Erdoğan ignores United States as he prepares assault on Kurds

Geraldine Edwards
January 11, 2019

Ironically, troops that are designated to help with the eventual withdrawal already are in the area, adding more more troops in the vicinity now than before President Donald Trump announced the Syria withdrawal in December.

US officials recently said a planned troop pullout from Syria depends on Turkey not attacking the PKK/YPG, while Turkish officials have pledged an operation against the terrorist group, citing its threat to national security and Syrians east of the Euphrates River.

It was Erdoğan who gave the first impressions over the talks between Bolton and Kalın in his weekly address to his Justice and Development Party (AKP) parliamentary group. However, some U.S. media outlets reported that during his trip, Bolton may have discussed possible United States plans to maintain its presence in the country to counter Iran.

Pompeo is touring the region to try to explain USA strategy after Trump's surprise announcement of an abrupt withdrawal of all 2,000 United States troops from Syria.

Casting Iran as a "cancerous influence", Pompeo said the United States had "reimposed sanctions that should never have been lifted".

USA support for the Kurds in Syria has been a major point of contention between Ankara and Washington.

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"We will labor tirelessly alongside you to defeat ISIS, Al Qaeda and other jihadists that threaten our security and yours", he said. Yet, the president's remark that Iran can do as it pleases in Syria completely contradicted Trump's past statements about challenging the Islamic Republic's ambitions in Syria.

Another message he conveyed was that the Turkish Armed Forces has accomplished its preparations for an offensive into Syria to eliminate ISIL and that the operation was imminent. "US security units are trying to dissuade their president", he added.

"Whenever/wherever U.S. interferes, chaos, repression & resentment follow [sic]", Zarif wrote.

In the interview, Cavusoglu also rejected a U.S. condition on the sale of its Patriot missiles that Turkey abandon plans to buy the Russian-made S-400 air-defense system.

Aaron Stein, the Middle East director at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, said the tensions over the administration's Syria policy were largely the result of Trump's staff ignoring "the intent of the President". "We want to coordinate this process with Russian Federation and Iran, with which we had arranged work in the framework of the Astana process", Cavusoglu said Wednesday.

Earlier Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed that Washington and its allies would work diplomatically to expel all Iranian troops from Syria.

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"It's a bipartisan failure", said Mark Dubowitz, the chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a hawkish Washington-based think tank.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says Turkey may buy U.S. Patriot missile systems if conditions are right, but insists such a deal would be impossible if Washington forces Ankara to cancel its agreement to purchase S-400 antiaircraft missiles from Russian Federation.

National security adviser John Bolton, speaking in Israel on Sunday, said the administration would delay the withdrawal until Turkey assures the safety of Kurdish fighters and ISIS is defeated.

Bolton and Pompeo have both insisted on protection for all of the SDF, whose estimated 60,000 fighters include Syrian Arabs as well as Kurds. The Kurds there have fought alongside American troops, but Erdogan considers them terrorists.

Pompeo has chosen Cairo as the symbolic venue for a speech meant to repudiate the message in former US President Barack Obama's landmark address to the Muslim world from the Egyptian capital when he first took office.

Since September, Idlib has been shielded from a threatened government offensive by a precarious truce agreed between government ally Russian Federation and rebel backer Turkey.

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