Pence And Pompeo ‘Ceasefire’ Benefits Turks, Syria, And Russia, Screws Kurds

American negotiators are claiming a ceasefire in northern Syria. The Turks, Syrians, and Russians are the winners, the Kurds are the losers, and we look like schmucks.

After meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for four hours in Ankara, Vice-President Pence and Secretary of State Pompeo announced a ceasefire in the ongoing Turkish offensive in northern Syria that, if successful, will give the Turks essentially everything they want while completing what many have called the betrayal of the Syrian Kurds:

Turkey’s president agreed to halt his military invasion of northeast Syria on Thursday, following hours of negotiations with two top Trump administration officials, to allow Kurdish fighters to leave the area and avoid, for now, an onslaught that had threatened to prolong Syria’s civil war.

The cease-fire would last for five days, Vice President Mike Pence announced in Ankara after meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey for more than four hours.

Mr. Pence cited a “strong relationship” between the United States and Turkey, two longtime NATO allies that had gridlocked over which terror threat in northeast Syria — the Islamic State or a Kurdish separatist group — posed an immediate problem.

“Today, we have agreed to a cease-fire in Syria,” Mr. Pence said, noting that there would be a five-day pause in military operations while the United States facilitated the withdrawal of the Kurdish-led Y.P.G. militia from affected areas in the safe zone.

“Once that is completed, Turkey has agreed to a permanent cease-fire,” Mr. Pence said.

More from The Washington Post:

Vice President Pence said Thursday that Turkey had agreed to a cease-fire in Syria, more than a week after the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched an offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters who had previously allied with the United States.

Pence, speaking after hours of meetings in Ankara, the Turkish capital, with Erdogan and other Turkish officials, said that Turkey had agreed to pause its offensive for five days while the United States helped facilitate the withdrawal of the Kurdish fighters from a swath of northeastern Syria.

Following their withdrawal, Turkey’s military operation would be “halted entirely,” Pence said.

“Great news out of Turkey,” President Trump wrote on Twitter, shortly before Pence’s announcement. “Millions of lives will be saved!” he added.


Pence said that the Kurdish fighters would honor the deal struck between the United States and Turkey. “We have repeated assurances from them that they will be going out,” he said, referring to the Syrian Kurdish fighters.

It’s worth noting that the Turks are most emphatically not calling this a ceasefire:

Not surprisingly, President Trump is claiming a victory on Twitter:

Whether you call this agreement a “cease=fire” or not is immaterial, what matters are the details, and those details leave much to be desired. Essentially what is happening here is that the Turkish military will halt its current advance for five days. During that five day period, at least two things must happen.

First, the American forces that remain in northern Syria will withdraw completely from the region. This is something that President Trump had already agreed to, of course, but the rapid advance of the Turkish forces, combined with the speed with which Syrian forces have rushed in to fill the vacuum pursuant to their new agreement with the Kurds, have placed Americans in the middle of a potential clash between the Turks and the Syrians. This agreement gives the Americans time to complete their withdrawal. Oh, and one more thing, the agreement requires us to lift the very minimal sanctions that we imposed against Turkey in the wake of the invasion.

The second thing that must happen over the next five days is the complete withdrawal of Kurdish forces from the so-called “safe zone” declared by the Turks as part of their invasion. Exactly where the Kurds are supposed to go is unclear, but possibilities include the idea that they may withdraw into Iraqi territory where the Kurds have a nearly de facto autonomous region. Whatever the case, it means that the Syrian Kurds will be forced to give up th gains they have made over the past nearly ten years of civil war, and will get nothing in return for it except for the privilege of not getting killed by Turkish forces.

Looking at this in-depth it seems clear that, despite the fact that the President has already started taking a victory lap on Twitter, that this is hardly a victory for the United States or the President. First of all, Turkey has the land it wants and the Kurds are out of the way. Syria, Russia, and Iran have all seen their influence in Syria expand thanks to the American withdrawal. Finally, at least some portion of the ISIS prisoners that were being guarded by the Kurds are free and on the run for parts unknown. The Kurds, meanwhile, are being kicked out of the territory they gained during the war. This is not peace, it’s surrender and more betrayal of the Kurds.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, National Security, Russia, Syria, Turkey, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. mattbernius says:

    So, the only question remains is this enough of a fig leaf that Trump’s defenders here and elsewhere will actually start commenting about how great a hero he is for resolving a humanitarian crisis he created in the first place?

    Because so far this issue has been pure kryptonite for them.

  2. gVOR08 says:

    Looks like once Trump saw everybody thought he stepped in it, Pence and Pompeo were dispatched to get a deal, any deal. And they complied.

  3. Gustopher says:

    “Once that is completed, Turkey has agreed to a permanent cease-fire,” Mr. Pence said.

    “That” in this case being the removal of the Kurds from their land. And the permanent cease-fire only extends to that area, assuming it is dekurded.

    Also, if the Palestinians would just go away and leave the occupied territories, the whole Isreali-Palestinian problem would be solved.

    After the final solution, we won’t need more solutions.

  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    Trump-sponsored ethnic cleansing.

    But hey, they’re brown people and far away, so it doesn’t matter that we’ve just thrown a strong and faithful ally to the wolves while simultaneously giving Putin a handjob.

  5. Kathy says:

    Once El Cheeto pendejo ordered US troops removed from the area, the situation was like a cracked egg. That is, it couldn’t be repaired ever again. The egg could be used to make an omelet, or left to spoil, but not salvaged whole.

    So there was no deal to be made with Turkey to save the Kurds. none. The best they could hope for was that a threat of massive sanctions might lead them to hesitate long enough for the Syrian army forces to prepare defensive positions, and even that wouldn’t be good for the Kurds in Syria.

    Technically, trump could have threatened Turkey with military action. But 1) that’s not what one does to an ally, even a nominal one, and 2) it would be an utter admission of the gravity and scope of Trump’s Blunder in Syria; ie, that his order to withdraw troops created such a big catastrophe, that many more troops would be needed to fix it.

    Of course this deal is great for Turkey. They can now move in and set up in Northern Syria without being shot at by those pesky Kurds (who are no angels, apparently). It’s good for Syria. They had no control over the area the Turks will occupy and they won’t have it now, but at least they won’t have to die trying in vain to prevent it.

    The Kurds, of course, get screwed, thrown out of their land, while Trump does a victory dance.

    Would you blame them if they conclude they were stupid to help the Americans?

    BTW, I seriously doubt Hillary would have done anything anywhere near this level of idiocy. Or for that matter anyone else in the Republican 2016 field for that matter.

  6. Johan says:

    Great news they call it, Pence on behave of Trump agreed on a cease fire with Erdogan; Sdf has 120 houres to leave the region of the border 20 miles deep, leave their weapons and then his highness the Sultan promise to lay down weapons for 5 days. This must be a bad joke: the Sdf has 120 houres for an unconditional surrender! First America/Trump betrayed the Sdf and now Trump wants them to transfer their land, unarmed as sheep to two unreliable, irratic and cruel nitwits. That is real betrayal a judas worthy. And as a gift to that dictator ALL SANCTIONS WIIL BE SKIPED, that’s a present ( one way) to Erdogan not a cease fire. The final result is that Trump gave Erdogan N-E Syria on a plater 30 miles deep and as a extra present the inhabitants must clear the region and kiss the Sultans feet. Trump is the president who is able to stab you twice in one week in the back and be proud on it. Wonder why Trump needed to drag his feed for so many months if he delivers now those prouds people disected on a plate. Shame.

  7. DrDaveT says:

    “Operation Peace Spring”!? Well, Turkey has clearly learned something from the US.

    So we now know that the Trump answer to the question “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” is “It’s a cease fire.”

  8. CSK says:

    The reaction of the Trumpkins to this may be characterized thusly: Winning!!!!!

  9. de stijl says:


    Turkey is calling their action operation “Peace Spring”?

    Your take is spot on. Ever since Reagan, our names for foreign adventures have been stupidly jingoistic.

    What should be placeholder names are now political assertions. Operation “Desert Shield” and “Desert Storm”, as names, are a political statement. Old school names like Operation Chastise or Hurricane is perfectly cromulent.

    Operation “Enduring Freedom” is ten tons of bs and is explicitly political.

    I deem all of these new names Operation Shenanigans.

  10. the Q says:

    And yet, the question that must be asked, is when DO we remove our troops from Syria? Like our troops in Afghanistan/Iraq/Saudi Arabia/Jordan/Kuwait/Bahrain/Oman/Qatar/UAE?

    There has to be some point that we withdraw and the reaction would be the same. In that vacuum someone will rush in.

    Trump’s actions were not carefully planned and disastrous for the Kurds, but, lets be honest, what other outcome could there be in the future? Or do we just leave our troops everywhere forever? Obama won in 2008 for his opposition to these wars. He was careful not to escalate. Trump won by taking a similar position. The Pentagon budget even with Dems in charge of Congress keeps going up and up.

    When is enough enough? There was brilliant analysis done by the war college 20 years ago which stated that the USSR would have collapsed and fallen much faster and sooner had we NOT gone into Vietnam.

    Vietnam was a huge distraction and diversion of our resources which detracted from our confrontation with the Soviets.

    The middle east insanity has allowed the friggin Chinese to develop at a much faster rate and threaten our Pacific theater since so much of our forces are bogged down in the ME.

    The Belt and Road initiative, the Made in China 2025/2035/2049 plans are serious, in your face threats to U.S. hegemony. Meanwhile, we are repeating the mistakes of Vietnam.

    Vietnam, by far the greatest phuck up of the Greatest Generation. Yet, that phuck up only lasted 13 years. The boomers just didn’t learn the lesson as we are at the 17 year mark with no end in sight.

  11. Kathy says:

    @the Q:

    And yet, the question that must be asked, is when DO we remove our troops from Syria?

    Given the circumstances on the ground and the existence of helpful local allies in the area, once you can make sure Turkey won’t take advantage of the situation in order to do ethnic cleansing on your helpful local allies.

    Also, troops stationed in a friendly or allied country are not the same as troops deployed in combat. For instance, Qatar won’t collapse if the US closes it’s air base there and leaves. Or Germany, or he UK, or Japan, or Korea, or Canada…

  12. Mattbernius says:

    If this is true then man this was one hell of a deal:

    #BREAKING: Turkish army resumes bombardment of Serekaniye (Ras al-Ain) despite the agreed ceasefire – Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    @the Q:

    And yet, the question that must be asked, is when DO we remove our troops from Syria? Like our troops in Afghanistan/Iraq/Saudi Arabia/Jordan/Kuwait/Bahrain/Oman/Qatar/UAE?

    There has to be some point that we withdraw and the reaction would be the same. In that vacuum someone will rush in.

    When do you want the police to move out of your city or state? Because that is what we are, we’re the cops. We’re not good at it, but we are the cops because the world needs cops. (Pausing to note the irony that I’m saying this) What law and order there is in this world is because of a cop who denies he’s a cop and has no known skills at being a cop. And yet, you want a cop.

  14. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @the Q: Withdraw for what? First, the small amount of troops there are not engaged is active combat. They are there as insurance for our equities in the region. If not us…some other regional or global power with impose their priorities on the region when directly or indirectly affect us or our allies. It always amazes me how Americans enjoy the benefits of being a global hegemon….but think that it happens somehow through magic. This is not vietnam….more people are killed in Chicago over a weekend then we’ve lost TOTAL in Syria. It’s a good investment with measurable ROI.

    A decision point for when US presence is no longer needed would be when majority Muslim countries in the middle east function like their Asian counterparts. They police inside their borders and deny safe haven to religious nuts looking to export a violent brand of end times eschatology westward.

  15. An Interested Party says:

    Pence And Pompeo ‘Ceasefire’ Benefits Turks, Syria, And Russia, Screws Kurds

    So, in other words, it isn’t just Trump who’s helping Putin, it’s also members of his administration…

    how great a hero he is for resolving a humanitarian crisis he created in the first place…

    Oh, like the humanitarian crisis he created at our southern border, or like the trade crisis he created…he sure is great at causing crises…

  16. Teve says:

    He bragged that the ceasefire “wasn’t even possible three days ago”. Motherfucker it wasn’t even necessary 2 weeks ago.

  17. de stijl says:

    The Chinese are going to eat our lunch and make us apologize for doing so.

    Russia has already done so.

  18. Hal_10000 says:

    Of all the revolting things this Administration has done … this may be the worst.

    1) Give Turkey the green light to start an ethnic cleansing.
    2) Do it so fast that American troops have to *bomb their own bases* to keep them from being captured.
    3) Broker a “deal” where we just withdraw and then Turkey effectively annexes 1000 square miles of Syria.
    4) Demand plaudits for your achievement that saved “millions” of lives.

    I’ve had it with the pusillanimous idiot. The GOP always want to bring up Neville Chamberlain whenever we don’t want to invade someone. This is a true Chamberlain moment. Trump proclaiming peace in our time while an ethnic cleansing is going on. What a disgrace.

  19. de stijl says:


    You are an outlier in that you perhaps our truest center person here.

    Well, center to center-right.

    I’m not trying to label you. You get to name your own orientation. Ignore me.

    That you decidedly broke hard on this issue is interesting.

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:


    Also, troops stationed in a friendly or allied country are not the same as troops deployed in combat.

    While agreeing with your larger sentiment, I’m not sure what you mean by this. Syria is neither.

  21. Kathy says:


    Check the comment I replied to. The poster named a number of Middle eastern countries that are quite stable, and not in any way about to collapse save for the presence of US troops.

  22. mattbernius says:

    @de stijl:

    That you decidedly broke hard on this issue is interesting.

    Is it. Following Hal’s posting history on foreign affairs, this is pretty consistent as far as I can tell. He’s not been a Trump supporter and my sense is his general views on FP are pragmatic without being hawkish. If anything, I suspect he’s probably closer to Daniel Larison than anyone else (but that might be projection on my part).