Russia Strikes Deal Between Kurds/Assad

In the end, the Kurds cut a deal with the devil himself—Syrian President Bashar al-Assad—to save themselves. Russia brokered the deal between the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian government that would allow the Syrian army to deploy with the SDF along the border against Turkish aggression. In a statement on its Facebook page, the SDF said, “In order to prevent and confront this aggression, an agreement has been reached with the Syrian government… so that the Syrian army can deploy along the Syrian-Turkish border to assist the (Kurdish-led) Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

U.S. forces, meanwhile, appear to be making a full military withdrawal from Syria. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said that President Trump had ordered troops to pull out “as safely and quickly as possible.” Esper also said that “We have American forces likely caught between two opposing advancing armies and it’s a very untenable situation.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Some commentators believe Trump’s decision has sounded the death knell of U.S. foreign policy in the region. U.S. troops, who sixteen years ago invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein, are leaving the region while Russian reach and influence in the Middle East is all but cemented. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Syrian troops began moving into Kurdish-held territory last week, putting them on course to battle against Turkey and its regional allies. Multiple flashpoints emerged in northeast Syria last week as the fighting increased. Syrian rebels loyal to Turkey launched an assault against the Kurdish-held city of Manbij while not far away American armored vehicles were stationed on a bridge. Pockets of U.S. troops were apparently still on the ground in the region. Further east, the Syrian army reached the town of Tal Tamr, while Turkish fighters and their allies continued their attacks on two Kurdish strongholds, Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

The U.S.-led coalition later confirmed that it had withdrawn all troops from Manbij, now occupied by Syrian army troops. Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Russia’s special envoy on Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, said Russia would not allow clashes between Syrian and Turkish forces. “The safety of the border between Turkey and Syria must be provided for through deployment of government forces along its full length,” he said, after the Syrian army took control of Manbij. Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Russian military units began patrolling territory separating Turkish-backed Syrian rebels from the Syrian army around Manbij, identifying Russia as the new power broker in the region. The Syrian government flag was raised over the town for the first time in six years. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

The U.K., meanwhile, suspended the granting of arms export licenses to Turkey for weapons that might be used during military operations in Syria. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Spain and other major powers also banned arms exports to Turkey. Spain’s foreign ministry said, “Turkey’s legitimate security concerns must be addressed and resolved by political and diplomatic means, not by military actions.” Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Trump, defending his decision to withdraw troops from Syria, tweeted “Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

However, Trump eventually came around and spoke directly with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to demand an immediate cease fire. Trump revealed that vice-president Mike Pence would soon be travelling to the Middle East. Pence later said, “The United States of America did not give a green light for Turkey to invade Syria.” Trump also said that he was re-imposing a 50% tariff on Turkish steel. Trump used a similar move last year to secure the freedom of American pastor Andrew Brunson. The move then triggered a 30% decrease in the value of the Turkish lira. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Trump announced sanctions aimed at Turkey’s economy and called upon Turkey to implement a cease fire immediately. Reported by Associated Press. Read more…

Trump also sent a personal letter to Erdogan, warning him “Don’t be a tough guy” and “Don’t be a fool!” In the letter Trump implored Erdogan “Let’s work out a good deal!” and “You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy – and I will.” Reported by Reuters. Read more…

According to reports, Erdogan threw the letter in the trash. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

The Turkish president has also said that he can no longer keep track of Trump’s Twitter posts. “When we take a look at Mr. Trump’s Twitter posts, we can no longer follow them. We cannot keep track,” Erdogan told Turkish journalists. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Erdogan also reportedly ruled out talks with Kurdish forces in his phone conversation with Trump. Erdogan told reporters later that he was not concerned about sanctions Washington had imposed and that “They say ‘declare a ceasefire’. We will never declare a ceasefire.” Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Although Erdogan had stated he would not meet with a U.S. delegation, his office later clarified that Erdogan would meet with a delegation led by vice-president Pence. Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Meanwhile, the president’s decision to pull out of Syria sparked a firestorm on the home front, which led to Democratic leaders walking out of a meeting at the White House. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer stated they walked out of the meeting after Trump reportedly called Pelosi a “third-rate politician” or “third-grade politician” and suggested that the Democrats probably appreciated communist ISIS terrorists in the Middle East. Trump, for his part, claims it was the Democratic delegation that had a melt down over his Middle East policy. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham continued his criticism of Trump, after Trump responded to the senator’s earlier criticism of Trump’s foreign policy by saying Graham would want the U.S. to stay in the Middle East for a “thousand years.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Shockingly, Trump later said, “The PKK, which is a part of the Kurds, as you know, is probably worse at terror and more of a terrorist threat in many ways than ISIS.” His comment drew a sharp rebuke from former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice who tweeted, “This is among the most dishonest, craven statements ever from Trump — to justify his total sell-out to ISIS, Putin, Assad and Erdogan … We need to find out WHY? What did Trump get in exchange for sacrificing our national security???” Reported by Fox News. Read more…