President Trump Must Avoid a Frenzied Retreat From Syria That Would Get Christians Massacred

A young boy wounded by Turkish bombs in the last Turkish attack on Syrian Christians in Jan. 2018.

By John Zmirak Published on November 16, 2020

As President Trump battles to prove his allegations of election fraud, he is also struggling with internal resistance to his authority over the military. Trump wants to complete the U.S. pullout from the 20-year quagmire in Afghanistan. But his own subordinates are defying him. Is the same thing happening in Syria? Or are allies and paid representatives of the Islamist regime in Turkey muddying the waters? The Stream’s John Zmirak interviewed regional expert and advocate for religious freedom Johannes de Jong to get the real story.


John Zmirak: As President Trump battles an election millions of Americans believe was stolen, he’s also making some long-delayed foreign policy moves. It appears he will pull most U.S. troops out of the failed war in Afghanistan — as most of his supporters want. You’ve warned us that from the same impulse, he might pull U.S. advisors out of Syria. What would that do to the region?

Johannes de Jong

Johannes de Jong: It would be a total disaster for the Christians. Turkey would immediately attack that region and destroy all Christian communities there. We know that for sure. It happened every time that Turkey invaded parts of Syria, such as Afrin. Pictures of burning churches would hurt President Trump enormously at this very moment. So everyone would lose. Why would President Trump hurt himself and the people there by doing that? This situation is desperately urgent. Turkey is prepared to attack immediately.

Cutting and running now would destroy all President Trump has achieved in terms of defeating ISIS. Those terrorists are now trying again to make a comeback. Both Turkey and the Assad regime have given it a free pass in the region. Only the Syrian Democratic Forces are blocking ISIS. To maintain that, it is essential that a small U.S. force stays there for the time being.

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

How are the two conflicts, in Syria and Afghanistan, different?

Two words: success and failure. My friends who have a real and immediate knowledge of Afghanistan make it very clear. The U.S. presence there is a failure and delivers nothing. There is no community in Afghanistan that wants American protection, and no Christians are in peril. So why the U.S. is still in Afghanistan is unclear.

In North-East Syria, American policy is successful. There is a great partner there, the Syrian Democratic Forces. They only need a small U.S. presence. That blocks ISIS from coming back, protects the oil, and keeps the Christian community there safe. Unlike Afghanistan, the people in North-East Syria love the U.S. forces. That is why it makes sense to keep this small force there. Small costs, big gain.

So it would make sense to leave Afghanistan. But it only hurts President Trump and his legacy to leave North-East Syria.

The Deep State’s Still Trying to “Play” the President

A lot of us have read that Trump is angry that his previous Syria draw-down order was circumvented. That he is outraged at “insubordination” in the military and the State Department. Is this true, or fake news? If it’s fake, who’s spreading it?

James Jeffrey, the former U.S. State Department envoy for Syria spread that bogus story just before he left. Why? It is extremely clear that Jeffrey favors Turkey and hates the U.S. presence in North-East Syria. He has made it time and again clear to everyone that he is pro-Turkey.

President Trump is the first Western leader who won in Syria. Keeping a small U.S. force in place will make sure that he stays a winner.

So this is the story that Jeffrey sold to President Trump in order to help Turkey, and harm the people of North-East Syria who stood in the way of Jeffrey’s warped views. Jeffrey wanted the U.S. to support the so-called “rebels,” who are nothing less than Turkish-backed jihadists.

In February, Jeffrey wanted the U.S. to deploy Patriot missiles to protect these jihadists in Idlib. (I kid you not). Jeffrey wanted to bring back the Obama policy. He is very angry that Christians in the U.S. stood up to protect the churches and people of North-East Syria. If it is true that President Trump is angry, he should know that it is Jeffrey who’s trying to “play” him.

The reality is simple. North-East Syria needs just a small number of American forces at any given moment. There is some back and forth with rotation and supplies, but that is normal military logistics. Jeffrey manipulated the troop presence in favor of Turkey and against the people of North-East Syria. Why? Simply because he did not get his way on Syria policy. President Trump should ignore him. He should stick with a policy that has succeeded for him, and for the people of North-East Syria.

Abandoning Syrian Christians Would Unite Lindsey and Franklin Graham Against Trump

If Turkish-backed al Qaeda forces started a massacre of Christians and Kurds in Syria, would Trump’s Christian political base lose heart, even rebel — when he needs them most?

Well, in October 2019 we saw what happened. Erdogan blatantly ignored Trump and attacked North-East Syria. A lot of Christians and Christian leaders raised urgent questions to President Trump and protested against what was happening. Then he took action to stop Erdogan. I would think that President Trump can easily avoid such trouble now by simply not leaving North-East Syria. If he brings the troops home from Afghanistan, few Americans will object to that.

Why Follow Kamala Harris’s Policy Recommendation?

Kamala Harris has promised the Turkish-backed al Qaeda “rebels” that the U.S. will support them taking power over the whole of Syria. This old neocon plan was popular among establishment Republicans, too, such as John McCain. What would be the result, on the ground, if this happened?

A disaster for the U.S. and for the Christians of Syria.

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Would we see another cleansing of Syrian Christians, like the catastrophe suffered by Iraqi Christians under Bush and Obama? And in Afrin, when Turkey put al Qaeda in control of that region?

Absolutely. As I said, we have seen this happening all over until that failed policy ended. That is the policy that James Jeffrey wanted to repeat.


If Trump wins a second term when all legal votes have been counted, what would you advise him to do to protect religious freedom in the region?

You know what? Here is the interesting thing. He should just stick with the current policy, which is working. Perhaps leave fewer forces in Iraq, just a shadow force. The rest will play out very well as both Iran and Turkey will ultimately fail. The less you tinker with an effective policy, the more you win. President Trump is the first Western leader who won in Syria. Keeping a small U.S. force in place will make sure that he stays a winner.


Johannes de Jong is director of the Christian Political Foundation for Europe.

John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream, and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”

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