This is the story of how the Islamic State could make its comeback.
For weeks now, Iraq has been rocked by anti-government protests and violent crackdowns. Its prime minister, a U.S. ally, may resign. And now America’s local partners in Syria, the Kurds—who have done more than anyone to roll back ISIS there at the expense of thousands of lives—have been left on their own to face a potential invasion by their powerful, NATO-allied arch-nemesis, Turkey.
In a sequence of events we have seen before, President Donald Trump abruptly announced a major decision on Syria after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. This time, he said U.S. troops would withdraw from positions in northeastern Syria, exposing their partners in the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) by allowing Erdoğan to launch a long-wished-for invasion into their territory. (Erdoğan aims to remove the Kurds from their strongholds near the Turkish border because he regards them as terrorists.) Trump’s move sparked a bipartisan backlash in Congress today, prompting him to vow on Twitter that he would use his “great and unmatched wisdom” to ensure that Turkey didn’t do anything “off limits.” But the SDF was still bracing for a potential invasion and already warning that the sudden Turkish threat would undermine its counter-ISIS operations. It’s a recipe for chaos—and ISIS, which has always taken a long-term view of its struggle with America and its allies, couldn’t have written the script for its second act any better itself.