The United States has agreed to stop arming Syrian Kurds. The end of Obama’s failed policy is the good news. The bad news is that it’s being made out by Turkish President Recep Erdogan to be something he negotiated. What’s worse is that the Pentagon is apparently hearing about the change in policy from Turkish press instead of the President himself.
There are conflicting reports on that last point. The AP says the Pentagon is scrambling:
There was no immediate reaction from the United States. But Turkey’s announcement appeared to catch the Pentagon and the U.S. State Department off guard. Officials at both agencies, who would normally be informed of changes in U.S. policy toward arming the Syrian Kurds, said they were unaware of any changes. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.
Relations between NATO allies Turkey and the United States have soured recently over a number of issues, including U.S. support to Syrian Kurdish fighters.
However, according to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu who was in Erdogan’s office during the call, President Trump said he had already given orders to U.S. generals and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster that “no weapons would be issued.”
Syrian Kurds had been the tip of President Obama’s spear against the Islamic State, but had been very unsuccessful at achieving any notable movement. It was assumed that the strategy was to empower them to fight a two-front war against ISIS as well as Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. They didn’t make a dent on either front.
Regardless of whether Trump informed the Pentagon or not, this is still a weak move. He’s negotiating for nothing. He could have very easily made the declaration without consulting Erdogan and still made Turkey happy. Now, it appears as if the decision was made as a result of pressure from Turkey.
These were not the forces the U.S. should ever have been arming, but the way we’re ending out support is almost as bad as offering it in the first place. For the President to really push for peace in the Middle East, he needs to do so through strength rather than by catering to demands of despots like Erdogan.
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