President Trump came into office harshly critical of endless wars in the Middle East, but seems to be staring down the barrel of another such conflict in Syria. This reflects the Pentagon’s determination to stay in the country, and the administration’s ambitious goals not being really attainable.
The US wants an “enduring defeat of ISIS,” as ever, but has also tacked onto that a full withdrawal of all Iran-backed forces from the “entirety of Syria,” along with an irreversible political process that officials have maintained can’t involve Assad or other top Syrian officials.
So in addition to wanting ISIS defeated, the US wants to ensure they never come back. Meanwhile, they want not only Iran ousted, but all Shi’ite militias in Syria. On top of that, they also want regime change, even though the rebels are all but wiped out.
US officials are comfortably comparing this to decades of war in northern Iraq, which saw the US propping up an autonomous Kurdish region only to watch it get hammered in the past year by the Iraqi military.
This may end up being a model for Syria as well, where the US is supporting the Kurdish YPG in expanding its control over much of eastern Syria, while insisting that the US opposes the idea of a heavily autonomous Kurdish region in favor of a strong centralized government.