Christopher Dickey Calls Trump ‘Delusional’ on Syria Withdrawal

A convoy of U.S. armored military vehicles leave Syria on a road to Iraq on Oct. 19 in Sheikhan, Iraq. Refugees have fled from the Turkish incursion in Syria into Northern Iraq since the conflict began, with many saying they paid to be smuggled through the Syrian border. Photo: Byron Smith/Getty Images

by Chad Bouchard

OPC Second Vice President Christopher Dickey has blasted President Donald Trump’s decision to green-light a massive Turkish incursion, which he wrote would “open the way to ethnic cleansing,” calling it a betrayal of the Kurds who led the fight against ISIS.

“His bluffing and bullying could not compensate for his ignorance addressing an extremely delicate situation, which is why he reversed course so many times, and continues to do so,” Dickey said in an emailed newsletter with a roundup of coverage of the topic.

Dickey is foreign editor for The Daily Beast and a contributor to NBC and MSNBC, based in Paris.

On Oct. 18, he discussed Turkey’s campaign against the Kurds during a remote interview from Paris with Brian Williams on the MSNBC show The 11th Hour, telling the host that the move would embolden escaped ISIS terrorists to target Europe, which Trump dismissed as a problem for Europeans and not the U.S. Dickey said Europeans responded to the decision with consternation, regarding it as “yet another example of what has been seen for a long time as the insanity of the American president.”

Dickey reported that France was trying to negotiate with Iraq to take French ISIS prisoners out of Syria and put them in Iraq. He reacted to Trump’s statement to press that the Kurds were “incredibly happy with this solution” that it “saved their lives,” and calling it a “tough love approach.”

“He’s delusional,” Dickey said, adding that in 2014 when ISIS was rolling into Iraq, Syria and up to the Turkish border “the only fighters who stood in its way, who held their ground against all odds, were exactly the same Kurds that Trump just betrayed.”

Dickey wrote about several knock-on effects from the U.S. withdrawal in a series of pieces written for The Daily Beast, some of which were co-authored with colleagues.

He and national security correspondent Spencer Ackerman wrote about how Kurds were forced to turn to Russia for protection from Turkish forces, as Bashar al-Assad’s troops returned to northeastern Syria for the first time in seven years. The piece quoted an op-ed in Foreign Policy from the Kurdish commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces, who said they would have to make “painful compromises” working with Moscow or Bashar, “but if we have to choose between compromises and the genocide of our people, we will surely choose life for our people.”

The writers outlined how Trump had signaled in 2018 that the administration opposed open-ended U.S. presence in Syria, but the State Department and Pentagon were unwilling to face up to a final withdrawal and convinced the Kurds not to plan for an American exit. With fair warning, Russia and Syria might have been able to head off the campaign of unfettered violence Turkey has waged in the vacuum.

Dickey and Ackerman wrote another piece on Oct. 14 examining how the U.S. withdrawal diverted surveillance resources away from ISIS and onto its own troops near the Iraqi and Jordanian border. Lack of monitoring of ISIS movements, and a lack of viable partner on the ground, meant that “the basic prerequisites for mitigating any ISIS revival in Syria are gone. Many observers now expect ISIS to reconstitute itself in some form.”

Dickey wrote a longform piece on Oct. 18 with the descriptive headline “The Kurds Gave Their Lives to Defeat the Islamic State. Trump Just Pissed It All Away.” In the piece, which chronicles many milestones of the Kurdish campaign against ISIS since the fall of Mosul in 2014, he calls the recent troop withdrawal “the most disastrous foreign-policy debacle of his presidency,” adding that Trump’s comments about the situation appear to spit on the graves of former Kurdish allies, including dismissive playground references. “They’ve got a lot of sand over there. So, there’s a lot of sand that they can play with. Let them fight their own wars,” Trump stated in a press conference.

Dickey recounted the president’s conflicting statements about the Kurds, who at some points blamed “those he betrayed as if they were servants who failed him,” and at other times claiming credit for Kurdish successes, such as a statement to congressional leaders on Oct. 16 in which he declared “I captured ISIS.”

“Trump didn’t do any capturing in fact,” Dickey wrote. “The Kurds did that.”

Christopher Dickey is the foreign editor of The Daily Beast, based in Paris. Previously he was the Paris bureau chief for The Daily Beast and for Newsweek Magazine. He is the author of five nonfiction books and two novels. With the Contras (1986), Summer of Deliverance: A Memoir of Father and Son (1998); and Securing the City (2009) were chosen by The New York Times as notable books of the year when they were published.