Vice President Mike Pence announced Thursday that Turkey has agreed to a ceasefire to allow fighting Kurdish forces to safely withdraw from an area in northern Syria. (October 17th)
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump defended a US-brokered company on Friday. stop Turkey's military attack in Syria and made an intriguing statement that the US "had taken control" of Oil fields in the region while fighting continued near the border between Syria and Turkey.
"I just spoke with Turkey's President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan. We are doing very, very well with Turkey," Trump said during an unrelated event at the White House. Turkey is "back to full pause" in its military operation targeting Kurdish forces in northern Syria, Trump said.
The Kurds "are very happy with the progress of things," Trump added. "We took control of oil in the Middle East … the oil that everyone was concerned about."
The president did not explain what he meant by "controlling oil in the Middle East." But he was probably referring to oil fields in eastern Syria, which Kurdish forces gained control over amid the chaos of Syria's civil war.
The Turkish invasion – which began last week after Trump withdrew US troops from northeastern Syria – undermined Kurdish rule in these oil fields, while Russia, Iran and other military forces fought to fill the power vacuum left by the US.
Trump's remarks came before a scary new broadside on the president's policy in Syria, delivered by one of his main allies: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from Syria created "a strategic nightmare for our country," McConnell wrote in a Washington Post Opinion Article posted Friday.
Even if the US-brokered ceasefire holds, McConnell said, immense damage has already been done: the US campaign against the Islamic State has suffered a major setback, the Assad regime and its Iranian supporters have expanded their influence in Syria and in Russia has gained new leverage in the Middle East.
"As neo-isolationism pivots its head left and right, we can expect to hear more talk about" endless wars, "" McConnell added, pointing to one of Trump's justifications for withdrawing US forces. . But "American wars will be" endless "only if America refuses to win them."
McConnell's article added a new weight to the already heavy attacks on Trump's latest foreign policy measure and the chaos it caused. Signs have emerged that the US-Turkey agreement on a temporary ceasefire – which Trump boasted would save "millions of lives" – may not be sustained.
On Friday, a conflict monitoring group and Kurdish authorities reported continuing fighting in Syria despite the "ceasefire" that Vice President Mike Pence announced on Thursday following talks with Erdogan in Ankara.
Based in Great Britain Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported fighting in villages near the town of Ras al-Ayn in northeastern Syria. The Observatory said at least five people were killed and 14 injured. The Rojava Information Center, an independent media organization made up of volunteers, said its on-site activists also reported advances from Turkey-backed forces in two villages near Ras al-Ayn.
Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for Syrian Kurdish forces, said on Twitter that "air and artillery attacks" against "combatants, civilian settlements and the hospital" in Ras al-Ayn were still taking place despite the agreement to stop military activity.
Trump underestimated the reports and said Erdogan told him there were "minor" clashes, but they stopped.
"I just spoke to Turkey's President @RTErdogan. He told me there was a small sniper and mortar fire that was quickly eliminated." Trump tweeted Earlier on Friday. "He longs for the ceasefire, or pause, to work. Similarly, the Kurds want the ultimate solution to happen."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday he was not sure who was involved in Friday's clashes, but suggested that they could be Turkey-backed paramilitary forces.
"You have irregular forces in the region" Pompeo told the Politician in an interview Friday. "I don't know exactly what that is, but our sense is that the political compromises that were made yesterday will eventually be successful."
Pompeo said the Kurdish forces, known as the SDF, have begun to withdraw from the region, "so the key elements of the ceasefire appear to be taking effect."
In Brussels, for NATO meetings, Pompeo also said he had not seen Trump's comments on oil control, and did not answer questions about how the US could control any Syrian oilfield if US troops were withdrawing. .
Under the agreement, Turkey agreed to stop its attack on Syria for five days after a Thursday visit to Turkey by Pence and Pompeo. The government of Turkey described the deal as a "break".
Critics said the deal left many questions unanswered – including the fate of the Kurds – and was too little, too late.
"The Trump administration has just capitulated on all of Turkey's original demands after a week of violence and profound damage to America's credibility in the world," said Kelly Magsamen, who served as the Obama administration's national defense and security officer. "If this is the idea of successful diplomacy, we better keep our portfolios when it comes to China, Russia, Iran and North Korea."
Even before Friday's developments, lawmakers on both sides had denounced the US-Turkey agreement as a "scam" that depleted the Kurds and weakened the US global position.
"It's far from a victory," he said. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, which is part of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Serious questions remain about how the decision was made to rush out of Syria and why it was made."
Romney said the break in Turkey's attack "does not change the fact that the United States has abandoned an ally" and criticized President Trump for speaking "chivalrously, even contemptuously" as the Kurds "suffered deaths and casualties, their homes were burned and their families were torn apart. "
Since 2014, a US-led coalition that relied heavily on Kurdish ground forces has reversed the gains made by ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria.
Turkey regards Kurdish fighters as terrorists and warned Trump that it planned an offensive against them. Erdogan ordered an attack on the Kurds shortly after Trump announced the departure of US troops from Turkey's border region with Syria.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Said the Turkish offensive against the Kurds is "On the verge of genocide." He and other members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday received a classified briefing on Turkey's raid by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Army General Mark Milley, president of the Joint Staff.
Blumenthal said he could not disclose the details of the military presentation, but described the mood in the room as serious and solemn.
"My reaction was one of horror and shame," he said. "And the American people should at least listen to the essential facts of what is going on there."
A US official who is not allowed to speak publicly agreed with Bluementhal's characterization of "horror and shame."
The official said the ceasefire is not holding and predicted it would cause further confusion and deaths among the Kurds.
Trump backed away sharply in response to his critics.
"We have had tremendous success, I think, in recent days," he said at the White House on Friday. "A little unconventional, a little hard love," he said, referring to the sanctions he imposed on some Turkish authorities on Monday.
"Sometimes you have to go through a little pain before you get a good solution. But the Kurds are very happy about that. Turkey's President Erdogan is pleased with that. And we are in a very strong position," he said. .
Trump also seemed to suggest that the US had taken control of the detention camps that held Islamic State fighters.
"We have ISIS fully under guard," said the president.
He referred to Islamic State fighters captured by Kurdish forces who allied with the US to defeat this terrorist group in Syria. Some ISIS supporters escaped after Turkey invaded Syria, when Kurdish fighters left detention facilities to face Turkey's new military threat.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Said the House will vote next week a turkish sanctions law it would affect Erdogan's government far more than the narrow economic penalties that Trump imposed earlier this week.
"President Erdogan has not given up and President Trump has given him everything," Pelosi and Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement late on Thursday. "Next week, the House will approve a strong package of bipartisan sanctions to reverse the humanitarian disaster that President Trump unleashed in Syria."
This bill would prohibit the sale of US weapons to Turkey for use in Syria and would require the government to investigate Erdogan's net worth and assets. It would also punish sanctions against senior Turkish officials involved in the decision to invade Syria and target certain Turkish financial institutions that US lawmakers said were "involved in perpetuating President Erdogan's corrupt practices."
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Erdogan contested on Friday that his forces were not meeting the break.
"I don't know where you are getting your news from. According to the news I received from my Defense Minister, there is no doubt of clashes. These are all speculation, misinformation," he told reporters in Istanbul on Friday. according to the newspaper. Turkish Anadolu Official News Agency.
Erdogan also said that he would not forget a letter sent to him by Trump, which he described as "lack of political and diplomatic courtesy".
In the letter, Trump …