The Cease Fire That Wasn’t

Ken AshfordMiddle East, Russia, Syria, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

So Trump sent this embarrassing letter a couple days ago:

Oh my God. A “deal”???

It didn’t go over well in Turkey either

but despite that, Pence went over there, and we got…. A CEASE-FIRE DEAL!

Trump did and continues to do victory laps about it. About a five-day ceasefire, which allows the Kurds to leave without getting slaughtered.

But the cease-fire agreement reached with Turkey by Vice President Mike Pence amounts to a near-total victory for Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who gains territory, pays little in penalties and appears to have outmaneuvered Trump.

The best that can be said for the agreement is that it may stop the killing in the Kurdish enclave in northern Syria. But the cost for Kurds, longtime American allies in the fight against the Islamic State, is severe: Even Pentagon officials were mystified about where tens of thousands of displaced Kurds would go, as they moved south from the Turkey-Syria border as required by the deal — if they agree to go at all.

And the cost to American influence, while hard to quantify, could be frightfully high. ISIS fighters are allowed to escape, there is still the displacement of tens of thousands, barbaric war crimes, and the US powdering its own military infrastructure.

And then today:

Turkish-led bombardment Friday killed 14 civilians in northeastern Syria, as Turkey’s president threatened to broaden his assault and an hours-old US-brokered deal already appeared to crumble.

A war monitor said Turkish air strikes and mortar fire by its Syrian proxies killed 14 civilians, appearing to dash the ceasefire announced late Thursday.

That deal was meant to provide a five-day pause for the evacuation of Kurdish fighters from the battleground border town of Ras al-Ain and other areas Turkey wants to control along its border with Syria.

“If the promises are kept until Tuesday evening, the safe zone issue will be resolved,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul.

“If it fails, the operation… will start the minute 120 hours are over,” he said.
The suspension looked designed to help Turkey achieve its main territorial goals without fighting, but its Syrian proxies continued to clash with Kurdish fighters Friday.

The 14 civilians were killed in Turkish air strikes and mortar fire by allied Syrian fighters on and around the village of Bab al-Kheir, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based war monitor said eight fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces — the de facto army of the embattled Kurdish autonomous region — were killed in the strikes, it said.

Trump’s response? Downplaying it with a heavy does of I-meant-to-do-that:

In a fiery Oval Office meeting with Trump, Nancy Pelosi chided Trump that all his decisions seemed to benefit Russia.

After the meeting, Schumer, Pelosi and Hoyer said Trump appeared unhinged by a House vote condemning the Syria withdrawal, and the meeting quickly degenerated into a name-calling session led by the president, according to the Democrats. The trio walked out of the meeting before it was over, they told reporters afterward.

“[Trump] was insulting, particularly to the speaker,” Schumer said. “She kept her cool completely, but he called her a third-rate politician. And he said there are communists involved [in ISIS], and you guys might like that. This was not a dialogue; this was sort of a diatribe, a nasty diatribe not focused on the facts.”

When asked earlier this week what she was saying to Trump in the photo he posted on Twitter (which she subsequently used as the background photo on her own Twitter page), Pelosi said she was probably asking why “all roads lead to Putin.”