JERUSALEM – On Monday President Donald Trump extended his original timetable to pull U.S. troops out of Syria from 30 days to four months. Still, many fear the withdrawal may not only upset the Middle East balance of power but also abandons key allies, the Syrian Kurds.
U.S. boots may remain on the ground a bit longer in Syria but President Trump’s surprise announcement pushed other countries to act.
Turkey bolstered its border with military equipment while Syria positioned troops and weapons outside the Kurdish held city of Manjib. Both countries feel threatened by the Kurds. Although the group voted for an independent state in 2017, most countries have refused to recognize it.
CBN News has learned the Kurdish group allied with the U.S. is under pressure from Russia to strike a deal within days. This Kurdish official fears what might happen after a pullout.
“The geo-political rivalry between Iran and Turkey with the help of Russia obviously probably will empower the Assad regime or it’s going to be Iran who’s going to really benefit and also puts security risks for Israel as well,” said Awat Mustafa, the director of public relations for the Barzani Charitable Trust Foundation.
That potential led to a New Years Day meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The pullout raises a number of dangerous scenarios. Turkey may follow through on threats to attack the Kurds. Russia could try to take the rich oil fields in northeastern Syria and the Iranians still want a straight line route through Syria to the Mediterranean.
“From the Israeli perspective, the major concern is Iran. Iran is likely to misread President Trump and misread America and think that America’s leaving because it was defeated and now they can go in and take over Syria,” said Dore Gold, former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations.
Gold says nations like Iran believe their historic empires allow them to conquer faraway lands. In this case, Iran claims Syria as its 35th Province.
“Therefore the strength of America even in a little corner of Syria is pivotal to prevent a deterioration in the Middle East,” the former ambassador continued.
Earlier, Senator Lindsey Graham met with President Trump and said the president understood the number of complicated issues surrounding the pullout.
“You’ve got the Kurds that we need to be concerned about. They stepped up when nobody else would. And he’s very aware of that problem,” said Graham (R-SC).
In addition to the Kurds, retired general Jerry Boykin tells CBN News the U.S. pullout threatens thousands of Christians in the region.
“They’ve all congregated there so there could be a Christian and Kurdish genocide if we don’t leave measures in place to protect them,” Boykin explained.
It’s becoming clear that crucial decisions over the next few weeks will likely affect the fate of these Christians and even the future of the Middle East.