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US News Trump Followed His Gut on Syria. Calamity Came Fast.

06:22  17 october  2019
06:22  17 october  2019 Source:   msn.com

Bloodshed, betrayal and a huge battlefield: 24 hours in northeastern Syria

  Bloodshed, betrayal and a huge battlefield: 24 hours in northeastern Syria I cannot remember a sequence of events, bloodshed and geopolitical machinations in a single day that involved so many countries and so many people. In a single day. We were on the road again, had been for four days, but as each hour passed, our ability to move safely in Kurdish northeast Syria lessened.We overtook cars, trucks, flatbeds, and pick-ups laden with belongings, but there were fewer and fewer. Almost anyone who could, had already left the border lands between Syria and Turkey.On the side of a road, near a truck stop, we came across five lorries, they were full of families.

Turkish troops and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters on Saturday near the border town of Ras al-Ain, during their assault on Kurdish-held border towns in northeastern Syria .Credit Nazeer Al-Khatib/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.

Calamity Came Fast . David E. Sanger. 6 hrs ago. “My gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me," he said late last year. He was discussing the Federal Reserve, but could just as easily been talking foreign policy; in 2017 he told a reporter, right after his first meeting with

a group of people standing on top of a hill: Turkish troops and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters on Monday near the city of Manbij, during their assault on Kurdish-held border areas in northeastern Syria. © Zein Al Rifai/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Turkish troops and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters on Monday near the city of Manbij, during their assault on Kurdish-held border areas in northeastern Syria.

President Trump’s acquiescence to Turkey’s move to send troops deep inside Syrian territory has in only one week’s time turned into a bloody carnage, forced the abandonment of a successful five-year-long American project to keep the peace on a volatile border, and given an unanticipated victory to four American adversaries: Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and the Islamic State.

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Calamity Came Fast . All the warnings were there. But President Trump ’s reliance on his instincts, and his relationships, led him to ignore the consequences of a move that has emboldened Russia, Iran and the Islamic State.

Rarely has a presidential decision resulted so immediately in what his own party leaders have described as disastrous consequences for American allies and interests. How this decision happened — springing from an “off-script moment” with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, in the generous description of a senior American diplomat — probably will be debated for years by historians, Middle East experts and conspiracy theorists.

But this much already is clear: Mr. Trump ignored months of warnings from his advisers about what calamities likely would ensue if he followed his instincts to pull back from Syria and abandon America’s longtime allies, the Kurds. He had no Plan B, other than to leave. The only surprise is how swiftly it all collapsed around the president and his depleted, inexperienced foreign policy team. Donald Trump, Emrah Kale are posing for a picture: President Trump with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in 2018. © Doug Mills/The New York Times President Trump with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in 2018.

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Calamity Came Fast . 17:55 14 october 2019. But this much already is clear: Mr. Trump ignored months of warnings from his advisers about what calamities likely would ensue if he followed his instincts to pull back from Syria and abandon America’s longtime allies, the Kurds.

But President Trump ’s reliance on his instincts, and his relationships, led him to ignore the consequences of a move that has emboldened But this much already is clear: Mr. Trump ignored months of warnings from his advisers about what calamities likely would ensue if he followed his

Day after day, they have been caught off-guard, offering up differing explanations of what Mr. Trump said to Mr. Erdogan, how the United States and its allies might respond, and even whether Turkey remains an American ally. For a while Mr. Trump said he acted because the Islamic State was already defeated, and because he was committed to terminating “endless wars” by pulling American troops out of the Middle East. By the end of the week he added 2,000 — to Saudi Arabia.

Gallery: Recap Erdogan - career in pictures (Photos)

One day he was inviting Mr. Erdogan to visit the White House; the next he was threatening to “totally destroy and obliterate” Turkey’s economy if it crossed a line that he never defined.

Mr. Erdogan just kept going. a group of people riding bikes down a street: Residents of Akcakale, southern Turkey, celebrated through the streets after Turkish-backed Syrian fighters announced they had taken parts of the Syrian town of Tel Abyad. © Mauricio Lima for The New York Times Residents of Akcakale, southern Turkey, celebrated through the streets after Turkish-backed Syrian fighters announced they had taken parts of the Syrian town of Tel Abyad.

Mr. Trump’s error, some aides concede in off-the-record conversations, was entering the Oct. 6 call underprepared, and then failing to spell out for Mr. Erdogan the potential consequences — from economic sanctions to a contraction of Turkey’s alliance with the United States and its standing in NATO. He has since threatened both, retroactively, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said later Monday that the president had signed an executive order authorizing sanctions on individuals or associates of Turkey’s government who “endanger civilians or lead to the further deterioration of peace, security and stability in northeast Syria.” But it is not clear whether Mr. Erdogan believes that poses a real risk.

Trump declares 'big success' in Syria, lifts sanctions on Turkey

  Trump declares 'big success' in Syria, lifts sanctions on Turkey In a 15-minute speech at the White House, Trump said critics of his policy want an endless, unlimited U.S. commitment in a dangerous region. © Provided by USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc. "They are the ones who got us into the Middle East mess," he said during a 15-minute speech at the White House. "Let someone else fight over this long bloodstained sand." The president said he could reimpose sanctions if Turkey fails to honor its obligations "including the protection of religious and ethnic minorities.

The drama is nowhere near over. Out of necessity, the Kurds switched sides on Sunday, turning their backs on Washington and signing up with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, a man the United States has called a war criminal for gassing his own people. At the Pentagon, officials struggled with the right response if Turkish forces — NATO allies — again opened fire on any of the 1,000 or so Americans now preparing to retreat from their positions inside Syria. Those troops are trapped for now, since Turkey has cut off the roads; removing them may require an airlift.

And over the weekend, State and Energy Department officials were quietly reviewing plans for evacuating roughly 50 tactical nuclear weapons that the United States had long stored, under American control, at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, about 250 miles from the Syrian border, according to two American officials. a man wearing a uniform: Syrian troops at the entrance to the town of Tal Tamer, on Monday. © Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Syrian troops at the entrance to the town of Tal Tamer, on Monday.

Those weapons, one senior official said, were now essentially Erdogan’s hostages. To fly them out of Incirlik would be to mark the de facto end of the Turkish-American alliance. To keep them there, though, is to perpetuate a nuclear vulnerability that should have been eliminated years ago.

“I think this is a first — a country with U.S. nuclear weapons stationed in it literally firing artillery at US forces,” Jeffrey Lewis of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies wrote last week. a truck driving down a dirt road: United States military vehicles near the town of Tal Baydar on Saturday. © Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images United States military vehicles near the town of Tal Baydar on Saturday.

For his part, Mr. Erdogan claims nuclear ambitions of his own: Only a month ago, speaking to supporters, he said he “cannot accept” rules that keep Turkey from possessing nuclear weapons of its own.

“There is no developed nation in the world that doesn’t have them,” he said. (In fact, most do not.)

“This president keeps blindsiding our military and diplomatic leaders and partners with impulsive moves like this that benefit Russia and authoritarian regimes,” said Senator Jack Reed, the Rhode Island Democrat and longtime member of the Armed Services Committee.

Gallery: Tensions rise in Syria after the US pulls out troops (Photos)

“If this president were serious about ending wars and winning peace, he’d actually articulate a strategy that would protect against a re-emergence of ISIS and provide for the safety of our Syrian partners,” Mr. Reed added. “But he has repeatedly failed to do that. Instead, this is another example of Donald Trump creating chaos, undermining U.S. interests, and benefiting Russia and the Assad regime.”

The other major beneficiary is Iran, perhaps Mr. Trump’s most talked-about geopolitical foe, which has long supported the Syrian regime and sought freer rein across the country.

Mr. Trump tried another defense on Monday, via Twitter. Clearly sensitive about the critique that he was abandoning a longtime ally, he wrote that “anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!”

It was another example of Mr. Trump’s taking a 1930s view of how to defend the nation, ignoring the power vacuums filled by adversaries and making the case that distance is the ultimate protection. The lessons of economic interdependency, the Sept. 11 attacks and the era of cyberconflict suggest otherwise.

Donald Trump © Reuters Donald Trump As the situation continued to devolve, senior administration officials stepped forward to try to reverse the damage.

In an unscheduled appearance in the White House driveway, Vice President Mike Pence told reporters that Mr. Trump had asked Mr. Erdogan for an immediate cease-fire — part of the executive order that Mr. Pompeo announced — adding that the president had not given a “green light” for Turkish forces to invade Syria.

“The United States of America wants Turkey to stop the invasion,” Mr. Pence said, “to implement an immediate cease-fire and to begin to negotiate with Kurdish forces in Syria to bring an end to the violence.”

He said the president had directed him to lead a delegation to Turkey alongside Robert O’Brien, the president’s new national security adviser, to negotiate directly with Mr. Erdogan.

The horrors that have played out with lightning speed were clearly not anticipated by Mr. Trump, who has no fondness for briefing books and meetings in the Situation Room intended to game out events two or three moves ahead. Instead, he often talks about trusting his instincts.

“My gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me," he said late last year. He was discussing the Federal Reserve, but could just as easily have been talking foreign policy; in 2017 he told a reporter, right after his first meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, that it was his “gut feel” for how to deal with foreign leaders, honed over years in the real estate world, that guided him. “Foreign policy is what I’ll be remembered for,” he said.

Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Tel Abyad, as seen from the Turkish border town of Akcakale. © Getty Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Tel Abyad, as seen from the Turkish border town of Akcakale. But in this case the failure to look around corners has blown up on him at a speed that is rare in foreign policy and national security. The closest analogue may date to 1950, during Harry Truman’s administration, when Secretary of State Dean Acheson described America’s new “defense perimeter” in a speech, saying it ran from southern Japan through the Philippines. That left out the Korean Peninsula, and two weeks later Joseph Stalin, the Soviet leader, appeared to have given Kim Il-sung, grandfather of the current North Korean leader, permission to launch his invasion of the South. The bloody stalemate that followed lives with the United States today.

At the time, the United States kept a token force in South Korea, akin to the one parked along the Turkish-Syrian border. And it is impossible to know whether the North Korean attack would have been launched even without Mr. Acheson’s failure to warn about American action if a vulnerable ally was attacked — just as it is impossible to know if Mr. Erdogan would have sent his troops over the border if that phone call, and Mr. Trump’s failure to object, had never happened.

It was Mr. Trump himself who, during a presidential debate with Hillary Clinton in 2016, blamed President Barack Obama for a similar error. “President Obama and Secretary Clinton created a vacuum the way they got out of Iraq,” he said, referring to the 2011 withdrawal. “They shouldn’t have been in, but once they got in, the way they got out was a disaster. And ISIS was formed.”

Gallery: Donald Trump's life in pictures (Photos)

Even his allies see the parallel. “If I didn’t see Donald Trump’s name on the tweet I thought it would be Obama’s rationale for getting out of Iraq,” Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Mr. Trump’s most vociferous defenders in recent years, but among his harshest Republican critics for the Syria decision, said last week.

As James F. Jeffrey, who worked for Mr. Obama as ambassador to Turkey, then to Iraq, and now serves as Mr. Trump’s special envoy for Syria, noted several years ago, it is debatable whether events would have played out differently if the United States had stayed in Iraq.

“Could a residual force have prevented ISIS’s victories?” he asked in a Wall Street Journal essay five years ago. “With troops we would have had better intelligence on Al Qaeda in Iraq and later ISIS, a more attentive Washington, and no doubt a better-trained Iraqi army. But the common argument that U.S. troops could have produced different Iraqi political outcomes is hogwash. The Iraqi sectarian divides, which ISIS exploited, run deep and were not susceptible to permanent remedy by our troops at their height, let alone by 5,000 trainers under Iraqi restraints.”

Mr. Trump may now be left to make the same argument about Syria: That nothing could have stopped Mr. Erdogan, that the Russians would benefit in any case, that there are other ways to push back at Iran. Perhaps history will side with him.

For now, however, he has given up most of what little leverage he had.

Katie Rogers contributed reporting.

Trump declares 'big success' in Syria, lifts sanctions on Turkey .
In a 15-minute speech at the White House, Trump said critics of his policy want an endless, unlimited U.S. commitment in a dangerous region. © Provided by USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc. "They are the ones who got us into the Middle East mess," he said during a 15-minute speech at the White House. "Let someone else fight over this long bloodstained sand." The president said he could reimpose sanctions if Turkey fails to honor its obligations "including the protection of religious and ethnic minorities.

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