Trump defends decision to abandon Kurdish allies in Syria   

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Trump defends decision to abandon Kurdish allies in SyriaPresident Donald Trump on Monday cast his decision to abandon Kurdish fighters in Syria as fulfilling a campaign promise to withdraw from "endless war" in the Middle East, even as Republican critics and others said he was sacrificing a U.S. ally and undermining American credibility. Trump declared U.S. troops would step aside for an expected Turkish attack on the Kurds, who have fought alongside Americans for years, but he then threatened to destroy the Turks' economy if they went too far. It was the latest example of Trump's approach to foreign policy that critics condemn as impulsive, that he sometimes reverses and that frequently is untethered to the advice of his national security aides.



          

Trump Sows Turkey Chaos as U.S. Denies Endorsing Syria Incursion   

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Trump Sows Turkey Chaos as U.S. Denies Endorsing Syria Incursion(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump hasn’t endorsed a Turkish incursion into Syria, a senior administration official said, deepening confusion around his policy after an uproar from Republicans that he planned to abandon U.S. Kurdish allies.The official said Trump has cautioned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he will bear responsibility for Islamic State prisoners in the region, as well as a resurgence of violence if the militants are freed and any harm to civilians in areas Turkey occupies.The official briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.Trump later suggested his move to clear the way for a Turkish invasion was intended in part to pressure European countries including France and Germany that, he said, have refused to accept the return of citizens who joined Islamic State.Trump said at a meeting with military leaders that he had urged U.S. allies to reclaim their citizens, but they had refused.“We’re not going to move the fighters to Guantanamo Bay and take care of them for many, many years into the future, that’s not for us,” he said. “Now it’s time for Germany and France and all of the nations where they came from to take them back and they chose no. Maybe they’re going to change their tune now, I don’t know.”Trump has come under criticism from allies including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and his former United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, for his announcement late Sunday that the U.S. wouldn’t stand in the way of the Turkish incursion.The White House statement was read around the world as Trump abandoning U.S. policy that Kurdish allies would be protected from Turkish aggression in exchange for their help in defeating Islamic State.Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is among the top Democratic contenders to challenge Trump’s re-election in 2020, said in a statement that “once again, an impulsive and erratic president has abandoned friends of the United States with a late-night tweet.”American officials didn’t immediately explain the president’s change in position on Syria. Trump’s order to remove about 50 U.S. troops from a Syria border region Turkey intends to invade doesn’t represent a green light for the incursion, the U.S. official said. The official added that Trump had discussed the decision with officials at the State Department and Pentagon before the White House announcement, and that the agencies should not have been surprised.The U.S. had successfully dissuaded Turkey from an invasion for two years, but if Erdogan orders an operation, the U.S. doesn’t want its soldiers endangered or caught in the crossfire, the official said.I’ve told President Erdogan, I hope he’s going to treat everybody with great respect,” Trump said at the meeting with military leaders. Earlier, he told reporters at the White House: “I have consulted with everybody.”“I fully understand both sides of it but I campaigned on the fact I was going to bring our soldiers home,” he said.The administration official did not say that any U.S. soldiers would be brought home as a result of the withdrawal. The troops moved from the border region, mostly special forces soldiers, would be re-positioned at different U.S. bases in Syria, the official said.(Updates with more Trump remarks, beginning in fourth paragraph)To contact the reporters on this story: Josh Wingrove in Washington at jwingrove4@bloomberg.net;Justin Sink in Washington at jsink1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, John HarneyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



          

GOP Senators Unnerved and ‘Concerned’ About ‘Betrayal’ of Kurds in Syria   

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GOP Senators Unnerved and ‘Concerned’ About ‘Betrayal’ of Kurds in SyriaBRENDAN SMIALOWSKIPresident Donald Trump’s decision to pave the way for a Turkish invasion of northern Syria at the expense of Kurdish allies in the region has infuriated Republican allies in the Senate who have spent the last two weeks twisting themselves in knots to defend him from an impeachment inquiry. Late on Sunday, the White House released a one-paragraph statement declaring that a Turkish invasion of northern Syria was imminent, and the United States would “not support or be involved in the operation” and “will no longer be in the immediate area.” For Kurds in the region—who have been fighting ISIS with U.S.-supplied weapons and are largely considered the strongest fighting force in Syria—the declaration amounts to an abrogration of agreements with the United States to defend them against Turkey, which considers them to be terrorists. In June, Trump himself warned that abandoning the alliance would allow Turkey to “wipe out the Kurds, who helped us with ISIS.”Trump’s Crazy Syria Move Will Wipe Out America’s Allies and Set Up a Big ISIS ComebackThe backlash from his Republican allies was swift.  Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), led the way on Monday morning, with the South Carolina senator calling the move “shortsighted and irresponsible” on Fox & Friends, a show that effectively serves as a televised presidential daily brief for Trump.“This impulsive decision by the president has undone all the gains we’ve made, thrown the region into further chaos, Iran is licking their chops, and if I’m an ISIS fighter, I’ve got a second lease on life,” Graham said. “I will do everything I can to sanction Turkey’s military and their economy if they step one foot into Syria. I hope I’m making myself clear how shortsighted and irresponsible this decision is.”Graham even referenced the House’s impeachment inquiry, unprompted, before adding that while “I’ve tried to help him,” the president’s behavior was “just unnerving to its core.”Graham, who has spent years trying to steer Trump closer to the hawkish foreign policy stances held by his Republican predecessors, opened the floodgates for Republicans who see Trump’s move as a threat to a critical U.S. ally in the region, and a potentially disastrous embrace of an autocratic regime.Indeed, Monday saw widespread pushback from around the Senate GOP, from lawmakers who’ve cozied up to Trump to those who have been more willing to call him out. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a Trump ally who has nudged him toward more hawkish positions on Venezuela and Iran policy, called the decision “a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria.” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said that he was “deeply concerned” that the decision could leave Kurds who risked their lives to fight ISIS in harm’s way.And Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), probably Trump’s most vocal Senate GOP critic, characterized the pullout as “a betrayal” that “presages another humanitarian disaster” in Syria. Romney went so far as to join Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) to demand that administration officials explain their move to lawmakers and the public. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), meanwhile, has toned down his Trump criticism lately but warned that the retreat would “likely result in the slaughter of allies who fought with us, including women and children.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) managed to subtweet the president, calling Trump’s move “a terribly unwise decision” moments after the president described his wisdom on the matter as “great and unmatched.”Even Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a rare rebuke of the president whom he has pledged to protect from removal from office, pleaded with Trump to maintain an American presence in the region and to prevent Turkey from invading.“I urge the president to exercise American leadership to keep together our multinational coalition to defeat ISIS and prevent significant conflict between our NATO ally Turkey and our local Syrian counterterrorism partners,” McConnell said in a statement. Major new conflict between Turkey and our partners in Syria, McConnell said, “would seriously risk damaging Turkey’s ties to the United States and causing greater isolation for Turkey on the world stage.”Among Trump’s allies seeking to thread the needle between opposing the withdrawal and ensuring that the president didn’t feel attacked was Sen. Ted Cruz, who tweeted that while Trump was “right to want to bring our soldiers home,” it would be “DISGRACEFUL” (capital letters Cruz’s) to allow Turkey to attack Kurdish allies in the region.“Our enemies and rivals (Iran, Russia, etc.) don’t abandon their allies,” Cruz said. “If we want allies to stand with America in the future, we shouldn’t either. Honorable nations stand by their friends.”Seemingly alone among Senate Republicans in supporting the withdrawal was Sen. Rand Paul, who is perhaps the biggest cheerleader of Trump’s isolationist instincts. The Kentucky senator told reporters that he stands with Trump “as he once again fulfills his promises to stop our endless wars and have a true America First foreign policy.”Other Senate Republicans have remained tight-lipped on the president’s decision, perhaps praying that Trump will reverse course on the withdrawal—as he did in December 2018, after sharp rebukes from within the party and the resignation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis halted a hastily announced drawdown of U.S. troops from Syria.Asked during an event celebrating a trade agreement with Japan on Monday afternoon about whether he had consulted with the Joint Chiefs of Staff about the decision, Trump insisted that he had.“I consulted with everybody,” Trump said.Additional reporting: Sam Brodey Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



          

US withdrawal from Syria leaves fate of Isis fighters and families in detention uncertain   

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US withdrawal from Syria leaves fate of Isis fighters and families in detention uncertainTrump’s latest move has officials scrambling to understand the implications as Turkish forces gather near the Syrian borderTurkish fighters gather near the north-east Syrian border in preparation of a widely-anticipated invasion. Photograph: Nazeer Al-Khatib/AFP via Getty ImagesKurdish forces in Syria have said the fate of tens of thousands of suspected Islamic State fighters and their families is uncertain, after US forces began a sudden withdrawal from the country, abandoning their former ally on the eve of a widely-anticipated Turkish invasion.The effects of the shock retreat continued to reverberate through the region on Monday as Turkish forces massed near the border with the Kurdish stronghold of north-eastern Syria.The looming offensive– which was green-lighted by Donald Trump in a phone call to Recep Tayyip Erdogan late on Sunday – came as a surprise to US officials and allies, who were scrambling to understand the implications. There was a furious backlash in Congress, including from some of Trump’s closest allies, who accused the president of betraying the Kurds.The decision represents the latest in a series of erratic moves by Trump, who is fighting impeachment at home, apparently taken without consultation with, or knowledge of, US diplomats dealing with Syria, or the UK and France, the US’s main international partners in the country.A White House statement on Sunday night after his conversation with his Turkish counterpart said that: “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into northern Syria”, adding that US forces were being removed from the area.The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Monday its US partners had already begun withdrawing troops from areas along Turkey’s border. Footage aired on Kurdish news agency Hawar purportedly showed US armoured vehicles evacuating key positions in the border region.The SDF spokesman, Mustafa Bali, accused the US of leaving the area to “turn into a war zone”, adding that the SDF would “defend north-east Syria at all costs”.But on Monday the Pentagon, which has been cooperating with Turkey along the Syrian border, issued a statement saying: “The department of defence made clear to Turkey – as did the president – that we do not endorse a Turkish operation in northern Syria. The US armed forces will not support or be involved in any such operation.”State department officials also sought to minimize the announcement, telling reporters that only about two dozen American troops would be removed from the Turkey-Syria border, and suggesting that Turkey might not go through with a large-scale invasion.In the face of fierce criticism from both political rivals and allies in Congress, Trump took to Twitter to try to defend the move and threaten Turkey.“I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” he said.“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, 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 (I’ve done before!),” he said.It was unclear however, what was “off limits”.In earlier tweets, Trump had appeared unsentimental about the Kurds, noting that they had been paid “massive amounts of money and equipment” in the four year campaign, when they were used as the main US proxy to fight Isis in Syria.But the issue of Isis foreign fighters, most of them European, has clearly preoccupied the US president.Both Trump and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have repeatedly called on European states to repatriate around 20,000 foreign nationals currently held in north-east Syria for trial and rehabilitation at home.Trump argued it was up to Turkey and Europe and others, “to watch over the captured Isis fighters and families”.An SDF spokesman, Amjed Osman, said on Monday it was not clear what would happen to the prisoners. “We repeatedly called for foreign states to take responsibility for their Isis nationals. But there was no response,” he said in a statement. It is far from clear if Turkey has the capacity – or desire – to take custody of the detainees being held in crowded Kurdish jails and displacement camps, stretching the SDF to its limits and prompting warnings that militants are using the prisons to regroup.Some 74,000 women and children of the caliphate are held at the infamous Hawl camp, where they are guarded by just 400 SDF soldiers. But the camp, a hotbed of violence and extremist ideology, falls outside the parameters of the 32km-deep safe zone on the Turkish-Syrian border that Erdogan has said his forces would establish.Aid agencies warned that an offensive could displace hundreds of thousands of people, and create a new humanitarian disaster.Save the Children said that more than 9,000 children from 40 countries were being held in camps and depended on humanitarian aid to survive.“Reports of imminent military operations and troops already sent to the border are deeply troubling. The international community, including the UK, should take urgent steps to do what’s best for these children and bring them to their home countries before access becomes even more unpredictable,” the group said.The Guardian understands that the SAS and French special forces present in Rojava would be tasked with securing the camp perimeters if the Kurds withdrew. However, with only several hundred troops between them, their numbers would need to be quickly boosted by regular soldiers to avoid a catastrophic collapse in security.In Washington, the move was condemned by allies and opponents of the president. House speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said the move “poses a dire threat to regional security and stability, and sends a dangerous message to Iran and Russia, as well as our allies, that the United States is no longer a trusted partner”.Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said: “A precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime. And it would increase the risk that Isis and other terrorist groups regroup.”Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch Trump loyalist on most issues, said he would call for Turkey’s suspension from NATO and introduce sanctions against Ankara if the Turks attack Kurdish forces.“This decision to abandon our Kurdish allies and turn Syria over to Russia, Iran, & Turkey will put every radical Islamist on steroids. Shot in the arm to the bad guys. Devastating for the good guys,” Graham wrote in a tweet.During the campaign against Isis, the SDF did the bulk of the ground fighting to defeat Isis in Syria, losing 11,000 troops in the grinding battle. The senior ranks of the organisation are dominated by members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought a four-decade guerilla war against the Turkish government.Ankara has long complained that, while fighting Isis, PKK forces were also waging war in Turkey.



          

Donald Trump allies turn on president over 'betrayal' of Kurdish allies in Syria   

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Donald Trump allies turn on president over 'betrayal' of Kurdish allies in SyriaDonald Trump's allies have turned on the president after he took the decision to green-light an offensive by Turkish on its Kurdish allies in Syria. President Trump apparently made the decision without consultation from his own advisers or intelligence services, who warned that it could prove to be one of the most reckless decisions of his presidency. Mr Trump appeared focused on making good on his political pledges to bring home American troops from “ridiculous endless wars”, even at the risk of sending a troubling signal to American allies abroad. Key Republican leaders in Congress appeared taken aback by the move, which they called a “betrayal” that could stain the US’s name. "I want to make sure we keep our word for those who fight with us and help us," Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader, said, adding that, "If you make a commitment and somebody is fighting with you. America should keep their word." Mr Trump defended his decision in a series of breathless tweets, writing: “I was elected on getting out of these ridiculous endless wars, where our great Military functions as a policing operation to the benefit of people who don’t even like the USA (sic).” Senator Lindsey Graham, a top Republican ally of Mr Trump, said Congress could impose economic sanctions on Turkey and threaten its Nato membership if Ankara invaded Syria. A female fighter of the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) flashes the victory gesture while celebrating near the Omar oil field in the eastern Syrian Deir Ezzor province on March 23, 2019, after announcing the total elimination of the Islamic State (IS) group's last bastion in eastern Syria. Credit: AFP Mr Graham also said that Mr Trump's moves were a "disaster in the making" that would empower Isil in Syria. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of Mr Trump's key allies, added his voice of dissent, saying: "A precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime."   The warning was echoed by the US’s partners on the ground, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which claimed yesterday their ability to contain thousands of prisoners in their detention had become severely compromised. "We were doing our best to provide the best kind of security... but with the Turkish invasion we are forced to pull out some of our troops from the prisons and from the camps to the border to protect our people," Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the Kurdish-led SDF said. "The Islamic State will benefit from the security vacuum that will follow, and will strengthen and regroup itself," he said, adding that it would undo years of work defeating the jihadists. The SDF has been holding some 10,000 male Isil suspects, including an estimated 10 Britons, in prisons across north-eastern Syria, many of which fall inside Turkey’s proposed 18-mile deep, 300-mile-long buffer zone. This does not include the more than 70,000 women and children held in detention camps would could also be at risk. The White House statement announcing the news was released shortly after a phone call between Mr Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday night. Foreign prisoners in Syria detained by the SDF in Baghuz during the battle for Isil's last stronghold Credit: CBS Mr Erdogan had reportedly assured the US president that Ankara would take over the detention of Isil militants captured by the SDF. He said in a brief statement to press on Monday that he thought the numbers of Isil prisoners had been exaggerated but Turkey was ready to “remove them swiftly”, without elaborating. Mr Trump has repeatedly asked countries working with the US-led coalition against Isil to repatriate their citizens, even threatening on numerous occasions to release them. However, the UK, France, Germany, and other allies have so far refused.  “The United States will not hold them for what could be many years and great cost to the United States taxpayer,” a White House statement released on Sunday said. “Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years in the wake of the defeat of the territorial “Caliphate” by the United States.” On Monday night, US Central Command, however, issued a statement saying that the US does not support Turkey invading Kurdish territory. "The Department of Defense made clear to Turkey - as did the President - that we do not endorse a Turkish operation in Northern Syria. The US Armed Forces will not support, or be involved in any such operation," said Jonathan Hoffman, Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.  Turkey - Syria map Coalition sources said the chance of a smooth handover from Kurdish to Turkish control was “virtually impossible”, leaving the prospect of prisoners breaking free in the chaos.  Western diplomats told the Telegraph they too were surprised by Mr Trump’s statement, saying they had not been told in advance. They said European governments were rethinking their strategy on suspects being held in Syria. Mr Trump’s decision to pull back from Syria was criticised by Brett McGurk, the former special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat Isil who quit in December over differences of opinion with the president on post-Isil US strategy. "Donald Trump is not a Commander-in-Chief. He makes impulsive decisions with no knowledge or deliberation," Mr McGurk tweeted. "He sends military personnel into harm’s way with no backing. He blusters and then leaves our allies exposed when adversaries call his bluff or he confronts a hard phone call." The US had for months been working with Turkey to try to create a “safe zone” along its border with northern Syria between the Turkish military and Kurdish forces which Ankara sees as terrorists. At a glance | The four Kurdistans Turkey has repeatedly criticised its slow implementation and threatened a unilateral assault, but until now the US had refused to stand aside. "The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so. They have been fighting Turkey for decades," Mr Trump said in a series of irate tweets. "Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out." Analysts said on Monday that the US's Kurdish had been left feeling abandoned. “For some time there is a belief in Washington that President Trump and the conventional US are two separate things. Perception is that he makes decisions without consulting his own government, advisers. Kurds and people on the ground  they have been surprised by the decision," Mutlu Civiroglu, Washington-based Kurdish Affairs analyst, told the Telegraph. "Kurds are worried, disappointed. They put a lot of trust in the US, which is the only reason they went ahead with the security mechanism put forward by the US and they expect America to stand with them.”



          

Senate Republicans Recoil From Trump’s Decision to Abandon Kurds   

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Senate Republicans Recoil From Trump’s Decision to Abandon Kurds(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria and abandon Kurdish allies has prompted a furious backlash among key members of his most important bulwark against an impeachment conviction: Senate Republicans.Hawkish GOP senators, whom Trump will need to keep him in office if the House moves ahead with impeachment, condemned the president’s decision as a win for terrorists and a defeat for American credibility. Some are already discussing legislation to push back.“A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran and the Assad regime,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. He urged the president to “keep together our multinational coalition to defeat ISIS and prevent significant conflict between our NATO ally Turkey and our local Syrian counterterrorism partners.”Foreign policy has long been the issue where Republicans are most likely to disagree with Trump, and it’s not clear that strong words against the president’s Syria policy will cost him any political support. Trump would have to lose the support of at least 20 Republican senators to be removed from office if the House votes to impeach him.The harshest criticism Monday came from South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a strong Trump ally and frequent golf companion. Graham said this “impulsive decision” will benefit Iran and cost the U.S. leverage in the region.Graham also said he and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen will introduce sanctions against Turkey if the NATO ally invades Syria. He said he expects such sanctions to get a two-thirds majority -- enough to override a Trump veto.After criticism from Graham and others, Trump tweeted that he would “totally destroy and obliterate” Turkey’s economy if it took “off limits” actions that he didn’t specify. He also said Turkey must “watch over” about 12,000 captured Islamic State fighters and tens of thousands of their family members living in jails and camps in Kurdish-held territory.The Senate earlier this year had a veto-proof margin to pass an amendment authored by McConnell opposing a withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan. On Monday, Criticism in Congress was bipartisan, focused on the move to abandon Kurdish forces who helped U.S. forces fight ISIS, and who are holding thousands of ISIS fighters in custody.Other Senate Republicans pushing back on the president include Marco Rubio of Florida, Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, though none other than Graham have yet said they plan to act on their dismay.Romney, who heads a Foreign Relations subcommittee on the Middle East and counterterrorism, released a joint statement with Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, the top Democrat on the panel, saying Trump’s decision “severely undercuts America’s credibility as a reliable partner and creates a power vacuum in the region that benefits ISIS.” They demanded that the administration explain the decision to the full committee.Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, who is up for re-election next year, warned against partnering with Turkish President Recep Erdogan.“If the president sticks with this retreat, he needs to know that this bad decision will likely result in the slaughter of allies who fought with us, including women and children,” Sasse said in a statement Monday. “I hope the president will listen to his generals and reconsider.”Some House Republicans also criticized the abrupt withdrawal. Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, a member of GOP leadership, called the decision a “catastrophic mistake.” New York Republican Elise Stefanik recently returned from a bipartisan trip to the region and joined a statement with Democratic representatives condemning Trump’s “rash decision.”“Not only will this decision further destabilize the region, it will make it more difficult for the United States to recruit allies and partners to defeat terrorist groups like ISIS,” the statement said.One of Trump’s Senate allies approved of Trump’s decision: Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has long called for withdrawing troops from Syria and Afghanistan.(Updates with McConnell quote in third paragraph)\--With assistance from Erik Wasson.To contact the reporter on this story: Steven T. Dennis in Washington at sdennis17@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, Anna Edgerton, Laurie AsséoFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



          

Lindsey Graham is already leading a bipartisan rebuke of Trump's Syria pullout   

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Lindsey Graham is already leading a bipartisan rebuke of Trump's Syria pulloutPresident Trump's promise to pull out of Syria is not going over well.The White House announced Sunday night that the U.S. will "no longer be in the immediate area" of northern Syria where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday a Turkish military incursion was "imminent." Erdogan's promise left even Trump's allies skeptical of the U.S. decision to leave America's Kurdish allies, and led Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to partner with a Democrat and prepare a response to whatever Erdogan has planned.On Monday morning, Graham had tweeted that Trump's Syria decision was "a disaster in the making," while Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) tweeted "Congress must make it clear that Turkey will pay a heavy price if they attack the Syrian Kurds." Graham then tweeted that he'd talked to Van Hollen about doing just that, announcing that "we will introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey" and move to remove the country from NATO if it attacks Syria or the Kurds.> Hope and expect sanctions against Turkey - if necessary - would be veto-proof. > > This decision to abandon our Kurdish allies and turn Syria over to Russia, Iran, & Turkey will put every radical Islamist on steroids. Shot in the arm to the bad guys. Devastating for the good guys.> > -- Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 7, 2019Graham's "veto-proof" guarantee probably won't be necessary considering Trump's subsequent and, uh... passionate response. > ....the captured ISIS fighters and families. The U.S. has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!> > -- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019



          

Graham Says Trump’s ‘Biggest Lie’ Is of Islamic State’s Defeat   

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Graham Says Trump’s ‘Biggest Lie’ Is of Islamic State’s Defeat(Bloomberg) -- One of Donald Trump’s biggest defenders in Congress rebuked the president’s decision to step aside from Kurdish allies in Syria while Turkey’s military advances, saying it would result in the re-emergence of ISIS.“ISIS is not defeated, my friend. The biggest lie being told by the administration is that ISIS is defeated,” Senator Lindsey Graham told “Fox and Friends” in a phone call Monday. “The Caliphate is destroyed, but there’s thousands of fighters” still there.Graham said he would sponsor a resolution urging Trump to reconsider the decision he called “shortsighted and irresponsible.” Graham said he and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen will also introduce a resolution to impose sanctions on Turkey if it invades Syria.The sharp criticism from Graham, a South Carolina Republican who usually is one of Trump’s fiercest defenders in the Senate, signals the president’s plan could meet resistance on Capitol Hill. Other Republican lawmakers were joining in expressing misgivings on Monday, echoing the admonishment that prompted Trump to reverse course on a similar pullout announced last year.Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said on Twitter that “the Trump administration has made a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria.”Representative Peter King, a Republican from New York, tweeted that the move “betrays Kurds, strengthens ISIS and endangers American homeland.”And Trump’s former United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, emphasized the risks of the U.S. abandoning allies in the Mideast. “We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back,” she said on Twitter. “The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake.”Even before the pushback, Trump was defending his decision Monday, insisting on Twitter that the U.S. can’t afford to be stuck in “ridiculous endless wars.” The U.S. was only supposed to be in Syria for 30 days but stayed and “got deeper and deeper into battle with no aim in sight,” Trump tweeted, insisting he’d held off this fight for almost three years.Trump’s move represents a significant shift in U.S. policy that raises questions about the fate of tens of thousands of Islamic State detainees and casts further doubt on the reliability of the U.S. as an ally in the region.Trump said Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to “figure the situation out, and what they want to do with the captured ISIS fighters in their ‘neighborhood.”’The White House said Turkey would take responsibility for any Islamic State fighters captured in the area over the past two years. It gave no details and it wasn’t immediately clear what, if any, plan the NATO allies had agreed to handle the detainees or how they would be transferred to Turkish custody.But the assurance represents a potential win for Trump, who has insisted that the U.S. would bear no responsibility for any Islamic State detainees, as he gears up for the 2020 election.Close U.S. AllyThe Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been a close U.S. ally in the fight to defeat Islamic State. But Turkey considers Syria’s Kurdish militants a threat to its national security, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his forces are ready to begin a military operation against them in northeastern Syria.The U.S. in 2015 provided air support for Kurdish militias to retake the critical town of Kobani from Islamic State and has since used Kurdish fighters as ground troops in the campaign to clear Syria of the group.Trump’s approach to Syria has previously caused friction with administration officials. Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, resigned last December after Trump said the U.S. would withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan -- a decision Trump later reversed.Graham, who has not shied from criticizing other Trump moves on foreign policy, said that fatigue with the fight is not a reason to abandon it. Leaving the U.S. wartime Kurdish allies will only make it harder to find allies in the future, he warned.“If we abandon them, good luck getting anybody to help America in the future with radical Islam, al Qaeda and ISIS,” Graham said. “You may be tired of fighting radical Islam, but they’re not tired of fighting you.”Graham called Trump’s decision “impulsive” and said the ensuing chaos in the region will only help U.S. foes. “Iran is licking their chops,” he said. “And if I’m an ISIS fighter, I’ve got a second lease on life.”An adviser to the Syrian Democratic Forces said that Trump’s move will strengthen Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies Iran and Russia.“The Kurds told me this morning they were going to fight,” Moti Kahana, an adviser to the Kurdish-led forces, said by telephone from New Jersey. “They have two options. They can partner with Iran and Assad in order to prevent Turkish intervention into Syria or face a fight against Turkey in the northern border area and with Iran” in the southeast.Even if the Kurds don’t fight, Kahana said, “they will shift their alliance from the Americans” to Russia, Assad and Iran.Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet that the U.S. is “an irrelevant occupioer in Syria” and it’s “futile to seek its permission or relyl on it for security.”(Updates with comment from adviser to Syrian Kurds, Iran’s Zarif in final paragraphs.)\--With assistance from Steven T. Dennis.To contact the reporters on this story: Jennifer A. Dlouhy in Washington at jdlouhy1@bloomberg.net;Glen Carey in Washington at gcarey8@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Elizabeth Wasserman, Larry LiebertFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



          

Trump Defends Decision To Abandon Kurdish Allies Fighting ISIS In Syria   

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Trump Defends Decision To Abandon Kurdish Allies Fighting ISIS In Syria"Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to ... figure the situation out," the president tweeted.



          

US withdrawal from Northern Syria gives Turkey 'carte blanche'   

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President Trump says the US will pull back from military involvement in the Middle East and leave it to others "to figure the situation out". In a series of Twitter messages, the President defended his decision to withdraw US forces from Northern Syria to make way for Turkey to create a buffer zone south of their border. The planned military operation by Turkey would sweep away America's Kurdish allies near the Syrian border. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan considers the Kurdish groups to be terrorists and says he will not give any timescale for millitary action. The BBC's diplomatic correspondent Paul Adams told Morning Report this could represent a significant shift in US policy, if it all happens as Mr Trump says it will.
          

Kurdish general anticipates Turkish assault in Syria, says watching ISIS prisoners is no longer top priority   

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Kurdish general anticipates Turkish assault in Syria, says watching ISIS prisoners is no longer top priorityWith the Syrian Democratic Forces preparing for attacks by Turkish troops in northern Syria, fighters are being moved to the border, leaving a limited number of guards to keep watch over thousands of Islamic State prisoners, a commander told NBC News.The Syrian Democratic Forces are the United States' Kurdish allies in the region, and General Mazloum Kobani Abdi told NBC News that the ISIS prisoners are now a "second priority," due to the White House's Sunday announcement that U.S. troops will "no longer be in the immediate area," paving the way for a Turkish operation. Mazloum said this is a "very big problem," as there are about 12,000 prisoners -- 10,000 from Syria and Iraq, and 2,000 from other countries.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan considers Kurdish forces to be terrorists. Despite being the opposition, Mazloum told NBC News "one of the options that we have on the table" is to partner with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to fight against Turkey. He is hopeful that the American public will call on Trump to reverse course, so it doesn't have to come to this, saying, "The people who fought with you against international terrorism, against ISIS, are under risk right now and they are facing a big battle alone."



          

Trump's shock Syria retreat reverberates as Turkish troops mass   

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Officials scramble to understand implications of US move as Kurds face prospect of invasion alone

Kurdish forces in Syria have said the fate of tens of thousands of suspected Islamic State fighters and their families is uncertain, after US forces began a sudden withdrawal from the Turkish-Syrian border, leaving their Kurdish allies to face the prospect of a Turkish invasion alone.

The effects of the shock retreat continued to reverberate through the region on Monday as Turkish forces massed near the border with the Kurdish stronghold of north-eastern Syria.

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'Islamic State' resurgence a 'very real possibility' after US exits Syria   

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The sudden US troop withdrawal from Syria has left its Kurdish allies in the lurch. As a Turkish offensive looms, the risk of devastating consequences, including IS resurgence, has Brussels and much of Europe concerned.
          

GOP Strategist Blasts Trump Over Withdrawal of US Forces from Northern Syria: ‘Toddler-Level Geopolitical Mistake’   

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Source: www.mediaite.com - Monday, October 07, 2019
Republican strategist Mike Murphy slammed as a “toddler-level geopolitical mistake” President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw US military forces from northern Syria, potentially exposing Kurdish allies to an invasion from neighboring Turkey. Speaking with Steve Kornacki on MSNBC’s Hardball , Murphy, a longtime Trump critic, echoed many of the criticisms made by fellow Republicans, who railed against the president’s move , which reportedly caught even Pentagon officials by surprise. Murphy condemned the move as part of a larger discussion about Senate Republicans and their willingness to defend Trump in a possible upcoming impeachment trial. “It’s all about the primary politics. You know, the new logo of the RNC isn’t just an elephant, it’s an elephant running for the tall grass to hide,” Murphy said. “A lot of these politicians, in their heart, they know that Trump is unfit and privately they’ll talk about it, but they’re very afraid of their primary voters.” “A ‘defend Trump’ vote by the time [impeachment] hits the Senate, if it does, which I think is more likely than not, could be real political poison,” Murphy added. “I think the one new factor, today , is the case that Trump should not be there. Not the impeachment case, but the private opinion of Republican Senators’ case, exploded today, because of what Trump did abandoning the Kurds and making a toddler-level geopolitical mistake in northern Syria, which is why
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Trump defends decision to abandon Kurdish allies in Syria   

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United_States_Syria_68687President Donald Trump on Monday cast his decision to abandon Kurdish fighters in Syria as fulfilling a campaign promise to withdraw from "endless war" in the Middle East, even as Republican critics and others said he was sacrificing a U.S. ally and undermining American credibility.
          

In Major Policy Shift, U.S. Will Stand Aside As Turkish Forces Extend Reach In Syria   

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Updated at 1:05 p.m. ET The White House announced late Sunday that Turkey is ready to launch an offensive in northern Syria and that U.S. forces will stand aside, renewing fears that America is abandoning Kurdish allies who stood on the front line in the years-long fight against ISIS. A two-paragraph statement released by White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said that President Trump and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had spoken by telephone and that "Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation in northern Syria." "The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial 'Caliphate,' will no longer be in the immediate area," it added. The abrupt announcement immediately raised concerns among U.S. allies, who worry that Turkey could now be given a free hand to move against Kurdish fighters whom Washington views as allies but Ankara considers to be terrorists
          

Trump’s Retreat in Syria Is Dishonorable and Will Cost American Lives   

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Late Sunday night, the Trump administration announced that it was pulling American troops from key positions near the Syria-Turkey border and explicitly permitting the Turkish government to conduct military operations against the Kurdish allies who were indispensable in defeating the ISIS caliphate. This decision represents not just a moral betrayal of men and women who…
          

10/07 Links Pt1: Whatever Happened to the Palestinian ‘Diplomatic Tsunami’?; FM confirms initiative to sign ‘historic’ non-aggression pact with Arab states; Fatah attempts to hide its terror promotion from Facebook   

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From Ian:

Jonathan S. Tobin: Whatever Happened to the Palestinian ‘Diplomatic Tsunami’?
At the United Nations, where once-hardened ex-generals like Barak quaked about the prospect of the world uniting to force Israel to accept a Palestinian state, the situation for the Jewish state’s foes is particularly dismal. It’s true that many UN agencies, like its Human Rights Council, are still cesspools of antisemitism and hypocrisy, focusing almost exclusively on bogus attacks on Israel while ignoring real human-rights catastrophes in countries around the world.

But as is the case elsewhere, the diplomatic isolation that Barak and so many others feared never happened. Indeed, as Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon recently wrote, the world body is no longer the “home court” for those who oppose Israel. The majority of member states joined the United States and Israel in condemning Hamas terrorism in the past year. In a variety of steps, both large and small, Israel’s presence there has become normalized.

At the same time, the Palestinians have become more of an afterthought. It’s probably better for Abbas that even the Palestinians’ usual cheerleaders on the left paid no attention to his recent address at the UN General Assembly, where he spoke of his devotion to democracy and his plans to hold an election. Abbas is so devoted to democracy that he is currently serving the 15th year of a four-year term as president of the PA, to which he was elected in 2005. No one takes his talk of finally holding another vote seriously, since there is no way he would risk being defeated by his more radical Islamist rivals in Hamas, who currently rule Gaza.

The Arab and Muslim worlds may still be hotbeds of antisemitism and may have successfully exported their Jew-hatred to the West in the form of the BDS movement. However, Arab states have effectively dropped the Palestinian cause as a priority and instead are increasingly looking to Israel as an ally against Iran. Though they still pay some lip service to the Palestinian cause, the governments of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt have little interest in creating another failed and unstable Arab state for the Palestinians.

To note these facts is not to deny that the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians is not going away and remains a serious problem. But as long as both the PA and Hamas are stuck in the mindset of their century-long war on Zionism, peace will have to wait until the Palestinians are ready to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state.

The fact that the “tsunami” that so many Jews feared has fizzled into the BDS flop that can only intimidate someone like Lovato demonstrates that the conventional wisdom peddled by Israel’s noisy critics shouldn’t be taken seriously. Those who listen to the counsels of despair in 2011 have turned out to be as confused as a second-tier pop star.
FM confirms initiative to sign ‘historic’ non-aggression pact with Arab states
Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Sunday confirmed that he has been advancing non-aggression treaties with several Arab countries in the Gulf, a “historic” démarche he said could end the conflict between Jerusalem and those states.

“Recently I have been promoting, with the backing of the prime minister, a diplomatic initiative to sign ‘non-aggression agreements’ with the Arab Gulf states,” Katz wrote on Twitter.

“It’s a historic move that will end the conflict and enable civilian cooperation until the signing of peace agreements,” he said, in what appeared to be a tacit acknowledgement that no Arab country is currently willing to establish full diplomatic relations with the Jewish state as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains unresolved.

Katz further confirmed that he presented his plan to several Arab foreign ministers during his visit to New York last week at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. He also discussed the proposal with the US administration’s outgoing special envoy for the peace process, Jason Greenblatt, Katz said.

“I will continue to work to strengthen Israel’s standing in the region and around the world,” he pledged.

Katz’s tweet included a link to a report aired Saturday night by Channel 12, which first revealed the existence of the potentially groundbreaking initiative.
PMW: Fatah attempts to hide its terror promotion from Facebook
In fact PMW's reports show that Fatah does all of that and worse on its Facebook page, and PMW has pointed this out to Facebook more than once. Yet Facebook continues to leave the platform open for Fatah's terror promotion.

Fishman further explained that Facebook finds that governments and academics are acting too slow in terms of designating who are "terrorist actors" and therefore designates such themselves:
"We [Facebook] designate terrorist actors ourselves. This is pretty unique, but the reason we do this is because although there are a variety of lists of terrorist organizations in the world that are maintained by academics, that are maintained by governments, we find that academics and governments act too slowly. They don't actually maintain comprehensive lists in real time, and the expectation on us by our users and by the community globally is that we are able to respond to these things in near real time."

One can only marvel at the speed with which Facebook claims that it responds to terror promotion when looking at its inaction in the face of PMW’s thorough documentation. Nine months ago Facebook was supplied by PMW with explicit evidence that Fatah’s mission includes terror and violence. Yet in its statement to the Jerusalem Post last week Facebook said:
"We have received reports about potentially violating content on this page and, as we do with all such reports, are in the process of reviewing that content to determine whether it violates our policies."

Facebook boasting would be laughable, if its behavior was not life-threatening. Facebook claims to have a policy according to which “there may be no praise, support, or representation of a terrorist organization, a terrorist actor, a terrorist event,” and boasts ‘we are able to respond to these things in near real time.”

In the case of Fatah, Facebook has failed repeatedly to deal with the terror promotion on its platform. Despite being provided with the evidence, Facebook did nothing to remove Fatah’s terror glorifying and promoting posts. While their actions were no more than piece-meal, it appears that even Fatah accepted PMW’s claim that many of their posts contained terror glorification and promotion and decided to take them down.

Facebook removes terror promotion in “real time,” except when the murder of Israelis is being celebrated and promoted. For Israelis a full nine months is necessary and Facebook is still “in the process of reviewing that content,” that clearly celebrates and promotes terror.

While Facebook is bragging about fighting terror, Palestinian terror is being embedded in the hearts and minds of the next generation of potential terrorists, thanks to Facebook.

PA wipes peace agreements from schoolbooks, encourages incitement and intolerance
The Palestinian Authority has removed any mention of past agreements with Israel from their school textbooks, with the exception of the Oslo Accords, which are mentioned in far less detail than in previous editions of the schoolbooks, according to a new report by Yedioth Aharonot.

The new curriculum, which has been progressively implemented throughout the past three years, and the textbooks in particular, are studied between 1st and 12th grades in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, east Jerusalem and refugee camps. They, unlike their previous editions, make no mention of the historical Jewish presence in Israel, and speak about every quarter in Jerusalem's Old City – except the Jewish Quarter.

The portions of the textbooks that do mention the Oslo Accords portray Israel in a negative light, claiming that "the Zionist occupation was forced to recognize the PLO after the First Intifada in 1987."

In addition, the old textbooks contained the full contents of the letter written in 1993 by then-PA chairman Yasser Arafat to then-Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, which detailed the values of peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

The new textbooks, however, censor the part in which Arafat writes that the declaration of principles "is the beginning of an era of coexistence in peace without violence and any action that may risk the peace."

The few times in which Israel is mentioned throughout the rest of the textbooks are in parentheses, a habit typically taken on to claim the illegitimacy of the state by extremist organizations such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, according to Mako.



Seth J. Frantzman: Trump gives green light to Turkey to take over Syria, displace U.S. partners
Turkey will soon move forward with its long-planned military operation to create what it calls a "safe zone" in northern Syria – and U.S. forces will not support or be involved in it, the White House press secretary announced early Monday morning. The move is an extraordinary reversal of US policy that leaves America's allies wondering whether they can still rely on the Trump administration.

The statement came after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump discussed in a phone call Turkey's plans to establish a "safe zone" east of the Euphrates River in Syria. For four years, the US and mostly Kurdish fighters have fought and defeated Islamic State in northeast Syria.

The White House decision will effectively displace the partner forces the US had been working with. For more than a year and a half, Trump has been seeking to leave Syria. In the midst of the impeachment crisis, he has now made the decision to sacrifice US allies in the war on ISIS as opposed to pressuring Ankara with diplomatic means.

"Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria," the White House press secretary said in a statement.

"The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial 'Caliphate,' will no longer be in the immediate area," it added.

The White House looks at the overall picture in eastern Syria, not as one in which the US fought and sacrificed alongside Kurdish partner forces, but as a simple transactional issue.

In this view, the US has no interests in eastern Syria, except the ISIS fighters. Washington has no interests in creating stability, preventing Iranian influence, defending its partners, preventing ethnic cleansing or the destruction of property, or in managing the crisis. Instead, it decided that its mission was tailored and narrow, and nothing beyond the ISIS issue.
US Throws Kurdish Allies Under the Bus; Turkey "Opens the Floodgates" to Europe
Turkey's Erdogan government will be invading northern Syria to slaughter the Kurds, America's loyal allies against ISIS; release captured ISIS fighters, and doubtless seek to stay permanently in control of the area. The horror is that it will be doing all this with the tacit blessing of the US.

"I am saying this today: We have not got the required support from the world -- particularly from the EU -- to share the burden of the refugees we have been hosting, so we might have to [open the gates] to get the support." — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Takvim, September 5, 2019

"If we open the floodgates, no European government will be able to survive for more than six months. We advise them not to try our patience." — Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, Anadolu Agency, July 21, 2019.

Erdogan's threats are not new... and his claims are flawed.... Ankara has not lived up to its commitments.

"The most important question is why the refugee camps are not open to civil monitoring. Entry to refugee camps is not allowed. The camps are not transparent. There are many allegations as to what is happening in them. We are therefore worried about what they are hiding from us." — Cansu Turan, a social worker with the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV), to Gatestone Institute, August 2016.

"Turkish authorities are detaining and coercing Syrians into signing forms saying they want to return to Syria and then forcibly returning them there." — Human Rights Watch, July 2019.
Netanyahu says cooperation with Russia 'critical' with U.S. to leave Syria
Israel has “great challenges around us” and it's cooperation with Russia is “critical,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday, a day after US President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw troops from Syria and allow a Turkish incursion there against Kurdish forces.

Netanyahu made the comments at a holiday toast with workers in his office, during which he relayed that he just had a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Netanyahu phoned Putin to wish him a happy birthday.

“I met with him a few weeks ago about issues that are important for the security of the State of Israel, and this conversation as well was important to Israel's security,” he said. Though he did not provide details, the Netanyahu-Putin conversation is believed to have dealt with the changing dynamics in Syria resulting from the White House's dramatic announcement on Sunday.

“We have great challenges around us, but we enjoy important cooperation and coordination with Russia, something that is critical for us, and which we will continue to deal with,” he said.
Lindsey Graham, Nikki Haley on Trump's Syria plan: Disaster in the making
The Trump administration's move, which opens the way for a Turkish strike on Kurdish fighters long aligned with Washington, runs counter to the positions of even some of Trump's top allies in his own party.

Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator who is generally a vocal Trump supporter, wrote in a series of Twitter posts that he was trying to set up a call with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and would introduce a Senate resolution opposing the withdrawal decision and calling for it to be reversed.

"It's never in our national security interest to abandon an ally who's helped us fight ISIS," Graham said in an interview with Fox News Channel, using an acronym for Islamic State.

"This impulsive decision by the president has undone all the gains we've made, thrown the region into further chaos."

Former US Ambassador the United Nations, Nikki Haley also responded on Twitter, saying, "We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back. The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake."

Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted that "If reports about US retreat in #Syria are accurate, the Trump administration has made a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria."
US troops begin Syria pullout as Turkey readies offensive, alarming Kurds
US-backed Kurdish-led forces in Syria said American troops began withdrawing Monday from northeast Syria ahead of a Turkish invasion that the Kurds say will overturn five years of achievements in the battle against the Islamic State terror group.

The Syrian Kurdish fighters also accused Washington of failing to abide by its commitments to its key allies in the fight against IS. It’s a major shift in US policy.

The American withdrawal came just hours after the White House said US forces in northeastern Syria will move aside and clear the way for an expected Turkish assault — essentially abandoning Kurdish fighters who fought alongside American forces in the years-long battle to defeat IS.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened for months to launch the military operation across the border. He views the Syria Kurdish forces as a threat to his country as Ankara has struggled with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey was “determined to ensure our country’s existence and security by clearing terrorists from this region.”

“From the start of the Syria war, we have supported that country’s territorial integrity and will continue to do so from now on,” Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter. “We will contribute to bring serenity, peace and stability to Syria.”
UN ‘preparing for the worst’ from Turkey’s Syria operation
The United Nations said Monday it was “preparing for the worst” in northeast Syria after the United States said it would step aside to allow for Turkish military operations in the area.

“We don’t know what is going to happen… we are preparing for the worst,” UN regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Panos Moumtzis, said in Geneva, stressing that there were “a lot of unanswered questions” about the consequences of the operation.

Moumtzis added that the UN was “in contact with all sides” on the ground.

But he made clear his office did not have advance warning about the US decision that effectively abandons the Kurds, who were Washington’s main ally in the long battle against the so-called Islamic State group.

Moumtzis said the UN’s priorities were to ensure that any prospective Turkish offensive not result in new displacements, that humanitarian access remain unhindered and that no restrictions be put in place on freedom of movement.

The UN has a contingency plan to address additional civilian suffering, but “hopes that will not be used,” Moumtzis said.


Netanyahu: Israel Needs Air Defense System Against Iranian Cruise Missiles
In a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed a massive air defense system to defend against Iranian attacks, especially cruise missiles like those used in attacks on a Saudi Arabian oil facility last month, according to KAN.

Last month, cruise missiles and explosive drones were used in an attack on two plants at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, including the world’s biggest petroleum processing facility.

The United States, Saudi Arabia, Britain, France and Germany have publicly blamed the attack on Iran, which denies involvement in the strike.

The attacks on the two facilities cut Saudi Arabia’s crude oil supply by around 5.7 million barrels per day, or about 50% of its output.

The plan proposed by Netanyahu will cost billions of shekels. Some of the funds for the project won’t be allocated officially until after a government is formed, assuming that there aren’t third elections.

The funds for the project will either come from cuts within the security establishment or from funds cut from social services. According to KAN, it’s more likely that the funds will be taken from social services.
Iran unveils kit to convert artillery rockets into guided missiles
The Iranian military says it has produced a new conversion kit to upgrade artillery rockets to surface-to-surface missiles, technology that Israel has accused Tehran of attempting to deliver to the Hezbollah terror group.

The Iranians unveiled the new guidance system upgrade, called Labeik, at an event Thursday at which a number of new military technologies were showcased, according to Jane’s Defence Weekly.

Jane’s reported that Labeik appeared similar to the guidance systems on the Fateh-110 series of rockets, many of which are believed to be in the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon. According to the report, the new system also looks to be compatible with Zelzal heavy artillery rockets.

Video footage of the new conversion system aired on Iranian television shows a short body featuring four inverted fins that can be fitted between the rocket and its payload.

According to Iran’s Fars News, the “anti-armor ‘Labeik 1’ missiles… enjoy precision-striking power.”

“There is nothing new in the conversion itself, they have been doing it for years, and they already showed conversion kits for the Fatah 110 family of missiles,” Uzi Rubin, one of the pioneers of Israel’s earliest attempts at missile defense, told The Times of Israel.

“What’s new here are the aerodynamics of the winglets — very unique, unseen in Iran to date and unseen in any other country. Going to indigenous design rather than copying others indicates self-confidence. The purpose of the new and unique aerodynamics is probably to increase the maneuverability of the converted rockets.”
Congresswoman: Antisemitism, Iran threat highlight need for US-Israel ties
Growing global antisemitism and the dangers of Iran make it more important than ever that the US maintain close ties to Israel, leading Republican Representative Ann Wagner of Missouri said during a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, in which she spoke against BDS and promoted joint Palestinian-Israeli business ventures over the Green Line.

“Israel is deeply invested in achieving peace in the Middle East, and so is the United States of America,” said Wagner, who is a member of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee. “And we will all stand collectively with Israel as they work toward the achievement of this goal.”

At “a time of heightened antisemitism that we are seeing across the globe, it is more important than ever that we maintain a strong connection to this very key ally of ours in Israel,” said Wagner. Such a stance is also significant given that Iran is threatening Israel, including through its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas.

Part of a small congressional delegation that traveled to Israel in August, Wagner was on a trip sponsored by the US Israel Education Association (USIEA). The trip focused on security issues and the work of the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry, co-led by Avi Zimmerman of the Ariel settlement and Ashraf Jabari of Hebron.

According to the chamber, it has a membership of some 250 Israeli and 250 Palestinian business people. Jabari was among a small number of Palestinian entrepreneurs who attended the US-led economic workshop in Manama, Bahrain, in June.
'The days of the Ottoman Empire are over'
Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz has ordered his office to draw up plans to stop the Turkish government's efforts to undermine Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem and protect Jordan's special status as guardian of Muslim holy sites in the city.

Katz intends to present the plan to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu soon, so he can authorize its implementation. Due to the sensitivity of the plan, whose implementation will almost certainly lead to a direct confrontation with Ankara, it is also expected to be raised for discussion by the Diplomatic-Security Cabinet. According to ministry officials, as the plan pertains to security matters, there is nothing preventing it from being implemented by a transition government.

The issue of Turkey's influence on members of Jerusalem's Arab population has weighed on security and diplomatic officials' minds for years. As Israel Hayom has previously reported, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been buying influence over sites and prominent figures in east Jerusalem for years. Nevertheless, Jerusalem has not made any effort to challenge these efforts up until now.

The Foreign Ministry's plan would see the Muslim Brotherhood, which has close ties to Erdoğan's Justice and Development party, deemed an illegal association in Israel. Further ministry recommendations for thwarting Ankara's efforts include restricting the activities of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency, or TIKA, in Israel. The organization, whose stated objective is "preventing the Judaization of Jerusalem," spends some $12 million annually on activities aimed at undermining Israeli sovereignty in east Jerusalem. It should be noted that these activities are personally managed by Erdoğan.

The plan's architects propose obligating TIKA to coordinate its activities with Israel in advance and preventing the association from act unequivocally in Jerusalem. In addition, they propose Jerusalem not renew the head of TIKA in Jerusalem's, a move that would strip the organization head of his diplomatic status in Israel and render his presence in Israel illegal.

Additional steps would include restricting communications between members of the Islamic Waqf.
How to get Erdogan off the Temple Mount
This is why a new plan from Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz should be seen more as a declaration of intent and less as an operational plan. For the plan to take effect, defense and security officials who have been dealing with the issue for several years already must supply the top political echelon with evidence. Anyone who wants, for example, to limit the activity of TIKA, a well-endowed Turkish government agency, in Jerusalem will have to first prove that its activity goes beyond the bounds of civil/community service and slides into violence and incitement. Thus far, no evidence of that has been found, although attempts have been made to do so.

The steps the Foreign Ministry wants to take against the worldwide Muslim Brotherhood organization could also turn out to be complicated. It's doubtful whether Israel can point to direct activity by the Muslim Brotherhood. On the other hand, it is definitely possible to identify violent activity by groups or individuals with ideological links to the Brotherhood or its international headquarters in London. Steps have been taken against the Muslim Brotherhood in the past, and we can assume that more will be done in the future. Only recently, two female rioters were barred from the Temple Mount for a period of six months.

It looks like the best way to fight Erdoğan, who is hostile to Israel and trying to buy influence in Jerusalem, is to continue to expose Turkey's ties to Hamas. For years, Turkey has served as a haven for Hamas terrorists and commanders. For years, terrorist attacks or attempted terrorist attacks on both sides of the Green Line have been initiated and directed from Turkish territory. Erdoğan has repeatedly made it clear that as far as he is concerned, Hamas is not a terrorist organization, but the facts on the ground prove differently. Dozens of Hamas cells handled from Turkey have been exposed over the past few years, and the Shin Bet recently reported, "Turkey contributes to the military empowerment of Hamas, through methods that include the SADAT company, which was founded on the orders of Adnan Basha, a close advisor to government officials in Turkey."

This is where Israel has to operate, both operationally and in terms of public diplomacy and traditional diplomacy. The Turkish nonprofits active in Jerusalem are tough to check unless legislative changes can be made that alter the definition of "hostile" activity in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.
Israel backs Cyprus as Turkey moves gas drill into its waters
Israel’s envoy to Cyprus on Monday expressed backing for the Mediterranean island state after Turkey moved a gas drilling rig into Cypriot waters last week.

“Friends should stick with each other,” Ambassador Sammy Revel tweeted.

He added that Israel is “following closely and with concern” the Turkish move.

Revel’s comments come after Cyprus lashed out at Turkey’s new attempt to drill for gas in Cypriot waters where European energy companies are already licensed to conduct a search, calling it a “severe escalation” and vowing to fight the move.

Israel and Turkey, once close allies, have had increasingly strained relations since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan became the country’s leader. Erdogan is a staunch supporter of the Palestinians and launches frequent verbal attacks on the Jewish state.

Israel also voiced support for Cyprus in July over Turkish operations in the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Israel, Cyprus and Greece have forged an energy-based partnership that has steadily grown following the discovery of gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean. The United States began joining the talks earlier this year.
German Jews blast WJC's decision to give Merkel the Herzl Award
Members of Germany's Jewish community are speaking out against the World Jewish Congress's decision to honor Chancellor Angela Merkel with its prestigious Herzl Award.

Every year, the organization bestows the award to figures who act to promote Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl's "ideas for the creation of a safer and more tolerant world for Jews."

Along with Merkel, former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has also been selected for the award, which the two women are set to receive in separate ceremonies.

However, the announcement of WJC's plan to honor Merkel with the award has been met with piercing criticism from members of Germany's Jewish community, who note the change in Merkel's stance toward Israel in recent years, her support for the 2015 nuclear deal, and the increasing sense among the country's Jews that Berlin is not doing an adequate job of contending with the growing threat to Jews as a result of the anti-Semitic views of Arab and Muslim migrants to the country.

Among the points of contention raised by the local Jewish community: Germany's continued pattern of voting against Israel in UN and other international bodies; Berlin's continued funding for organizations that support the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement; its refusal to ban Hezbollah activities in the country; and Germany's increased financial support for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, without conditioning those funds on the cessation of incitement against Israel. There also those who cite Merkel's vocal opposition to US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's official capital and Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
IDF Sets Up New Anti-Tunnel Company to Detect, Destroy Threats in Israel’s North
The Israel Defense Forces have set up a special engineering corps company to discover and prevent terror tunnels dug across Israel’s northern border from Lebanon.

The new company is intended to deal with the long-term threat from tunneling attempts by Hezbollah, Israeli news website Mako reported on Sunday. It will use cutting edge technology to do so, most of it tested on Hamas tunnels dug from Gaza, but adapted to the northern terrain, which is quite different.

The main tactic employed by the company is the use of new technology, and as a result is heavily invested in research and development.

One department deals with developing technologies to detect tunnels and tunnel digging activity, while another examines the practical engineering means of interdicting and destroying them.

The head of the company, Captain Moshe Asraf, said it was established according to the “lessons” learned during last year’s Operation Northern Shield, during which he served as a commander in the engineering corps.
Arabs Hurl Firebombs, Burn Tires as Jews Pray at Joseph’s Tomb
Dozens of Palestinians rioted on Sunday night following the pilgrimage of some 1,000 Jews, under Israeli security escort, to the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem/Nablus to pray. The rioters threw firebombs and burning tires at security personnel.

Israeli security forces responded with riot dispersal methods.

There were no Israeli reports of casualties during the incident, however the PA’s Wafa news agency reported that seven rioters were wounded after “Israeli forces escorted a convoy of buses packed with over a thousand fanatic Jewish settlers to the site, located in the Palestinian-controlled area, sparking confrontations with Palestinian residents.”

Wafa stated that the injured Palestinians had been “protesting” the “raid” and “attempting to block settlers’ access to the site”

“Among the settlers who raided the site were Israeli Minister of Economy and Industry Eli Cohen, leader of the council of settlers in the occupied West Bank Yossi Dagan, and Knesset member Moshe Arbel,” Wafa reported.
Palestinian Authority Continues to Pay Salaries to Terrorists
Abbas' remarks, which were less acerbic in tone than those he made in previous addresses to the General Assembly, reflected a concern over the ineffectiveness of his policies and the sidelining of the Palestinian issue from the international, regional, and Israeli agenda.

It is also nevertheless evident from Abbas' remarks that he does not intend to bend as far as his fundamental positions on the conflict are concerned. This was given clear expression in Abbas' stated enthusiastic commitment to continue to pay salaries to Palestinian terrorists and their families, despite the fact that Israel has deducted this amount from the tax revenues it transfers to Ramallah. While there is nothing new about this declaration, Abbas' decision to repeat it in a major international forum is indicative of the PA chairman's commitment to the expectations of the Palestinian street, as he perceives and shapes it.

In practice, despite the cuts in the transferred funds and the Palestinian decision to avoid accepting a further installment of payments Israel is willing to transfer, the PA continues to pay these terrorist salaries as usual. According to the PA budget implementation report for 2019, the Palestinian Authority transferred 276 million shekels (around $79 million) in payments – i.e., salaries – and another 75 million shekels (around $22 million) in "social" payments to families, family expenses, medical insurance coverage, and legal expenses, among other things. In total, the PA Prisoner Affairs Ministry spent some 364 million shekels ($105 million) on these terrorist payments.

These numbers reveal that the PA's payments to terrorists in 2019 were similar in scope to those made the previous year. The significance of this is that despite increasing pressure, the Palestinians are sticking to their guns, as it were, and as a result, the chances of the PA
becoming a partner for peace under Abbas' leadership continue to be slim to none.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Shtayyeh: We received NIS 1.5 billion from Israel
The crisis between Israel and the Palestinian Authority over Israeli deductions of payments made to security prisoners and families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks against Israelis remains unresolved, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday.

Speaking at the weekly meeting of his cabinet in Ramallah, Shtayyeh announced that the PA has received NIS 1.5 billion from Israel in accordance with the deal reached between the two sides last week.

“The problem with Israel [over the funds withheld by Israel] has not been resolved until this moment,” Shtayyeh said. “There is no government in Israel that is capable of making a political decision on this matter.”

Despite Israel’s decision to deduct the payments from the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinians, the PA government continues to fulfill its duties toward the prisoners and the families of the “martyrs,” Shtayyeh said, and the PA government will remain committed to paying salaries to the families of the prisoners and “martyrs.”

PA President Mahmoud Abbas also said that the PA’s position regarding payments to the security prisoners and families of “martyrs” remains unchanged.
Abbas says he’ll discuss elections with Hamas, factions but provides no timeline
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday that he would discuss plans for new parliamentary elections with all factions, including longtime rivals Hamas.

Meeting with senior Palestinian leaders in the PA’s administrative capital of Ramallah in the West Bank, Abbas renewed a pledge to hold the polls — the first since 2006 — but without giving a timeframe.

He announced that they had formed committees to “communicate with the election commission and factions such as Hamas and all factions, as well as with the Israeli authorities.”

He said any elections should take place in “the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.”

Hamas and Fatah have been at loggerheads since 2007, when the terror group seized Gaza and threw out Abbas’s forces, which retained control of the internationally recognized Palestinian government, based in the West Bank.

No parliamentary elections have been held since 2006, with the two sides trading blame.
Khaled Abu Toameh: What Iran's Friends Are Doing in Gaza
In other words, Islamic Jihad's promise is one of unending toxicity: to go on poisoning the hearts and minds of generation after generation of Palestinians – as well as to continue investing millions of dollars in building tunnels and amassing weapons to ensure that the fight against Israel continues forever.

"The policy of resistance and jihad is the genuine policy to liberate all Palestine, and the Palestinian people will not abandon this path. We will not accept any agreement that contradicts the project of jihad and liberation. Under no circumstances will we give up one inch of the land of Palestine." -- Senior Hamas official Salah Bardaweel.

For [Hamas and Islamic Jihad] , a ceasefire means further amassing weapons and preparing their people for war without worrying about Israeli military action. When will the international community pull its head out of the sand in which it has so long been buried and understand that with organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad running the show, the Gaza Strip will remain the humanitarian disaster that is so bitterly blamed on Israel?


Lebanon arrests Syrian for making phone calls to Israel
Lebanese authorities have arrested a Syrian national accused of having made phone calls to neighboring Israel, the army said Friday.

An army statement said the suspect, who was not identified, was referred to court for “contacting Israeli phone numbers and communicating with Israelis present in the occupied Palestinian territories.” It did not elaborate.

Lebanon is home to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who fled the war raging in their country.

In August, tensions spiked between Lebanon and Israel after two drones packed with explosives were sent into the Beirut bastion of the Shiite movement Hezbollah.

Iran-backed Hezbollah and the Lebanese army accused Israel of being behind the drone launch.

Lebanon’s government and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah both described the apparently botched operation as an act of aggression.

A few days after the August 25 drone incident in Beirut, the army opened fire on Israeli drones flying over southern Lebanon.
Does Iran’s Leader Leave Room for Iran’s Return to the Negotiating Table?
At the same time, over the past few weeks, there have been increasing calls from senior religious figures in Iran and the leadership of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard for the destruction of the State of Israel. This is similar to statements issued by the Supreme Leader in 2016 that Israel would cease to exist in another 25 years. It is possible that this round of criticism against Israel serves a smokescreen while negotiations are taking place between Iran and the United States to enable Iran’s return to the nuclear deal.

In any case, by November 7, 2019, a further reduction is expected in Iran’s commitment to the nuclear agreement (including the enrichment of uranium to 20 percent and even higher). There is a window of opportunity for diplomacy and European efforts to try what has failed until now – to promise economic compensation to Iran for the American sanctions or alternatively to bring Washington back to the negotiating table. Iran’s oppositional regional policy (against Israel and Saudi Arabia, in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria) will apparently make it harder for Europe and the United States to advance the negotiations with Iran. However, in the past, Europe has shown that it is prepared to ignore repeated violations of human rights in Iran, such as its role in terror activities (including within European territory!), to fulfill the nuclear agreement, which eventually leads to investment and economic cooperation with Iran. Iran is well aware of Europe’s modus operandi and uses it and U.S. weakness to achieve maximum profit to renew negotiations regarding the nuclear agreement.

“Today, the Nuclear Deal Is in the Intensive Care Unit”
In this regard, Abbas Aragchi, deputy foreign minister and one of the patrons of the nuclear deal, stated at a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the opening of the German embassy in Tehran that, “today the nuclear deal is in the intensive care unit.” He added that to save it, cooperation was necessary between the P5+1 states. This could “bring down the walls of American sanctions and one-sided policies, which have become its weapon against independent countries.” According to him, Iran, along with the European countries, China, and Russia, are attempting to reach a balanced agreement through negotiations, but because of America’s one-sided policies, this balance has been violated and lost.5
Iran says Russian journalist held over visa issue, not Israel spy claim
Iran has confirmed the arrest last week in Tehran of a Russian journalist, saying the case was a matter of a visa violation.

Government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters that Yulia Yuzik’s case is under “quick review” by authorities and wasn’t related to matters concerning the “counter-espionage” department. Her ex-husband said last week she had been arrested for allegedly spying for Israel.

The Russian Embassy in Tehran said on Friday that Yuzik flew into Tehran the previous Sunday and that Iranian officials seized her passport at the airport for unknown reasons. She was arrested from her hotel room on Wednesday.

The Russian foreign ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador to Moscow to explain Yuzik’s arrest.

Prior to her arrest, Yuzik posted photographs from her trip on Instagram, saying she loved being in Iran.






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Trump defends decision to abandon Kurdish allies in Syria   

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WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Monday cast his decision to abandon Kurdish fighters in Syria as fulfilling a campaign promise to withdraw from “endless war” in the Middle East, even as Republican critics and others said he was sacrificing a U.S. ally and undermining American credibility.

Trump declared U.S. troops would step aside for an expected Turkish attack on the Kurds, who have fought alongside Americans for years, but he then threatened to destroy the Turks’ economy if they went too far.

Even Trump’s staunchest Republican congressional allies expressed outrage at the prospect of abandoning Syrian Kurds who had fought the Islamic State group with American arms and advice. It was the latest example of Trump’s approach to foreign policy that critics condemn as impulsive, that he sometimes reverses and that frequently is untethered to the advice of his national security aides.

“A catastrophic mistake,” said Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican leader. “Shot in the arm to the bad guys,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Trump said he understood criticism from fellow GOP leaders but disagreed. He said he could also name supporters, but he didn’t.

Pentagon and State Department officials held out the possibility of persuading Turkey to abandon its expected invasion. U.S. officials said they had seen no indication that Turkey had begun a military operation by late Monday.

Trump, in late afternoon remarks to reporters, appeared largely unconcerned at the prospect of Turkish forces attacking the Kurds, who include a faction he described as “natural enemies” of the Turks.

“But I have told Turkey that if they do anything outside of what we would think is humane ... they could suffer the wrath of an extremely decimated economy,” Trump said.

In recent weeks, the U.S. and Turkey had reached an apparent accommodation of Turkish concerns about the presence of Kurdish fighters, seen in Turkey as a threat. American and Turkish soldiers had been conducting joint patrols in a zone along the border. As part of that work, barriers designed to protect the Kurds were dismantled amid assurances that Turkey would not invade.

Graham said Turkey’s NATO membership should be suspended if it attacks into northeastern Turkey, potentially annihilating Kurdish fighters who acted as a U.S. proxy army in a five-year fight to eliminate the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate. Graham, who had talked Trump out of a withdrawal from Syria last December, said letting Turkey invade would be a mistake of historic proportion and would “lead to ISIS reemergence.”

This all comes at a pivotal moment of Trump’s presidency. House Democrats are marching forward with their impeachment inquiry into whether he compromised national security or abused his office by seeking negative information on former Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival, from Ukraine and other foreign countries.

As he faces the impeachment inquiry, Trump has appeared more focused on making good on his political pledges, even at the risk of sending a troubling signal to American allies abroad.

“I campaigned on the fact that I was going to bring our soldiers home and bring them home as rapidly as possible,” he said.

The strong pushback on Capitol Hill prompted Trump to recast as well as restate his decision, but with renewed bombast and self-flattery.

He promised to destroy the Turkish economy “if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits.”

Sunday night the White House had said the U.S. would get its troops out of the way of the Turkish forces. That announcement came after Trump spoke by phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

One official described that White House announcement as a botched effort appeared aimed at making Trump look bold for ending a war. The official said attempts by the Pentagon and State Department to make the statement stronger in its opposition to Turkey’s military action were unsuccessful.

That official, like others interviewed, was not authorized to speak on the record and was granted anonymity to comment.

The official added that Erdogan appeared to be reconsidering his earlier resolve because he was relatively quiet Monday.

But damage done to relations with the Kurds could be irreparable.

An official familiar with the Erdogan call said the Turkish president was “ranting” at Trump, saying the safe zone was not working and that Turkey couldn’t trust the U.S. military to do what was needed. And in reaction, Trump said the U.S. wanted no part of an invasion and would withdraw troops.

The announcement threw the military situation in Syria into fresh chaos and injected deeper uncertainty into U.S. relations with European allies. A French official, speaking on condition of anonymity on a sensitive topic, said France wasn’t informed ahead of time. A Foreign Ministry statement warned Turkey to avoid any action that would harm the international coalition against the Islamic State and noted the Kurds had been essential allies. It entirely omitted any mention of the United States.

U.S. involvement in Syria has been fraught with peril since it started in 2014 with the insertion of small numbers of special operations forces to recruit, train, arm and advise local fighters to combat the Islamic State. Trump entered the White House in 2017 intent on getting out of Syria, and even before the counter-IS military campaign reclaimed the last militant strongholds early this year, he declared victory and said troops would leave.

Trump defended his latest decision, acknowledging in tweets that “the Kurds fought with us” but adding that they “were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.”

“I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” he wrote.

In his later remarks, Trump asserted that American troops in Syria are not performing useful work. They are, he said, “not fighting.” They are “just there,” he said.

Among the first to move were about 30 U.S. troops from two outposts who would be in the immediate area of a Turkish invasion. It’s unclear whether others among the roughly 1,000 U.S. forces in northeastern Syria would be moved, but officials said there was no plan for any to leave Syria entirely.

Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that a U.S. withdrawal from Syria would be a major boost to Russia’s position there.

He added that other allies in the region, including the Kurds, will “look at this withdrawal as U.S. unwillingness to stand up for its rights and maintain its alliances in the region.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., another strong Trump supporter, said in an appearance on “Fox & Friends” that he had concerns.

“I want to make sure we keep our word for those who fight with us and help us,” he said, adding that, “If you make a commitment and somebody is fighting with you, America should keep their word.”

Former Trump administration officials also expressed concern.

Nikki Haley, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the U.S. “must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back. ... Leaving them to die is a big mistake.”

Turkey considers the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged an insurgency against Turkey for 35 years.

___

With contributions from Associated Press writers Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul; Zeina Karam and Sarah El Deeb in Beirut; and Lori Hinnant in Paris.


          

Trump defends decision to abandon Kurdish allies in Syria   

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WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Monday cast his decision to abandon Kurdish fighters in Syria as fulfilling a campaign promise to withdraw from “endless war” in the Middle East, even as Republican critics and others said he was sacrificing a U.S. ally and undermining American credibility.

Trump declared U.S. troops would step aside for an expected Turkish attack on the Kurds, who have fought alongside Americans for years, but he then threatened to destroy the Turks’ economy if they went too far.

Even Trump’s staunchest Republican congressional allies expressed outrage at the prospect of abandoning Syrian Kurds who had fought the Islamic State group with American arms and advice.

“A catastrophic mistake,” said Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican leader. “Shot in the arm to the bad guys,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Trump said he understood criticism from fellow GOP leaders but disagreed. He said he could also name supporters, but he didn’t.

Pentagon and State Department officials held out the possibility of persuading Turkey to abandon its expected invasion. U.S. officials said they had seen no indication that Turkey had begun a military operation by late Monday.

Trump, in late afternoon remarks to reporters, appeared largely unconcerned at the prospect of Turkish forces attacking the Kurds, who include a faction he described as “natural enemies” of the Turks.

“But I have told Turkey that if they do anything outside of what we would think is humane … they could suffer the wrath of an extremely decimated economy,” Trump said.

In recent weeks, the U.S. and Turkey had reached an apparent accommodation of Turkish concerns about the presence of Kurdish fighters, seen in Turkey as a threat. American and Turkish soldiers had been conducting joint patrols in a zone along the border. As part of that work, barriers designed to protect the Kurds were dismantled amid assurances that Turkey would not invade.

Graham said Turkey’s NATO membership should be suspended if it attacks into northeastern Turkey, potentially annihilating Kurdish fighters who acted as a U.S. proxy army in a five-year fight to eliminate the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate. Graham, who had talked Trump out of a withdrawal from Syria last December, said letting Turkey invade would be a mistake of historic proportion and would “lead to ISIS reemergence.”

This all comes at a pivotal moment of Trump’s presidency. House Democrats are marching forward with their impeachment inquiry into whether he compromised national security or abused his office by seeking negative information on former Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival, from Ukraine and other foreign countries.

As he faces the impeachment inquiry, Trump has appeared more focused on making good on his political pledges, even at the risk of sending a troubling signal to American allies abroad.

“I campaigned on the fact that I was going to bring our soldiers home and bring them home as rapidly as possible,” he said.

The strong pushback on Capitol Hill prompted Trump to recast as well as restate his decision, but with renewed bombast and self-flattery.

He promised to destroy the Turkish economy “if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits.”

Sunday night the White House had said the U.S. would get its troops out of the way of the Turkish forces. That announcement came after Trump spoke by phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

One official described that White House announcement as a botched effort appeared aimed at making Trump look bold for ending a war. The official said attempts by the Pentagon and State Department to make the statement stronger in its opposition to Turkey’s military action were unsuccessful.

That official, like others interviewed, was not authorized to speak on the record and was granted anonymity to comment.

The official added that Erdogan appeared to be reconsidering his earlier resolve because he was relatively quiet Monday. But damage done to relations with the Kurds could be irreparable.

An official familiar with the Erdogan call said the Turkish president was “ranting” at Trump, saying the safe zone was not working and that Turkey couldn’t trust the U.S. military to do what was needed. And in reaction, Trump said the U.S. wanted no part of an invasion and would withdraw troops.

The announcement threw the military situation in Syria into fresh chaos and injected deeper uncertainty into U.S. relations with European allies. A French official, speaking on condition of anonymity on a sensitive topic, said France wasn’t informed ahead of time. A Foreign Ministry statement warned Turkey to avoid any action that would harm the international coalition against the Islamic State and noted the Kurds had been essential allies. It entirely omitted any mention of the United States.

U.S. involvement in Syria has been fraught with peril since it started in 2014 with the insertion of small numbers of special operations forces to recruit, train, arm and advise local fighters to combat the Islamic State. Trump entered the White House in 2017 intent on getting out of Syria, and even before the counter-IS military campaign reclaimed the last militant strongholds early this year, he declared victory and said troops would leave.

Trump defended his latest decision, acknowledging in tweets that “the Kurds fought with us” but adding that they “were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.”

“I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” he wrote.

In his later remarks, Trump asserted that American troops in Syria are not performing useful work. They are, he said, “not fighting.” They are “just there,” he said.

Among the first to move were about 30 U.S. troops from two outposts who would be in the immediate area of a Turkish invasion. It’s unclear whether others among the roughly 1,000 U.S. forces in northeastern Syria would be moved, but officials said there was no plan for any to leave Syria entirely.

Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that a U.S. withdrawal from Syria would be a major boost to Russia’s position there.

He added that other allies in the region, including the Kurds, will “look at this withdrawal as U.S. unwillingness to stand up for its rights and maintain its alliances in the region.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., another strong Trump supporter, said in an appearance on “Fox & Friends” that he had concerns.

“I want to make sure we keep our word for those who fight with us and help us,” he said, adding that, “If you make a commitment and somebody is fighting with you, America should keep their word.”

Former Trump administration officials also expressed concern.

Nikki Haley, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the U.S. “must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back. … Leaving them to die is a big mistake.”

Turkey considers the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged an insurgency against Turkey for 35 years.


          

U.S. pulling troops in Syria, leaving Kurdish allies to face Turkey   

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America's Kurdish allies warn U.S. withdrawal from border posts "will have a significant negative impact on our war against ISIS and will destroy any stability that has been achieved"
          

U.S. Officials Caught Off Guard By Trump's Shift In Northern Syria   

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Two U.S. officials tell NPR that military leaders involved in countering ISIS were surprised by President Trump's sudden policy shift — pulling support for Kurdish allies from Northern Syria.
          

Trump On Turkey: 'I Have A Little Conflict Of Interest ... It's Called Trump Towers'   

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The president, in his own words in 2015, zeroes in on a problem linked to his order to abandon Kurdish allies to a Turkish assault in Syria.
          

Trump Defends Decision To Abandon Kurdish Allies Fighting ISIS In Syria   

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"Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to ... figure the situation out," the president tweeted.
          

Trump defends decision to abandon Kurdish allies in Syria   

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The US president threatens to destroy Turkey’s economy if it does anything he considers ‘off limits’.
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