Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham lead condemnation of foreign policy move that could prove ‘disaster in the making’Donald Trump with Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, in the Cabinet Room on Monday. Lindsey Graham said abandoning the Kurds would be ‘a stain on America’s honour’. Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/APDonald Trump was dangerously isolated on Monday as, in a rare rebuke, some of his most loyal allies revolted against his decision to withdraw US troops from north-eastern Syria.Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell led a chorus of Republicans who, having defended the president on almost every other issue – including over impeachment – decided to draw a line in the sand.“A precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime,” McConnell said. “And it would increase the risk that Isis and other terrorist groups regroup.”He added: “As we learned the hard way during the Obama administration, American interests are best served by American leadership, not by retreat or withdrawal.”The criticism was significant because McConnell is usually at pains not to cross Trump even at his most capricious. Last week the Kentucky senator released a Facebook video promising to stop Democratic-led impeachment in its tracks.Article 1 of the United States constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power to initiate impeachment and the Senate the sole power to try impeachments of the president. A president can be impeached if they are judged to have committed "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors" – although the constitution does not specify what “high crimes and misdemeanors” are.The process starts with the House of Representatives passing articles of impeachment. A simple majority of members need to vote in favour of impeachment for it to pass to the next stage. Democrats currently control the house, with 235 representatives.The chief justice of the US supreme court then presides over the proceedings in the Senate, where the president is tried, with senators acting as the jury. For the president to be found guilty two-thirds of senators must vote to convict. Republicans currently control the Senate, with 53 of the 100 senators.Two presidents have previously been impeached, Bill Clinton in 1998, and Andrew Johnson in 1868, though neither was removed from office as a result. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before there was a formal vote to impeach him.Martin BelamThe unusual fracture emerged on Sunday night when, shortly after a phone conversation between Trump and Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the White House announced removal of US troops from the Syria-Turkey border area. “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria,” it added.Critics of all political stripes have long feared that the move could open the way for a Turkish strike on Kurdish-led fighters in the area. Kurdish groups have fought alongside a small US presence in Syria to drive Islamic State militants from the region.The Republican backlash was rapid and potentially unnerving for a president whose fate is tethered to the party and the assumption that it will acquit him in the Senate if, as widely expected, the Democratic-led House of Representatives votes for impeachment.Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, who has become an outspoken defender (and frequent golf partner) of Trump, did not acquiesce this time. Abandonment of the Kurds would be “a disaster in the making”, he said, and “a stain on America’s honour”.Graham told Fox News: “I hope I’m making myself clear how short-sighted and irresponsible this decision is. I like President Trump. I’ve tried to help him. This, to me, is just unnerving to its core.”Graham wrote on Twitter that if the plan goes ahead, he will introduce a Senate resolution opposing it and seeking reversal of the decision. He added: “We will introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if they invade Syria and will call for their suspension from NATO if they attack Kurdish forces who assisted the US in the destruction of the ISIS Caliphate.”Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House, whose attempts to defend Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president have provoked mockery, said: “If you make a commitment and somebody is fighting with you, America should keep their word.”Michael McCaul of Texas, the lead Republican on the House foreign affairs committee, also urged the president to reconsider. “The United States should not step aside and allow a Turkish military operation in north-east Syria,” he said. “This move will undermine our ongoing campaign to prevent an Isis resurgence and will ultimately threaten our homeland.“Additionally, the United States needs to stay engaged to prevent further destructive involvement in the region from our adversaries like the Assad regime, Putin and Iran.”Notably, senator Marco Rubio of Florida, reluctant to criticise Trump even when the president suggested that China investigate former vice president and 2020 election rival Joe Biden, was clear , describing the retreat as “a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria”And Nikki Haley, Trump’s former UN ambassador, admonished Trump without mentioning his name. “We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back,” she tweeted. “The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake. TurkeyIsNotOurFriend”Ominously for Trump, even conservative Fox News aired dissent. Host Brian Kilmeade described the pullout as “a disaster”, telling viewers of Fox & Friends: “Abandon our allies? That’s a campaign promise? Abandon the people that got the caliphate destroyed?”Republicans who have contradicted Trump before did so forcefully again. Utah senator Mitt Romney described Trump’s announcement as “a betrayal”, adding: “It says that America is an unreliable ally; it facilitates ISIS resurgence; and it presages another humanitarian disaster.”Romney and Democratic senator Chris Murphy issued a joint statement insisting Trump’s administration “explain to the American people how betraying an ally and ceding influence to terrorists and adversaries is not disastrous for our national security interests”.Democrats also piled in but there was a lone voice of support for the president on Capitol Hill. Republican senator Rand Paul, long a critic of foreign intervention, said: “So many neocons want us to stay in wars all over the Middle East forever. [Trump] is absolutely right to end those wars and bring the troops home.”Trump himself was undeterred by the blowback. Speaking at the White House on Monday, he said he has “great respect” for the prominent Republican critics. And added: “People are extremely thrilled because they say it’s time to bring our people back home. We’re not a police force. They’re policing the area. We’re not a police force. The UK was very thrilled at this decision … many people agree with it very strongly.”
It's always foolish to put your faith in Donald Trump. He's incapable of thinking strategically about anything besides advancing his own material interests.So it makes perfect sense to presume that Trump's apparent decision to permit Turkey to conduct military operations against (until now) American-backed Kurdish forces near the Turkish border in Syria has nothing to do with geopolitical strategy or any process of foreign policymaking beyond his personal and business relationship with Turkey's quasi-authoritarian president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.But that doesn't mean that the bipartisan freak-out against Trump's policy shift is founded in a coherent strategic vision. It isn't. Instead it grows out of a combination of inertia, hubris, pusillanimity, and moralism -- all of them traits that have been on the ascent since the end of the Cold War, and especially since the September 11 attacks.The one positive thing to come out of Trump's flailing foreign policy is that it has exposed the incapacity of the country's leading thinkers in international affairs to offer a compelling reason to resist the president's mischief-making and revert to the status quo. That doesn't give us much to work with now. But it just might set America up for an eventual reckoning with our foolishness and mistakes over the past few decades.The most common response to Trump's announced change of course in Syria has been a cry of lament for the fate of Kurds, who may well find themselves the target of Turkish attacks. How can we abandon allies who fought by our side against the Islamic State and allow them to be crushed by a dictator like Erdogan?There's just one problem -- or rather, several. For one thing, the Kurds aren't our allies. Allies are defined by mutuality: We promise to defend a given state if attacked, that state promises to defend us if we are attacked. The Kurds, a stateless ethnic group found in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, has zero capacity to come to America's defense. They are American clients: We have provided them with aid and protection in return for help in fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Precisely how long should the United States be obligated to provide that protection in a dangerous part of the world 6,000 miles from our borders? None of Trump's critics in and out of Congress will tell us. Instead, they'd rather posture earnestly and avoid having to answer.If the U.S. has an ally in the region, it is … Turkey, a member of NATO, an explicit defense alliance. Do those denouncing Erdogan favor ejecting Turkey from NATO, thereby revoking the country's status as an American ally? Maybe that makes sense. But deciding whether it does would require engaging in clear-sighted strategic thinking about NATO, its purpose, and American interests in the Middle East, which is something no one wants to do. They'd rather keep Turkey in NATO -- because no one ever leaves NATO, and because keeping Turkey in the organization helps to antagonize Vladimir Putin -- and then bash the government in Ankara when it's convenient to do so.When critics of Trump's policy shift want to sound harder-nosed, they move beyond Turkey and the Kurds and talk instead about how irresponsible it would be to give up the fight against ISIS: If we don't stay in Syria, terrorists will grow powerful again, threatening the U.S. homeland like they did on 9/11!The first thing to be asked in response to those making such claims is whether they think it's possible for the U.S. to win any war anywhere in the world. Because if the battle against ISIS, which began in earnest five years ago, is measured against the goals enunciated at the start -- the elimination of ISIS's territorial caliphate -- it has been a smashing success. We won. The caliphate is gone. Yet now the goalposts have been shifted. Now "victory" has been redefined to mean … I'm not really sure. Sometimes it sounds like the goal is to make sure ISIS or a successor Islamist organization doesn't arise. At other times it appears to mean something even more amorphous, like the complete elimination of any person who might aspire to revive the caliphate at some time in the future.But is that a sensible foreign policy goal? Keeping an American military footprint in the desert of Syria and Iraq in order to exert control over what happens there for fear that it may possibly cause eventual harm to the United States, a continent and an ocean away? Even assuming this makes sense, for how long should it continue? Five more years? Ten? Twenty? More? And what metrics should we use to evaluate whether it's really benefiting the country, or is working, or has worked?No one wants to say because no one has an answer that makes sense. It's enough, they think, to speak gravely and vaguely about dire threats and keep us doing the same thing -- always expanding American commitments abroad, never pulling them back, and never even prioritizing among them. Anywhere.The U.S. is committed, all at once, to defending Europe, including serving as a check on Russia's ambitions in Eastern Europe, and to defending Israel. It also wants to micromanage regional rivalries across the Middle East in perpetuity. And keep a lid on terrorist activity across North Africa. And win an 18-year-old game of Whack-a-Mole against the Taliban in Afghanistan. And contain North Korea. And stand toe to toe with a rising China. And determine the outcome of a political transition in Venezuela.That's a lot for any country to handle intelligently or wisely -- because having such control-freak ambitions in the world isn't intelligent or wise in the first place. That doesn't mean that Donald Trump's acting out in defiance of Washington's foreign policy consensus makes sense. But it does mean that those who oppose the president need to do more than run screaming back into the arms of that consensus without reflection on its many unacknowledged problems and confusions.Want more essential commentary and analysis like this delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for The Week's "Today's best articles" newsletter here.
Trump’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'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.”
(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 email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at firstname.lastname@example.org, Anna Edgerton, Laurie AsséoFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
President Trump seemingly set out to quell fears Monday that the White House was creating an opening for Turkey to attack U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in Northern Syria.The White House announced Sunday night that U.S. troops would leave northern Syria and that Turkey would launch an invasion in the region. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan considers the Kurdish fighters "terrorists," as a result of a longstanding separatist movement among Kurds in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, but the U.S. considered the Kurdish forces in northern Syria their strongest allies in the fight against the Islamic State, which is why Trump has received bipartisan criticism for leaving them vulnerable to Turkish forces.Trump, though, said that Turkey won't do anything he, in his "great and unmatched wisdom," considers "off limits" or else he'll "totally destroy and obliterate" the Turkish economy -- again.> 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!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over...> > -- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019Trump doesn't mention the Kurds by name, but he has boasted about preventing Erdogan from attempting to "wipe out" the Kurds in the past, so it stands to reason he was referring to them. > Trump in June: https://t.co/Y1U2Za6clN pic.twitter.com/FQJsG6YZg1> > -- Dan Froomkin (@froomkin) October 7, 2019
REUTERSOne of President Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters in the Senate raged against the president’s Sunday night announcement that America will bow out of Syria while Turkey attacks allied Kurds in the region, calling the decision on Monday “shortsighted and irresponsible.”Appearing on Trump-boosting morning show Fox & Friends, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was asked whether he supported the president’s move, prompting the hawkish Republican lawmaker to exclaim, “Absolutely not.”“If I didn’t see Donald Trump’s name on the tweet, I thought it would be [former President] Obama’s rationale for getting out of Iraq.” he said. “This is gonna lead to ISIS’s reemergence!”Graham went on to say this was a “big win for ISIS,” claiming that the Kurds in the area will align with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad because they’d have no choice due to the United States abandoning them. “So this is a big win for Iran and Assad,” he added.(During another Fox & Friends segment, co-host Brian Kilmeade criticized the president as well, calling the president’s decision “disastrous” and that it would leave the Kurds to fend for themselves.)The South Carolina senator then stated that the “Kurds stepped up when nobody else would to fight ISIS,” noting that if we abandon the Kurds at this point, nobody will want to help America in the future in fighting radical Islam. Graham also pushed back on Trump’s claim that ISIS has been eradicated.“The biggest lie being told by the administration [is] that ISIS is defeated,” he declared. “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. So to those who think ISIS has been defeated, you will soon see.”“I hope I’m making myself clear how shortsighted and irresponsible this decision is, in my view,” Graham concluded.The GOP lawmaker continued to blast the president’s move on Twitter following his Fox & Friends appearance, saying he doesn’t “believe it is a good idea to outsource the fight against ISIS to Russia, Iran and Turkey.”“I feel very bad for the Americans and allies who have sacrificed to destroy the ISIS Caliphate because this decision virtually reassures the reemergence of ISIS. So sad. So dangerous,” he wrote in another tweet. “President Trump may be tired of fighting radical Islam. They are NOT tired of fighting us.”Furthermore, piggybacking off his assertion on Fox & Friends that he would do everything he can to sanction Turkey if they invade Syria, Graham announced that he would “introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if they invade Syria and will call for their suspension from NATO if they attack Kurdish forces who assisted the U.S. in the destruction of the ISIS Caliphate.”Graham wasn’t alone among Trump’s allies and loyalists to call out the president over his decision to stand aside as Turkey attacks one of America’s most reliable allies in the region. For example, Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said we “must always have the backs of our allies” and leaving the Kurds to “die is a big mistake.” And Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), weeks after competing with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for Trump’s affections, called it a “catastrophic mistake” to pull out of Syria, adding that terrorists “thousands of miles away can and will use their safe-havens to launch attacks against America.”Facing overwhelming criticism from within his own party on the Turkey-Syria decision, Trump tweeted late Monday morning that 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!).”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet 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.
Critics point to a 2015 Breitbart interview where Trump said he had a “conflict of interest” due to the Trump Towers in Istanbul.
President Trump’s surprise push Sunday to move U.S. troops from Syria, potentially opening the door for Turkish operations against Kurdish forces on the border of the two countries, quickly drew criticism from both sides of the political aisle.
|Cache||American troops are departing the Turkey-Syria border, and the Syrian Kurdish forces there are accusing the US of abandoning the fighters who bore the brunt of the US-led ground campaign against the Islamic State.|
|Cache||The White House announced on Sunday that President Trump has backed a Turkish plan that would clear away U.S.-backed Kurdish forces near the Turkish border in Syria and result in the United States not participating in military activity in the area, reports the New York Times. Turkey views the Kurdish forces, who are part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, as a terrorist insurgency and has long lobbied the United States to cut support for the group. The Washington Post reports that the United States has already begun withdrawing U.S. troops near the border as of Monday morning. An attorney representing the intelligence community whistleblower whose complaint gave rise to the Ukraine scandal confirmed via Twitter that his team now “represent[s] multiple whistleblowers in connection to the underlying August 12, 2019, disclosure to the Intelligence Community Inspector General.” The Washington Post reports that another attorney signaled that a second individual has…|
BEIRUT (AP) — Syria's Kurds accused the U.S. of turning its back on its allies and risking gains made in the fight against the Islamic State group as American troops began pulling back on Monday from positions in northeastern Syria ahead of an expected Turkish assault.
U.S. President Donald Trump's abrupt decision to stand aside — announced by the White House late Sunday — infuriated Kurds, who stand to lose the autonomy they gained in the course of Syria's civil war.
The Kurdish force pledged to fight back, raising the potential for an eruption of new warfare in Syria. "We will not hesitate for a moment in defending our people" against Turkish troops, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said in a statement, adding that it has lost 11,000 fighters in the war against IS in Syria.
As many as 300,000 people could immediately be driven from their homes in northeast Syria if Turkey launches its offensive, the International Rescue Committee warned Monday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened for months to launch the military operation across the border. He views the Syria Kurdish forces as terrorists and a threat to his country as Ankara has struggled with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey.
Ankara has been demanding a "safe zone" stretching the length of northern Syria along Turkey's southern border to be patrolled by Turkish troops and their allied Syrian forces. That would put a significant portion of Syria's Kurdish population under effective Turkish control.
Erdogan on Monday said American troops have started pulling back following his conversation with Trump the night before. He did not elaborate on the planned Turkish incursion but said Turkey was determined to halt what it perceives as threats from the Syrian Kurdish fighters.
The SDF issued a sharp condemnation of the American move. "The American forces did not abide by their commitments and withdrew their forces along the border with Turkey," it said.
A U.S. official confirmed that American troops were already moving out of the security zone area, which includes the Syrian towns of Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad. That official was not authorized to speak for the record and was granted anonymity to comment.
A video posted by a Kurdish news agency showed a convoy of American armored vehicles apparently heading away from the border area of Tal Abyad.
America's rivals, including Iran, Russia and the Syrian government, stand to gain from a U.S. troop withdrawal from the oil-rich region in the north. Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted: "US is an irrelevant occupier in Syria — futile to seek its permission or rely on it for security."
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow realizes Turkey's need to ensure its security, but noted that "it's necessary to respect Syria's territorial and political integrity." Peskov wouldn't comment on whether the U.S. withdrawal could push the Kurds to seek a dialogue with Damascus.
Russia and Iran have helped Syrian President Bashar Assad reclaim control over most of the country following a devastating eight-year civil war.
Abdulkarim Omar, a senior official in the Kurdish self-rule administration, said they had been expecting the U.S. decision to withdraw and have made preparations for it. He didn't elaborate. But he warned that securing facilities holding IS militants would be jeopardized if an offensive begins because forces would be deployed there.
"We have been flexible even in dealing with Russia, which may play a role in the political resolution. We were flexible even in regards to Damascus," he said. "But what happened today is illogical."
The Kurdish-led SDF has been the main U.S.-backed force in Syria in the fight against IS. In March, the SDF captured the last sliver of land held by the extremists, marking the end of the so-called caliphate that was declared by IS's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2014.
The U.S. and Turkey had been working on a compromise "security mechanism" for the border region that the Kurds had hoped would avert any Turkish offensive. Since August, joint U.S and Turkish aerial and ground patrols had started in a 125-kilometer (78-mile) zone. The SDF had cooperated, removing fortifications from the areas and withdrawing with heavy weapons.
But vital details of the mechanism were still being worked out, and Ankara had repeatedly expressed its impatience, threatening an attack.
Mustafa Bali, the SDF spokesman, tweeted that his group had not been not expecting the U.S. to protect northeastern Syria. "But people here are owed an explanation regarding the security mechanism deal and destruction of fortifications," he said.
|Cache||Experts say the sudden US decision to withdraw from areas near the Syria-Turkish border has placed Syrian Kurdish forces in a difficult situation|
BIN: Turkey: Angel of Peace Ally of the West or Satanic Source of Gog and Magog?; COGwriter: Neither, But . . .Cache
|15th century portrayal of ancient Gog and Magog COGwriter Breaking Israel News (BIN) reported the following: Turkey: Angel of Peace Ally of the West or Satanic Source of Gog and Magog? October 6, 2019 Turkish tanks are grinding across the border into Syria with the intent to crush the Kurdish forces who have allied with […]|
Kurdish general anticipates Turkish assault in Syria, says watching ISIS prisoners is no longer top priorityCache
With 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."
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.Continue reading...
Critics point to a 2015 Breitbart interview where Trump said he had a “conflict of interest” due to the Trump Towers in Istanbul.
President Trump’s surprise push Sunday to move U.S. troops from Syria, potentially opening the door for Turkish operations against Kurdish forces on the border of the two countries, quickly drew criticism from both sides of the political aisle.
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 FacebookCache
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.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.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.
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.
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.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.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.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.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.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.
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.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.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.'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.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.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.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.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.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.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.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.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.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.
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.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.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.
|Cache||US FORCES in northern Syria began pulling back on Monday from areas along the Turkish border ahead of a feared military invasion by Ankara that Kurdish forces say would spark a jihadist resurgence. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said...|
|Cache||There is concern that without a U.S presence in the region, Turkey will attack Kurdish forces who have been key allies of the United States in the fight against ISIS.|
|Cache||The White House announced U.S. forces in northeast Syria would clear the way for a Turkish incursion. This move is seen as a betrayal of Kurdish forces who have fought alongside U.S. forces for years to defeat ISIS|
10/7/2019: News | International: Withdrawal of US troops clears way for Turkish assault on Kurds in SyriaCache
|AMERICA was t oday withdrawing troops from north-eastern Syria after the White House gave Turkey the green light to launch an assault on Kurdish forces who fought alongside the US against Islamic State. I n a s urprise s t atement, Donald Trump’s...|
|Cache||A feared Turkish invasion of northeast Syria could spark a resurgence of the Islamic State group, analysts and Kurdish forces have warned, despite Ankara's pledge to prevent the jihadists' return.|
|Cache||Late Sunday night, the Trump administration announced that US troops would be pulling back from their positions northern Syria, allowing Turkey to move into a region controlled by Kurdish forces that had fought with the US against ISIS. Trump’s announcement is a big win for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and it has already enraged […]|
Trump abandoned support for U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria; climate activists in London lost control of a fire hose they were using to spray fake blood on the headquarters of the British Treasury
|Cache||Turkey has readied its forces for an offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria, prompting negative reactions from Iran and Russia.|