In mid January, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson unveiled the administration’s new policy with concern to Syria. In a widely covered speech at Stanford, Tillerson declared an open-ended commitment of US forces in that country. “Let us be clear,” said Tillerson, “the United States will maintain a military presence in Syria, focused on ensuring ISIS cannot re-emerge.” Asking the American people for “patience,” Tillerson also signaled a long-term commitment to regime change. While acknowledging that “some Americans are skeptical of continued involvement in Syria,” Tillerson claimed it is “vital for the U.S. to remain engaged” in Syria.
Wisconsin Democrat Mark Pocan told The Nation on Tuesday that Tillerson’s statement “flies in the face of the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973. Congress has never authorized force against Syrian, Turkish, Yemeni Houthi, Russian, Iranian, or North Korean forces. Yet, reportedly, a secret administration memo may claim the legal justification to do just that: attack Syrian, North Korean, and other forces without any congressional authorization”
And as The Washington Post reported last week, “the U.S. military is now committed to a potentially indefinite presence in Syria that is opposed by all of the main players in the country.”
Currently there are, in the absence of congressional authorization and in violation of international law (since the United States was not attacked by Syria, nor are US troops there at the invitation of the sovereign Syrian government), an estimated 2,000 American troops based in Syria. Given this, it was odd, though hardly surprising, when major US media outlets like CNN carried the news that American occupying troops were acting “defensively” last week when the United States launched a series of strikes against regime forces, killing over 100 Syrian soldiers, in retaliation for an attack on a headquarters of US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces in Khusham. Reports emerged this week that perhaps dozens, if not hundreds, of Russian mercenaries were also killed in the US attack.
For their part, the Israelis, in response to the breach of its airspace by an unarmed Iranian drone, brought the entire region into a hairsbreadth of full-out war when it launched a series of air strikes against Syria forces over the weekend. The founder of the Islamist terror group al-Nusra praised the Israeli strikes, tweeting that his group welcomes “any Israeli aerial or naval bombardment against the [Syrian] regime and Iran in Syria. We urge them to do more.”