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Is Trump’s Decision to Reevaluate Troop Pullout in Syria Just an Image-Building Tactic?

Last updated on January 4th, 2019

President Trump does it yet again. Trump’s decision to reevaluate the pullout of US troops from Syria is the last flip flop of 2018 that must have elicited a collective sigh of relief from lawmakers in the country.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on Sunday spoke to the media, saying President Donald Trump has renewed his insight into war in Syria, and is likely to pause the withdrawal of American troops from the Syrian soil.

In an interview to CNN on Sunday, Graham, who had earlier lambasted the President’s Syria decision publicly, was seen speaking in a different tune. On being questioned whether Trump would be blamed if ISIS reemerged in Syria after the troop pullout, the Republican senator shifted the blame entirely to ex-President Barack Obama. The senator was direct in blaming Obama, stating the ex-President’s decision to withdraw from Iraq in 2011 led to the rise of ISIS.

“Everything we’re dealing with today falls on Obama’s watch. He’s the one who withdrew from Iraq,” Graham said.

CNN host Dana Bash retorted, “But he did it because there was a Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq, right?”

The Republican Senator refuted her strong statement, saying: “No, that’s a bunch of bullshit! Pardon my French. That’s a complete lie. That’s a complete, absolute lie.”

When Bash inquired if that didn’t happen, Graham was quick to point out that ISIS was the result of withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. “He (Trump) was dealt a bad hand by Obama and he needs to play it better than he’s playing it. Keeping the troops in Iraq is great,” Graham said, is what seemed like an attempt to build the President’s PR at the cost of Obama.

The desperateness was evident, when Graham said before meeting Trump, “Yeah, I’m going to ask the President to do something President Obama would never do: reconsider.”

Apparently, Trump’s unannounced visit to Iraq last week was an eye-opening experience that made him reevaluate his decision to withdraw troops in a hurry. Contrary to what Graham tried to portray on Sunday, the President spoke quite differently post the Iraq visit. After his return from the Iraqi war zone, Trump said, “They (top military officials) said again recently, ‘Could we have more time?’ I said, ‘Nope. You can’t have any more time. You’ve got enough time.’ We’ve knocked them (ISIS) out. We’ve knocked them silly.”

Notwithstanding Graham’s statement about the “pause” of troop withdrawal from Syria, things were not officially announced by the White House. To see Graham waxing eloquent about Trump’s willingness to listen to him doesn’t seem quite convincing, for the Senator himself was a ruthless critic of Trump’s plans to bring home US troops from Syria.

With Trump’s credibility as a matured leader of the state falling wayward rapidly, Senator Lindsey Graham’s statements seem more like a PR tactic to mend whatever damage the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis has done. This could make the President emerge as someone who “listens” to his advisors, rather than rebuffing their expert advices.

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