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."

Go deeper: Russia and Turkey capitalize on Trump's Syria exit

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Cornyn defends Trump despite Turkey's intent of ethnic cleansing

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Shortly after President Trump announced Wednesday he will lift sanctions against Turkey, Texas Sen. John Cornyn told reporters that withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria was warranted due to their safety and Turkey's intent on ethnic cleaning of the Kurds, the Dallas Morning News reports.

“If Turkey was planning on coming into northern Syria and trying to ethnically cleanse the Kurds, and U.S. troops were caught in the middle, I am not completely convinced that it was a bad idea to get them out of harm’s way."
Go deeperArrowOct 24, 2019

U.S. troops move to eastern Syria to execute oil field protection plan

A Turkey-backed Syrian fighter looks on from a fortified position near the village of Awshariyah overlooking the Euphrates river, south of Jarabulus in the northern part of Aleppo province on Oct. 26. Photo: AAREF WATAD/Getty Images

The U.S. military has reportedly started to send troops to eastern Syria in accordance with orders from President Trump, who seeks to protect oil fields in the region, per U.S. defense officials cited by the Washington Post.

Why it matters: "U.S. officials have said that the new mission around the oil fields there will prevent the Islamic State from capturing them, but also allow the Pentagon to continue carrying out counterterrorism operations on the militant group and maintain control of the airspace overhead," the Post writes.

Go deeperArrowOct 26, 2019

Sen. Rand Paul: Kurds "should be thanking us" for Syria exit

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) called Kurdish forces "ingrates" on Wednesday for heaving potatoes and rotten vegetables at U.S. troops withdrawing from northern Syria, ABC News reports.

The big picture: Some of the most powerful Republicans in Congress have denounced President Trump's decision to pull troops from Syria in preparation for Turkey's military offensive into the region, saying it could undo years of fighting ISIS and expose U.S.-allied Kurds to violence.

Go deeperArrowOct 23, 2019