Europe under a deal with the European Union after over a million of them flooded Europe in 2015.
He recently threatened to send 3.6 million refugees into Europe if the European nations acted against him.
The main consequence of the Turkish invasion is a redrawing of the geopolitical map of the region, with the Kurds turning to Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies for help and those two moving into areas held by Kurds and abandoned by the US.
Turkey wants to project itself as a strong nation ready to lead the Islamic world.
A major worry for other countries is that Kurds are abandoning their posts to fight the Turkish incursion allowing the thousands of IS prisoners — many from European countries — they had detained while defeating the IS in the territories that they had captured during the Syrian civil war to escape.
Unable to keep his major election pledge to bring back the 14,000 troops in Afghanistan after the negotiations with the Taliban faltered, Trump symbolically targeted the small deployment.
The European and other US allies — or critics of the US pullout — are unwilling to replace the American troops in Syria with their own.
Erdogan is using the US withdrawal to settle scores with the Syrian Kurds, whom he has accused of collaborating with their Turkish compatriots fighting Turkey.
In fact, the roots of the Syrian crisis can be traced to the Iraq War when then-President George W Bush with the support of Democratic Party stalwarts like Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton tried a regime change under the pretense of going after weapons of mass destruction that did not exist.