We have a ceasefire that the Turks refuse to call a ceasefire, a withdrawal that’s not bringing troops home, and a “safe zone” that isn’t safe for anyone in it. The Turkey-Syria affair is still a mess even as it’s being praised by some in Washington DC as an example of good foreign policy.
It’s not, and the reason for that is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This dictator is the Sunni version of Ayatollah Khamenei. He hates America, wants to spread his religious ideology around the world, believes he is the leader of the caliphate, and will lie to anyone with an ear to hear. Any deal we strike with him will be as impotent and ineffective as the Iran nuclear deal.
Don't trust Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The only people he hates more than Americans are the Kurds.
— JD Rucker (@JDRucker) October 17, 2019
Diplomacy is important, especially when the man on the other side of the table rules a NATO “ally.” But there needs to be something made crystal clear: The only attribute that will force compliance of any deal with Turkey is strength. No, I do not mean military strength. There’s no need to send more troops to Syria. There was never a need to send troops to Syria in their regional conflict. But we do have the economic power to bring the pain. The first round of sanctions should have been followed by a second round a day later. And a third round. And until the Turks pulled every soldier out of Syria, these sanctions should have continued.
The last thing we should be doing is celebrating this “pause,” as Turkey’s Foreign Minister called it.
President Trump declared Thursday “a great day for civilization” as Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced terms of a cease-fire agreement that would end violence between Turkey and Kurds in Syria, following a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara.
The deal is for a 120-hour cease-fire, during which time the Kurdish-led forces could pull back from the roughly 20-mile wide safe zone on the Turkish-Syrian border. All Turkish military operations under the recent offensive known as Operation Peace Spring will pause during that time, and the operation itself will come to an end entirely upon the completion of the Kurdish withdrawal, under the terms of the deal.
Whether the move to pull back troops was a good idea or not is up for debate, but now that we have, we must pressure Turkey to end its Syrian ambitions. If they want a “safe zone,” they should establish it on their side of the border. Invading Syria and displacing hundreds of thousands of Kurds, Christians, and others is a breach of sovereignty that should be condemned by the international community with the hardest economic pressure the world could muster.
We must deal with Turkey’s dictator as an enemy to our interests in the region. Playing softball and crying victory is counterproductive. We must hit them harder with sanctions until the abandon Syria. This “ceasefire” is nothing to celebrate.
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