I’ve been known to have differences with Scott Horton, the great writer and lawyer, but I have huge respect for his intellect and insights. (Note: I still think he’s wrong about fifty percent of the time, but then so am I.)
Yesterday Scott posted a very insightful piece on Facebook about President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, and I called him today and talked to him about the topic. I’m going to share his post and his thoughts here, it’s the best possible explanation — and Scott emphasized that he’s speculating — for Trump’s surprising decision, which greatly pleased Vladimir Putin.
Let me first start by saying that I think Trump was right to withdraw troops from Syria. U.S. involvement there has been a disaster and whatever noble sentiment there may have been initially — and there was none on the part of the Obama administration, but some people I know were moved by the suffering of the Syrian people and believed, incredibly stupidly based on history, that U.S. intervention could bring about positive change — the U.S.became allied with jihadists and Syria is never going to be “fixed” by the United States.
Bashar al-Assad is a thug but there are plenty of thuggish leaders in the world — Donald Trump, I see you. Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gaddafi were also thugs but U.S. intervention to overthrow then made their countries worse. If the Syrian people overthrow Assad and replace him with someone better, I’ll be first to salute them. But I don’t want U.S. soldiers fighting and dying in Syria, where Russia already has longstanding influence.
So I think Trump did the right thing, though what’s curious is that he did it without extracting anything in return, as Scott noted when we spoke. So that raises eyebrows, for certain.
In any case, Scott suspects that Trump’s decision may stem from his desire to please Turkey’s leader, the pretty awful Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was definitely happy with the move. Furthermore, he specifically suspects the decision was made in part to further Trump’s dream of building Trump Tower Istanbul.
The planned project “is set to become the newest landmark in the historic city of Istanbul,” says The Trump Organization’s website, “With two towers rising in Mecidiyekoy, one of the city’s most vibrant areas, the property will capture the utmost in luxury.”
In any case, here’s what Scott posted on Facebook:
“I have a conflict of interest when it comes to Turkey,” Donald J. Trump told Steve Bannon in a 2015 interview posted here at Breitbart News (note: So you know he’s being honest.] “I have a little conflict of interest ’cause I have a major, major building in Istanbul,” Trump said. “It’s a tremendously successful job. It’s called Trump Towers—two towers, instead of one, not the usual one, it’s two.”
As he explained, any decisions he took about Turkey would also involve his concern for his massive investment there. Turkey’s dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan knows this and he’s used it to needle Trump time and again, launching bogus criminal proceedings targeting the family who manage Trump’s Istanbul towers for him.
And now we see that Trump has folded and given or tried to give Erdoğan what he wanted three times, and Michael Flynn was involved each time: First, pressing the FBI to clear Erdoğan’s domestic enemy Gülen for extradition, which is one of the first things he did after becoming president.
Second, putting on hold a major clean-up operation that the Pentagon was running against ISIS in north Syria because, as Gen Flynn is reported to have told him, “Erdoğan would be unhappy.”
Third, today’s decision to withdraw and cede the field in north Syria to Erdoğan and his forces, a decision that perfectly matches the Russian-Turkish peace initiative which focused on the US simply leaving as the Russians and Turks expanded their influence over different parts of the country.
What is Trump getting for all this? Count on it that Trump personally is getting something, not the United States. And keep in mind what Trump told Bannon, because most likely it has to do with that enormous investment he made in Istanbul.
During our phone conversation, Scott noted that Erdoğan’s government has thrown money at at least six people close to Trump, including his attorney, the repellent and unctuous Rudy Giuliani, and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. [Note: Flynn cuts a lot of corners and is always hungry to cash in he is, in my view, a political target of the hideous Robert Swan Mueller III’s RussiaGate witch hunt].
Scott noted that Erdoğan has been playing games with Trump and his Turkish business partner, Aydın Doğan. The Turkish leader has suggested that Doğan, a real estate magnate, was involved in a curious July 15, 2016 coup against Erdoğan, which the latter used to consolidate power.
And here’s what is even more curious. On the very night of the attempted coup, Flynn — then candidate Trump’s top military advisor — gave a speech endorsing it, saying that the Turkish leader was being taken down by the U.S. military and that his removal would ensure that Turkey became a secular pro-U.S. ally.
Within a few months, Flynn was on the Turkish payroll, and he became very, very pro-Erdoğan. A coincidence, no doubt, or perhaps it’s because Trump and his entourage have no core beliefs or ideology, they are mostly interested in cash.
In any event, Trump’s unexpected move in Syria most definitely scored him points with Erdoğan, which could be helpful down the road with his Turkish real estate interests.
Again, Scott says he is in part speculating, but I don’t think you’ll find smarter speculation anywhere.