Former US Envoy To Syria Admits Misleading Trump To Keep Troops In Syria

By Brandon Turbeville

In a recent interview with DC-based al-Monitor, former U.S. envoy to Syria, James Jeffrey, revealed what many of us already knew and had been writing about long ago. Namely, that American foreign policy is not directed by the President, but by the military industrial complex and the Deep State itself.

In the interview, Jeffrey, who is supposed to work at the behest of the President, stated that he and his team misled the Trump administration during the course of the war in terms of which direction their “strategy” should take.

One revelation was that, while the Trump administration already viewed Iranian influence in Syria as a problem, Jeffrey and his team convinced the administration that there was no way to deal with ISIS (Trump’s main goal in Syria) without first dealing with Iran. In other words, the Deep State of which Jeffrey was a mouthpiece directed the president to engage in hostility towards Iran under the guise of providing “stability” to the region and “defeating ISIS.”

Nonsensical as the argument may sound to readers of my articles, it apparently worked on the President of the United States.

In the interview, Jeffrey stated,

The Syria strategy was a stepchild since the Obama administration.

The Trump administration saw one of the major flaws in the Obama administration: that it treated Iran as a nuclear weapons problem a la North Korea. They saw Iran as a threat to the regional order. So they wanted a Syria policy building on the bits and pieces of the Obama policy. So the Trump administration came up with that policy in 2017.

Secretary Pompeo and I convinced people in the administration of this: If you don’t deal with the underlying problem of Iran in Syria, you’re not going to deal in an enduring way with IS. We saw this all as one thing.

We then also had the Israeli air campaign. The US only began supporting that when I came on board. I went out there and we saw Prime Minister Netanyahu and others, and they thought that they were not being supported enough by the US military, and not by intelligence. And there was a big battle within the US government, and we won the battle.

The argument [against supporting Israel’s campaign] was, again, this obsession with the counterterrorism mission. People didn’t want to screw with it, either by worrying about Turkey or diverting resources to allow the Israelis to muck around in Syria, as maybe that will lead to some blowback to our forces. It hasn’t.

Basically, first and foremost is denial of the [Assad regime] getting military victory. But because Turkey was so important and we couldn’t do this strategy without Turkey, that brought up the problem of the Turkish gripes in northeast Syria. So my job was to coordinate all of that.

So you throw all those together — the anti-chemical weapons mission, our military presence, the Turkish military presence, and the Israeli dominance in the air — and you have a pretty effective military pillar of your military, diplomatic and isolation three pillars.

So that was how we put together an integrated Syria policy that nestled under the overall Iran policy. The result has been relative success because we — with a lot of help from the Turks in particular — have managed to stabilize the situation.

The only change on the ground to the benefit of Assad has been southern Idlib in two and a half years of attacks. They are highly unlikely to continue, given the strength of the Turkish army there and the magnitude of the defeat of the Syrian army by the Turks back in March.

And of course, we’ve ratcheted up the isolation and sanctions pressure on Assad, we’ve held the line on no reconstruction assistance, and the country’s desperate for it. You see what’s happened to the Syrian pound, you see what’s happened to the entire economy. So, it’s been a very effective strategy.

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But Jeffrey alludes to more than simply manipulating the President when he mentions the strategy of supporting Israeli airstrikes inside Syria.

The strategy being implemented by the Western establishment (here, specifically Turkey and Israel) is identical to the one proposed by the Brookings Institution in its document “Middle East Memo #21: Saving Syria: Assessing Options For Regime Change,” where it says,

Turkey’s participation would be vital for success, and Washington would have to encourage the Turks to play a more helpful role than they have so far. While Ankara has lost all patience with Damascus, it has taken few concrete steps that would increase the pressure on Asad (and thereby antagonize Tehran). Turkish policy toward the Syrian opposition has actually worked at cross-purposes with American efforts to foster a broad, unified national organization. With an eye to its own domestic Kurdish dilemmas, Ankara has frustrated efforts to integrate the Syrian Kurds into a broader opposition framework. In addition, it has overtly favored the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood over all other opposition groups. Washington must impress upon Turkey the need to be more accommodating of legitimate Kurdish political and cultural demands in a post-Asad Syria, and to be less insistent on the primacy of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Some voices in Washington and Jerusalem are exploring whether Israel could contribute to coercing Syrian elites to remove Asad. The Israelis have the region’s most formidable military, impressive intelligence services, and keen interests in Syria. In addition, Israel’s intelligence services have a strong knowledge of Syria, as well as assets within the Syrian regime that could be used to subvert the regime’s power base and press for Asad’s removal. Israel could posture forces on or near the Golan Heights and, in so doing, might divert regime forces from suppressing the opposition. This posture may conjure fears in the Asad regime of a multi-front war, particularly if Turkey is willing to do the same on its border and if the Syrian opposition is being fed a steady diet of arms and training. Such a mobilization could perhaps persuade Syria’s military leadership to oust Asad in order to preserve itself. Advocates argue this additional pressure could tip the balance against Asad inside Syria, if other forces were aligned properly.

While Syria is not in conflict with Iraq today, after being destroyed by the United States in 2003, Western Iraq now houses the mysteriously-funded Islamic State on the border between Iraq and Syria.

That being said, this plan is not merely being discussed, it is being implemented as one can clearly see by the fact that Israel routinely launches airstrikes against the Syrian military, Turkey continues to funnel ISIS and related terrorists into Syria through its own territory and has launched an invasion in the northern region of Idlib, and ISIS and the Kurds continue to present itself as an Eastern front militarily. As a result, the “multi-front” war envisioned and written about by the CIA in 1983 and discussed by Brookings in 2012 has come to fruition and is in full swing today.

Documents contained in the U.S. National Archives and drawn up by the CIA reveal a plan to destroy the Syrian government going back decades. One such document entitled, “Bringing Real Muscle To Bear In Syria,” written by CIA officer Graham Fuller, is particularly illuminating.

The author presents a plan that sounds eerily similar to those being discussed publicly by Western and specifically American corporate-financier think tanks and private non-governmental organizations like Brookings who unofficially craft American policy. Fuller writes,

The US should consider sharply escalating the pressures against Assad [Sr.] through covertly orchestrating simultaneous military threats against Syria from three border states hostile to Syria: Iraq, Israel and Turkey. Iraq, perceived to be increasingly desperate in the Gulf war, would undertake limited military (air) operations against Syria with the sole goal of opening the pipeline. Although opening war on a second front against Syria poses considerable risk to Iraq, Syria would also face a two-front war since it is already heavily engaged in the Bekaa, on the Golan and in maintaining control over a hostile and restive population inside Syria.

Israel would simultaneously raise tensions along Syria’s Lebanon front without actually going to war. Turkey, angered by Syrian support to Armenian terrorism, to Iraqi Kurds on Turkey’s Kurdish border areas and to Turkish terrorists operating out of northern Syria, has often considered launching unilateral military operations against terrorist camps in northern Syria. Virtually all Arab states would have sympathy for Iraq.

Faced with three belligerent fronts, Assad would probably be forced to abandon his policy of closure of the pipeline. Such a concession would relieve the economic pressure on Iraq, and perhaps force Iran to reconsider bringing the war to an end. It would be a sharpening blow to Syria’s prestige and could effect the equation of forces in Lebanon.

Thus, Fuller outlines that not only would Syria be forced to reopen the pipeline of interest at the time, but that it would be a regional shockwave effecting the makeup of forces in and around Lebanon, weakening the prestige of the Syrian state and, presumably, the psychological state of the Syrian President and the Syrian people, as well as a message to Iran.

The document continues,

Such a threat must be primarily military in nature. At present there are three relatively hostile elements around Syria’s borders: Israel, Iraq and Turkey. Consideration must be given to orchestrating a credible military threat against Syria in order to induce at least some moderate change in its policies.

This paper proposes serious examination of the use of all three states – acting independently – to exert the necessary threat. Use of any one state in isolation cannot create such a credible threat.

Back to 2020, after several announcements of troop withdrawal from Syria by the Trump administration, through the course of the interview Jeffrey admits (if one is capable of reading nuance) that his team did not follow the President’s orders to withdraw in Syria and that they continually used any rationale they could in order to convince him to keep troops there, sometimes changing that rationale at will. They didn’t want to lose what Jeffrey calls “the gift that keeps on giving.”

Jeffrey stated,

The president was uncomfortable with our presence in Syria. He was very uncomfortable with what he saw as endless wars. This is something he should not be criticized for. We took down the [IS] caliphate, and then we stayed on. Trump kept asking, “Why do we have troops there?” And we didn’t give him the right answer.

If somebody had said, “It’s all about the Iranians,” it might have worked. But the people whose job it was to tell why the troops are there was DOD. And they just gave the [Congressional] Authorization of Use of Military Force: “We’re there to fight terrorists.”

The reason that Trump pulled the troops out was I think because he was just tired of us having come up with all these explanations for why we’re in there. There was an implicit promise to him, ‘Hey boss, nothing’s going to go wrong, we’re working with the Turks, we’re working with the Russians.’ And then he gets these disasters.

I didn’t brief the president on it. Pompeo did, and made arguments along those lines, focused on Iran. But Trump was uncomfortable about those forces, and he trusted Erdogan. Erdogan would keep making these cases about the PKK, and the president would ask people, and they would have to be honest and ‘fess up. Of course, it’s more complicated than that. Wars are complicated.

The president was briefed, but he also listens to Erdogan. Erdogan is pretty persuasive.

We at the State Department never provided any troop numbers to the president. That’s not our job. We didn’t try to deceive him. He kept on publicly saying numbers that were way below what the actual numbers were, so in talking to the media and talking to Congress, we had to be very careful and dodge around. Furthermore, the numbers were funny. Do you count the allies that didn’t want to be identified in there? Do you count the al-Tanf garrison? Do you count the Bradley unit that was going in and out?

We were gun shy because the president had three times given the order to withdraw. It was a constant pressuring and threatening to pull the troops out of Syria. We felt very vulnerable and may have been a little bit punch drunk on fear because it made so much sense to us. I understand his concerns about Afghanistan. But the Syria mission is the gift that keeps on giving. We and the SDF are still the dominant force in [northeast] Syria.

But while Jeffrey attempts to put a lot of the blame on Secretary of State Pompeo, a committed Deep State representative in his own right, the truth is that Jeffrey already admitted to misleading the President. Take a look at the Defense One article, “Outgoing Syria Envoy Admits Hiding US Troop Numbers; Praises Trump’s Mideast Record.” Katie Bo Williams writes,

Four years after signing the now-infamous “Never Trump” letter condemning then-presidential candidate Donald Trump as a danger to America, retiring diplomat Jim Jeffrey is recommending that the incoming Biden administration stick with Trump’s foreign policy in the Middle East.

But even as he praises the president’s support of what he describes as a successful “realpolitik” approach to the region, he acknowledges that his team routinely misled senior leaders about troop levels in Syria.

“We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there,” Jeffrey said in an interview. The actual number of troops in northeast Syria is “a lot more than” the roughly two hundred troops Trump initially agreed to leave there in 2019.

Once again, Trump has ordered the removal of a specific number of troops from Syria and, once again, we can only speculate as to whether or not those troops are actually leaving the country, particularly with the fate of the presidency at home in question. With four announcements of troop withdrawals by the President and virtually nothing happening, it is scarcely able to be denied that someone other than the President controls foreign policy and what actually takes place in the U.S. military.

Brandon Turbeville writes for Activist Post – article archive here – He is the author of seven books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 and volume 2, The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria, The Difference it Makes: 36 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Be President, and Resisting The Empire: The Plan To Destroy Syria And How The Future Of The World Depends On The Outcome. Turbeville has published over 1500 articles on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, civil liberties and, most notably, geopolitics and the Syrian crisis. His most recent release is a book of poetry, Dance, Amputee. Brandon Turbeville’s radio show Truth on The Tracks can be found at UCYTV. His website is He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) He is from Columbia, SC.

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Image: The Anti-Media

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