January 19, 2019

Turkish leader blasts United States on bid to shield Syrian Kurds

11 January 2019, 05:56 | Darnell Patrick

Trump Backtracks on Syria Withdrawal For the Sake of the Kurds: New at Reason - Hit & Run :

Pompeo Visits Middle East to Increase Pressure on Iran

A much-anticipated contact between senior Turkish and American officials took place in Ankara on January 8 in which Washington's abrupt decision to withdraw troops from Syria and its potential aftereffects have been discussed.

Turkey could still enter Syria to quash Kurdish militants even if the United States delays its withdrawal from the area, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday, accusing U.S. officials of coming up with "excuses" to stay in the war-torn country's northeast and stymie President Donald Trump's plans to pull USA troops out.

In Jerusalem on Monday, Bolton listed pre-withdrawal "objectives" - including the final defeat of Islamic State and protection of Kurdish allies - that went well beyond Trump's simple assertion that USA forces were heading home from Syria. Though orders have been given to the United States military to begin preparing for withdrawal, troops will carry out operations against the militant group as they leave.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit to the Middle East this month to soothe nervous allies highlights a problem that has dogged the U.S. State Department since President Donald Trump took office two years ago: empty posts and depleted ranks.

"I am confident we will continue to ensure that the kind of rise ISIS had under the Obama administration doesn't occur again", Pompeo said. He was criticized by conservatives for placing too much blame on the USA for strife in the region.

Trump has not said, however, that he intends to withdraw American forces from Iraq, where 5,200 American troops are stationed.

The vacancies are especially problematic as the Trump administration continues to send contradictory messages about its policies toward friends and foes in the region.

The secretary began his address in Cairo by blasting the Obama administration for "falsely seeing ourselves as a force for what ails the Middle East".

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Bolton traveled to Ankara this week to hammer out a plan to coordinate the pullout, but Erdogan, angry over Bolton's comments that the withdrawal had conditions that safeguard the Kurds, refused to meet him and instead took potshots at Trump's adviser during a speech to his party. But thousands returned to help the Baghdad government fight Islamic State, after the jihadist group seized swaths of the country in 2013 and 2014.

A survey published by the Israel Democracy Institute Thursday found that almost two-thirds of Israelis believe the USA withdrawal from Syria will "damage Israeli security interests". He cited accomplishments under Trump's leadership - including the pushback of Islamic State, the withdrawal of more troops and personnel from Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and building a coalition to push back against Iranian influence.

"It's a bipartisan failure", said Mark Dubowitz, the chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a hawkish Washington-based think tank.

Mr Pompeo was speaking in Cairo three weeks after President Donald Trump said U.S. troops were pulling out of Syria.

"Despite the fact that we reached a clear agreement with Mr. Trump, different voices have been raised from different echelons of the United States administration", Erdogan said during a speech on Tuesday, adding that he could soon hold another phone call with the American president.

Identifying as an evangelical Christian, Pompeo lauded the UAE's recognition of Israel at a judo competition late last year, a move he said had been two years in the making. "And when we partner with our enemies, they advance", he said.

If the United States plans on making a withdrawal conditional on Turkish guarantees of safety for the YPG in Syria, one of two things will happen. "You will see in the coming days and weeks that we are doubling not only our diplomatic but our commercial efforts to put real pressure on Iran to achieve what it is we set out for them back in May".

If Bolton is serious about protecting the Kurds, and if he's speaking for President Trump, we won't be withdrawing from Syria in the foreseeable future.

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