The Washington Post - 24.10.2019

(Nancy Kaufman) #1

T H U R S D A Y , O C T O B E R  2 4,  2 0 1 9 .  T H E  W A S H I N G T O N  P O S T EZ RE A

al-Shammari told the Associated
Press that U.S. forces were
only “transiting” through Iraqi ter-
ritory and would depart within
four weeks.
“The government has con-
firmed that it will not grant per-
mission for U.S. forces retreating
from Syrian territory to remain in
Iraqi territory,” Iraqi Prime Minis-
ter Adel Abdul Mahdi said in a
statement after meeting Esper.
He said Iraq was “taking all
international legal measures” over
the deployment of U.S. troops.
Earlier in the day, the Russian
Foreign Ministry said that the Syr-
ian government should retain con-
trol of the oil facilities in north-
eastern Syria.
The Kremlin also said Wednes-
day that the United States had
betrayed and abandoned the
Kurds in Syria. “The United States
was the closest ally of the Kurds
over the past few years. But in the
end, the U.S. abandoned the
Kurds, actually betraying them,”
Peskov told reporters.
In Ankara, Ibrahim Kalin, an
Erdogan adviser, addressed one of
the most heavily criticized aspects
of Turkey’s Syria buffer zone — a
proposal to resettle up to 2 million
Syrian refugees there. Refugee ad-
vocates have said the plan would
violate international law if the Syr-
ians were forcibly returned. Kurd-
ish residents of northeast Syria
fear that the plan, which would
bring in Sunni Arabs originally
from other parts of Syria, would
force demographic change in the
Erdogan and his ruling party
have faced anger from the Turkish
public over the country’s hosting
of up to 4 million Syrian refugees.
In the months leading up to the
Turkish offensive, thousands of
Syrians were deported during a
crackdown on the refugees. Turk-
ish officials have asserted that
their departures were voluntary.
In their agreements with Tur-
key, neither the United States nor
Russia mentioned the return of
the many Kurdish and other civil-
ians who have fled the border re-
gion in the past two weeks.
One of the senior administra-
tion officials said, “I don’t think
we’ve seen any evidence of ethnic
cleansing. That would be a very
serious thing if it takes place.”

Cunningham and Fahim reported from
Istanbul. Missy Ryan in Washington
contributed to this report.

posts along the frontier.
Asked about the Russian role, a
second senior administration offi-
cial said, “I think we always watch
the Russians warily wherever we
are.” But, the official said, “the deal
between Turkey and the Russians
is something that’s between them.
We did not have any role in that.”
“The reality is, the [Turkish]
operation took place, there was
fighting that broke out as a result,
the president stepped in and nego-
tiated... a temporary cease-fire
that now appears to be perma-
nent” and “helped save a lot of
lives,” the official said. “We think
that’s a victory.”
In an apparent reference to Tur-
key and Russia, Trump said that
“others have come out to help, and
we welcome them to do so — other
countries have stepped forward.”
In Iraq, visiting Defense Secre-
tary Mark T. Esper faced opposi-
tion from the government in Bagh-
dad to U.S. plans to redeploy with-
drawing troops to Iraqi terri-
tory. The Pentagon chief had said
this week that U.S. forces depart-
ing Syria would redeploy to west-
ern Iraq to continue fighting the
Islamic State.
Iraqi Defense Minister Najah

likely to be back on the table.
Trump said only that he and Erdo-
gan “may be meeting in the very
near future.” Like others, the offi-
cial spoke on the condition of ano-
nymity to discuss diplomatic mat-
Under the agreement signed
Tuesday by Erdogan and Russian
President Vladimir Putin in the
Black Sea resort of Sochi, Kurdish
fighters have until next week to
withdraw from an area stretching
from the Euphrates River to the
Iraqi border.
If armed Kurdish units do not
retreat, Kremlin spokesman Dmit-
ry Peskov told Russian media,
“that will have to be done by Syrian
border guards and Russian mili-
tary police. In that case, the Turk-
ish army will roll over the remain-
ing Kurdish units.”
Russian military police began
patrolling parts of northeast Syria
on Wednesday under the agree-
ment. Russia’s Defense Ministry
and local media reports said that a
column of Russian military vehi-
cles arrived in the city of Kobane,
which until recently hosted a U.S.
military base. The ministry said
that Syrian government forces
would also establish observation

“is going to remove Kurdish forc-
es” from that area, “including
Kurdish cities,” and “take control
of five oil fields.”
Others referred to the likeli-
hood of an Islamic State resur-
gence as the Kurds look for new
alliances and their U.S. mentors
and protectors withdraw. Already,
administration officials have re-
ported “dozens” or more escapes
of militants and family members
from Kurdish-held prisons in
Syria. “There were a few that got
out — a small number, relatively
speaking — and they’ve been
largely recaptured,” Trump said.
Graham, a Trump ally who said
last week that Erdogan should be
treated like “the thug he is,”
stepped back from his sharp criti-
cism, tweeting that “this cease-
fire, if permanent, represents real
progress.” He stressed the impor-
tance of maintaining control of the
Syrian oil fields.
A senior administration official
said inducements offered to Erdo-
gan this month not to invade —
including a $100 million trade
deal, resolution of a dispute over
Turkish purchase of a Russian mis-
sile defense system, and a White
House visit in November — were

tary bombardment.
Erdogan agreed that if the
pause succeeded and the Kurdish
fighters left, a more permanent
“halt” in the fighting would take
hold. In exchange, the administra-
tion agreed to drop existing sanc-
tions and what Trump had prom-
ised would be even harsher eco-
nomic measures.
Many critics were just as dismis-
sive of Wednesday’s announced
victory as they were of the deal
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.),
who last week, along with Sen.
Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and
others, co-sponsored a bill to im-
pose legislative sanctions on Tur-
key, said Trump’s “celebration...
represents his total surrender of
American leadership and the
treacherous betrayal of our Syrian
Kurdish allies.”
On Twitter, Sen. Marco Rubio
(R-Fla.), in an apparent reference
to the limited geography of the
U.S.-Turkey cease-fire deal, said
that Erdogan “has NOT agreed to
stop all military operations in Syr-
ia.” Russia, which on Tuesday
signed a deal with Turkey to take
control of hundreds more miles of
Syrian territory along the border,

eastern Syria. That area is south of
a line of control Turkey has drawn
20 miles inside Syria.
“We’re going to be protecting it,
and we’ll be deciding what we’re
going to do with it in the future,” he
said. U.S. officials have said about
200 troops, out of a total of about
1,000, will remain, along with 100
to 150 at a separate garrison in
southern Syria near the Jordanian
Trump thanked Turkish Presi-
dent Recep Tayyip Erdogan, call-
ing him “a man who loves his
country,” and said that Syrian
Kurdish commander Mazloum
Kobane had told him in a phone
call that he was grateful for U.S.
In Twitter messages posted on
behalf of the Kurdish commander
(who uses a nom de guerre and is
known simply as Mazloum),
spokesman Mustafa Bali con-
firmed that gratitude and said
Trump “promised to maintain” a
partnership with the Kurdish-led
Syrian Democratic Forces. The
SDF served as the main ground
force in routing the Islamic State
with U.S. weaponry and air cover,
but Turkey considers it a terrorist
Mazloum also held a videocon-
ference with Russian Defense
Minister Sergei Shoigu, posted on-
line by Russian media.
Trump’s announcement came
at a hastily organized event at
which he was flanked by Vice Pres-
ident Pence, Secretary of State
Mike Pompeo and national secu-
rity adviser Robert C. O’Brien.
Trump sent the three on a whirl-
wind trip last week to Ankara after
Turkey sent its troops across the
border just days after a Trump-
Erdogan phone call. During a long
afternoon of talks, they reached a
deal in which Turkey agreed to a
five-day “pause” in its operations
in a 75-mile border strip in Syria to
allow the exodus of Syrian Kurdish
fighters. More than 160,000 civil-
ians also fled from Turkish-allied
Syrian militias and Turkish mili-




declared in

part of Syria

Russian soldiers walk past a military police vehicle Wednesday in the northeastern Syrian city of Kobane, near the Turkish border. As part
of a deal between Moscow and Ankara, Russian forces began moving into territory once held in the region by Kurdish and U.S. forces.


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