10/08/2019 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – The White House announced late Sunday night that the US will be pulled out from Northern Syria after fighting ISIS alongside Kurdish forces in the area. The move comes following a conversation between President Trump and President Erdogan and will essentially greenlight a Turkish invasion of Northeastern Syria.
Reports show that the Turks have already begun shelling one town which is predominantly Christian. It used to have 5 churches, 1 monastery, 3 mosques, and a population of mostly Assyrian Christians. While the US has been engaged in the region since the Obama Administration, President Trump took to Twitter defending his decision as limiting endless wars and stating that ISIS has been defeated and the problem now resides with the regional powers involved being Turkey, Europe, Russia and etc.
The decision was labeled as impulsive by some Members of Congress and was reportedly a move that blindsided the Pentagon and military leadership.
While the geopolitical implications of this major policy shift are yet to be seen, the situation for the Christian communities in the region is likely to grow more dangerous. The Turkish military has already moved to eradicate a Christian village (with a sizeable Christian population), which was condemned by the US, but with the current withdrawal of US presence from the region Christians communities may yet again be in danger of being removed and displaced.
Turkey has ramped up Anti-Christian maneuvers in the last years and continues to target the communities and Christians within the country through intensified monitoring and spy campaigns. The growing eradication of Christianity in Turkish and domestic policy is a clear indicator of the radical trends within the geopolitical domain of Turkey and is only intensified by the US withdrawal that brought a significant counterbalance to such policy.
It would be in the interest of the Trump Administration and the US government in general to maintain a presence in the region to ensure stability. Without US presence the region risks descending into further turmoil and instability. The likelihood of ISIS, or something similar, returning also comes back to the policy calculation.
Domestically, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is already moving forward with bipartisan legislation to counter President Trump’s moves in Syria. He publicly rebuked the president’s moves as impulsive almost immediately after learning of the decision.
While Trump’s calculus to remove U.S. presence from the region may be multifaceted, it is likely mostly guided by campaign promises to end foreign wars and limit U.S. engagement globally. While this may be the case, Christians on the ground will more than likely feel the brutal effect of this policy maneuver.
Matias Perttula currently serves as the Advocacy Director for International Christian Concern where he leads the government relations efforts to mobilize the US government to address issues of persecution in countries where religious minorities are oppressed and the freedom of religion is in decline.