A US soldier sits atop an armoured vehicle during a demonstration by Syrian Kurds against Turkish threats next to a base for the US-led international coalition on the outskirts of Ras al-Ain town in Syria
A US soldier sits atop an armoured vehicle during a demonstration by Syrian Kurds against Turkish threats next to a base for the US-led international coalition on the outskirts of Ras al-Ain town in Syria's Hasakeh province near the Turkish border on October 6, 2019. - US forces in Syria started pulling back today from Turkish border areas, opening the way for Ankara's threatened military invasion and heightening fears of a jihadist resurgence. (Photo by Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP) (Photo by DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
Now playing
02:55
Why US troops are leaving northern Syria
Now playing
02:23
Tropical activity poses threat in Southern Hemisphere
PHOTO: Indonesia Search and Rescue Agency
Now playing
02:09
Woman who is trapped underneath earthquake's rubble captured on video
Barrie
Barrie's aunt speaks about how the police brought her the news about the death of her nephew Ibrahima.
PHOTO: VTM
Now playing
01:26
Aunt of Black man who died after arrest in Belgium: We want justice
screengrab US social media
screengrab US social media
PHOTO: Getty Images
Now playing
04:35
Tech companies ban Trump, but not other problematic leaders
Now playing
01:23
Rejected Tintin cover breaks world record for comic book art
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13:  Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) presides over the vote to impeach U.S. President Donald Trump for the second time in little over a year in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. The House voted to impeach Trump on the charge of "incitement of insurrection," 232-197 after a mob of his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol where Congress was working to certify the Electoral College victory of President-elect Joe Biden on January 6. 10 Republicans voted to impeach. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) presides over the vote to impeach U.S. President Donald Trump for the second time in little over a year in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. The House voted to impeach Trump on the charge of "incitement of insurrection," 232-197 after a mob of his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol where Congress was working to certify the Electoral College victory of President-elect Joe Biden on January 6. 10 Republicans voted to impeach. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Now playing
02:35
How the world is reacting to Trump's second impeachment
Indonesia sriwijay air crash search for victims wang pkg intl hnk vpx_00000920.png
Indonesia sriwijay air crash search for victims wang pkg intl hnk vpx_00000920.png
Now playing
02:21
Family members wait in anguish as search for crash victims continues
africa china coronavirus vaccine diplomacy lu stout pkg vpx _00025522.png
africa china coronavirus vaccine diplomacy lu stout pkg vpx _00025522.png
PHOTO: CCTV
Now playing
03:09
How China is hoping to use its vaccine as a diplomatic tool
PHOTO: CIRO FUSCO/AFP/ANSA/AFP via Getty Images
Now playing
00:38
Huge sinkhole appears in Italian hospital parking lot
TOPSHOT - Rescue workers carry recovered debris at the port in Jakarta on January 10, 2021, during the search operation for Sriwijaya Air flight SJY182 which crashed after takeoff from Jakarta on January 9. (Photo by Dany Krisnadhi / AFP) (Photo by DANY KRISNADHI/AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Rescue workers carry recovered debris at the port in Jakarta on January 10, 2021, during the search operation for Sriwijaya Air flight SJY182 which crashed after takeoff from Jakarta on January 9. (Photo by Dany Krisnadhi / AFP) (Photo by DANY KRISNADHI/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Dany Krisnadhi/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
02:16
Indonesian jetliner crashes after taking off from Jakarta
 HONG KONG PRO DEMOCRACY ACTIVIST VENTUS LAU BEING ESCORTED BY POLICE.
HONG KONG PRO DEMOCRACY ACTIVIST VENTUS LAU BEING ESCORTED BY POLICE.
PHOTO: VENTUS LAU FACEBOOK PAGE/Reuters
Now playing
03:15
See Hong Kong police arrest former pro-democracy lawmakers
Tensions between the United States and Iran are likely to further escalate once again after Tehran seized a South Korean-flagged chemical tanker in the Persian Gulf, according to semi-official Iranian news agencies, and announced it had resumed enriching uranium to 20% purity, far beyond the limits laid out in the 2015 nuclear deal. President Donald Trump walked away from the agreement in 2018. CNN
Tensions between the United States and Iran are likely to further escalate once again after Tehran seized a South Korean-flagged chemical tanker in the Persian Gulf, according to semi-official Iranian news agencies, and announced it had resumed enriching uranium to 20% purity, far beyond the limits laid out in the 2015 nuclear deal. President Donald Trump walked away from the agreement in 2018. CNN's Paula Hancocks reports.
PHOTO: YJC
Now playing
02:37
Footage shows chemical tanker seized by Iranian forces
A European health worker prepares a shot of the coronavirus vaccine.
A European health worker prepares a shot of the coronavirus vaccine.
PHOTO: Reuters
Now playing
02:14
Frustration in Europe over pace of coronavirus vaccine rollout
Jack Ma, the co-chair of the UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, founder of Alibaba Group, attends the Bund Summit in Shanghai. He says that the essence of finance is credit management. We must change the pawnshop idea of Finance and rely on the credit system. Shanghai, China, 24 October 2020.

Jack Ma, the co-chair of the UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, founder of Alibaba Group, attended the Bund Summit in Shanghai. He says that the essence of finance is credit management. We must change the pawnshop idea of Finance and rely on the credit system.No Use China. No Use France.
Jack Ma, the co-chair of the UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, founder of Alibaba Group, attends the Bund Summit in Shanghai. He says that the essence of finance is credit management. We must change the pawnshop idea of Finance and rely on the credit system. Shanghai, China, 24 October 2020. Jack Ma, the co-chair of the UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, founder of Alibaba Group, attended the Bund Summit in Shanghai. He says that the essence of finance is credit management. We must change the pawnshop idea of Finance and rely on the credit system.No Use China. No Use France.
PHOTO: Zhao Yun/Oriental Image/Reuters
Now playing
03:05
Chinese tech tycoon has not been seen in months
(CNN) —  

President Trump has clearly been itching to leave Syria for months, once dubbing it nothing but “sand and death.” As Trump himself was at pains to point out, he was elected on a promise to get out of “these ridiculous endless wars.”

But the speed of his decision to withdraw US forces from northern Syria threatens to wreck almost every goal the US has in the Middle East just now.

Firstly, the sudden withdrawal of US forces – designed to leave their erstwhile allies the Syrian Kurds as exposed to a Turkish advance as possible – comes just as a regrouping by ISIS was taking shape.

ISIS was founded in a vacuum – the turmoil of Syria’s civil war – and in a vacuum it will return.

Trump on Monday claimed US credit for the “capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate.” But as the Syrian Kurds rush north to tackle a vastly better-equipped Turkish army, so ISIS will be left to reestablish itself in the “sand” Trump balked at – the expanses of unruly Syrian desert.

Trump’s fast-hatched deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan nominally attributes responsibility for ISIS fighters to Turkey. But it does not explain how these dangerous militants, of multiple nationalities, will be transferred from deep inside the Kurdish enclave, into Turkish hands, without Turkish forces surging far further towards the Iraqi border than planned.

The sheer logistics of handing over thousands of terrorists in the middle of a warzone beggars belief.

Trump and Erdogan had a Sunday phone call where they discussed Turkey
Trump and Erdogan had a Sunday phone call where they discussed Turkey's military operation into northern Syria.
PHOTO: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Of particular concern is the fate of the al-Hol camp, a facility for displaced ISIS members where, according to reports, radicalized women have begun to dispense their own form of justice to moderates.

The Syrian Kurds are already struggling to contain tens of thousands of survivors of the ISIS “caliphate” – women and children whose experience will have perhaps understandably left them enraged. When the Kurds are busy defending their homes and long-fought-for homeland from the advancing army of a NATO member, policing these two holding facilities will be close to the last priority.

Related: Everything you need to know about Trump’s plan to pull back from Syria

A gift

Secondly, Trump’s decision will be a gift to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Before joining the US coalition against ISIS, the Syrian Kurds have long had an easy accommodation with Damascus. As Trump has long telegraphed his desire to leave the region, they presumably have regime officials in Damascus on speed-dial, knowing this moment would someday come.

Indeed, US officials have recently noticed Russian-backed patrols around Manbij, a city to the west, perhaps testing the waters.

The Syrian regime has long sought to recapture Deir Ezzor, a former ISIS bastion in northeast Syria held by Kurdish-led forces. The departure of US forces, and the concurrent loss of essential air cover they provided, will leave Damascus and Moscow with a gentle choice between striking a political deal with the Syrian Kurds, or just wearing them down with military pressure until they fall in the face of superior Russian firepower.

Of particular concern is the fate of the al-Hol camp, a facility for displaced ISIS members.
Of particular concern is the fate of the al-Hol camp, a facility for displaced ISIS members.
PHOTO: CNN

Thirdly, Iran will also benefit.

The tiny US presence in northern Syria, and the aerial surveillance that came with it, acted as a block to one of Tehran’s most useful acquisitions in past years – an almost clear run of friendly territory from its borders to its allies in Lebanon.

That gap will now fill with Iranian backed militia, friendly Syrian regime forces, and Russian mercenaries. This outcome may not have occurred to Trump in his late-night chat with Erdogan, but it may be the longer term consequence of his decision.

At some point, US troops would have left the region anyway, and the Syrian Kurds would have then been forced to have accepted a smaller chunk of northeastern Syria – probably reaching some sort of accommodation with its hostile neighbors.

But Trump’s abrupt lurch results in an immediate threat for Israel, a key US ally, by opening up that route from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Tehran’s proxies in Lebanon. That may well come back to bite.

A blank check

Fourth, Turkey is obviously pleased as punch. But Erdogan was surely not that high on Trump’s Christmas card list? Ankara had just mobilized the Russian-supplied S400 missile system, causing it to be kicked out of NATO’s much vaunted F35 stealth fighter program.

Erdogan’s authoritarian instincts mean he increasingly fails to resemble a natural US ally or a NATO member.

Yet the White House released a statement that, on the surface, grants him a blank check to invade his neighbor, while chastising the UK, France and Germany for not repatriating their ISIS nationals held in Syrian Kurdish custody.

Yet this may be a limited gift to Erdogan. At best he now faces a long war of attrition along his southern border with a very disciplined and committed Syrian Kurdish force, steeled from years of urban warfare with ISIS.

If the red line on a map of Syria that Erdogan held aloft at the UNGA reflects accurately his ambitions, he has now pledged to take the majority of the Syrian Kurds population centers. That spells months of agonizing urban warfare.

Fifth, hopes for an eventual peace in Syria also take a severe knock. However unsustainable and stretched the US presence was in northern Syria, it had its fingers in the leaky damn.

The Syrian Kurds and the Turkish army would not fight with the Americans in the midst. ISIS could not really regroup or make another land grab with US planes and drones buzzing above. Moscow and Damascus had limited options too.

An officer from the US-led coalition stands alongside Kurdish fighters from the People
An officer from the US-led coalition stands alongside Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG).
PHOTO: DELIL SOULEIMAN

It even made the eventual bloody march of Russian-backed regime forces into Idlib province – currently held by rebels and extremists backed by Turkey – less likely, as Ankara was firmly focused on stopping that from happening.

Trump seemed sensitive to the criticism of his announcement, including a scorching broadside from Sen. Lindsay Graham, usually a reliable ally.

“If Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey,” Trump tweeted. But there was no sign of him backing down.

What comes next is unclear, but undoubtedly it will be bloodier and more chaotic. It provides succor for Moscow, Damascus, Tehran, and even ISIS. And it mocks the allegiances made with those who suffered most in defeating ISIS – the Syrian Kurds – and even explicitly mocks the US’s closest allies in that fight – the UK, France, and Germany.

Amid Trump’s other woes, it is a calamity serving as a convenient distraction. Yet it sows such discord, it risks perhaps overshadowing even them.