Oct 23, 2019

Trump declares victory in Syria, lifts sanctions on Turkey

President Trump gave a triumphant statement from the White House on Wednesday, claiming despite widespread criticism that while his decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria led to a "short-term outburst," it resulted in a "great outcome."

"Over the last five days, you have seen that a ceasefire that we established along Syria's border has held and it has held very well beyond most expectations. Earlier this morning, the government of Turkey informed my administration that they would be stopping combat and their offensive in Syria and making the ceasefire permanent. ... I have, therefore, instructed the secretary of the treasury to lift all sanctions imposed on Oct. 14. ... This was an outcome created by us, the United States, and nobody else, no other nation."

The big picture: Trump's decision led directly to a Turkish offensive against America's Kurdish allies and the escape of ISIS detainees. And while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was condemned internationally for the invasion, the outcome Trump described rewards him handsomely — with a long-sought "safe zone" negotiated with Russia on the Syrian border and the removal of all U.S. sanctions imposed by Trump, who was effusive in thanking Erdogan today for stopping the offensive.

  • Trump said a small number of U.S. troops are "protecting the oil" in Syria and will continue to do so, a move that is complicated logistically, legally and in terms of the message it sends about America's presence in the Middle East. He said of the oil, "We'll be deciding what we’re going to be doing with it in the future."
  • Facing claims he betrayed the Kurds by clearing a path for Erdogan to attack them, Trump declared that he'd "saved the lives of many, many Kurds" by helping end the offensive.
  • He continued to portray Syria and the wider Middle East as a hopelessly violent place, saying the U.S. can't hope to solve "ancient sectarian and tribal conflicts" before adding: "Let someone else fight over this long-bloodstained sand."

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