How Donald Trump has unleashed 'every worst case scenario' with Turkey-Syria move
The FT's Peter Spiegel looks at the fallout from the president's move to withdraw the US military from northern Syria and Turkey's subsequent assault on areas held by Kurdish forces
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Every worst case scenario in the region has been fulfilled. The concerns were multifold. One, that the Kurdish allies of the United States who actually fought Isis in northern Syria would be overwhelmed and in some cases slaughtered by the Turkish forces. That happened.
There was concern that the Russians, who had been trying to use Syria as a way to re-enter the Middle East into the vacuum to replace the United States as a major player in the region. That was a fear. That's happened.
And then that Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator, who was on the verge of falling just a few years ago under the Obama administration - that he would able to reassert his power in the region. That's happened as well because he's been able to move his forces into northern Syria as well. So the three worst case scenarios that the Americans had feared in the region have all happened over the course of the last week.
With the implementation of the ceasefire, the United States will not impose any further sanctions on Turkey. And once a permanent ceasefire is in effect the president has agreed to withdraw the economic sanctions that were imposed this last Monday.
You have, obviously, Pence and Pompeo flying to Ankara to meet Erdogan to try to get him to stop what he's doing. Now remember, this is, again, just a week after Trump himself basically gave Erdogan a green light to move into northern Syria by pulling out American forces in the region, and over a phone call, basically saying, this is up to Erdogan to deal with. That obviously created a huge backlash domestically.
We've seen the Democrats, in particular... there were huge clashes at the Oval Office between Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump over this, where they just basically blew up at each other. But it's not just the Democrats criticising Trump on this. You have really the most senior national security Republicans, who have been allied with Trump for a long time, really coming after him on this.
Mr President, if you don't understand that Isis is coming back you're missing a lot of good advice. If you don't understand these bastards would kill us all if they could you're not listening to what they're saying. And if you abandon these Kurds it would be a stain on your presidency and our honour.
And how do you fix this? You lead. You tell Erdogan, I am speaking for a nation now. I have the backing of the United States Congress. We will not tolerate this. We want a good relationship, but you're destroying it. And I have the backing of the United States Congress. I've got the backing of people who want to impeach me. And I've got the backing of the people who are going to defend me.
We've heard word out of Ankara that the Turks are incredibly happy with the deal they've done because it has allowed them to create what they've always wanted to create, which is a base of operations in northern Syria, a "buffer zone," quote, unquote, in which they basically can clear out all Kurdish forces, regardless of their affiliation.
The Turks have always been, in many ways, existentially afraid of the Kurdish threat. The PKK, the Kurdish workers' party, has been a terrorist organisation inside Turkey. They've caused untold damage and death inside Turkey.
The Kurds that had worked with the Americans in northern Syria were not of the PKK. They may have had some overlap. But this was a separate organisation that the Americans felt they were able to work with and did not pose a threat to the Turks.
The Turks obviously felt otherwise. And they finally get their ability to clear out any Kurdish forces, any Kurdish operations, in northern Syria, which is exactly what they have wanted, for almost no cost. There is nothing that the Americans were asking for other than the stopping of hostilities.
Trump has said he would stop the sanctions against Turkey for their operations if they are able to allow the Kurds to pull out of the region. And as a result, we've also seen, you know, hundreds if not thousands of Isis fighters who were captured in northern Syria and were being detained by the Kurds, a real risk of them coming back to the battlefield and fighting again for another day.
And again, talk about worst case scenarios. That would be the worst case scenario for the US because of all the blood and treasure used to round up those Isis fighters inside Syria.