U.S. engagement in Syria has only grown since the Trump Administration came to Washington D.C. And while war hawks are buzzing about further military engagement, there’s one major detractor, Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis.
Foreign Policy reported on Friday that a pair of Trump administration officials are pushing the President to engage in Syria as a way to counter Iran. Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director of intelligence on the National Security Council (NSC) and Derek Harvey, a top Middle East advisor.
They want to begin offensive strikes against Assad in Southern Syria as a proxy war against Iran.
A huge opponent of their proposal is ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, who is by no means dovish on military engagement.
Mattis has led the charge against at least two of their proposals. Top military commanders, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Joseph Dunford and U.S. diplomats including Brett McGurk who oversees the anti-ISIS coalition, have also been unanimously opposed to further offensive engagements in Syria. Many fear that an attack against Assad’s troops could endanger U.S. troops in Iraq.
They also believe attention should be maintained on destroying ISIS and driving them from their last few strongholds including the city of Raqqa.
Even hawks are unsure of a proxy war against Iran in Syria given that there seems to be no end game, as has been the case for many of the U.S.’ foreign policy adventures over the last decade.
This division between the White House’s extremely hawkish NSC and the Pentagon which has at least a few generals wary on further military conflict appears to have been escalating since H.R. McMaster took over for Gen. Michael Flynn. Aside from Syria, NSC officials are also pushing President Trump to get further involved in the Yemeni civil war, which has become a proxy war for Saudi Arabia and Iran.
According to The New York Times, Cohen-Watnick reportedly told White House officials that he hopes to use American spies to help topple the Iranian government. The 30-year old is a controversial figure. He was selected by Flynn and McMaster have tried to move him into a different position in the NSC, but the move was opposed by Jared Kushner.
The situation in Syria has only grown more intense over the weekend after the U.S. military downed one of Assad’s warplanes that dropped bombs near rebel ground troops supported by the U.S. In retaliation, Russia announced it would suspend all cooperation with the U.S. to avoid airborne incidents over the war-torn country.
While Trump campaigned against the idea of getting the U.S. involved in additional military conflicts, his personnel is guiding his policy and it seems at least a few people in the White House want to see America at war.