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.
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.