Turkey slams US remarks on Syria withdrawal as 'irrational'

Saul Bowman
January 8, 2019

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group that monitors the Syrian civil war, said in a report Sunday that the IS attack occurred the previous day in the village of Shaafa in eastern Deir el-Zour province amid fierce clashes between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by the USA -led coalition, and IS militants.

According to Erim, if Turkey doesn't see Bolton's requests as feasible, then it will go back to square one, meaning Turkey will conduct a military operation despite U.S. military presence in Syria. Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, a terrorist group linked to an insurgency within its own borders.

A diplomatic storm followed Trump's surprise December announcement that appeared to signal a rapid withdrawal from Syria, where U.S. special forces play an important role in supporting local militias fighting Daesh.

"We don't think the Turks ought to undertake military action that's not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States at a minimum, so they don't endanger our troops", Bolton said on Sunday.

In meetings with Turkish officials Tuesday, Bolton said he will seek "to find out what their objectives and capabilities are and that remains uncertain".

Asked Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation" whether Bolton's comments were an admission that Trump had "made a mistake, " Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of SC, said, "I think this is the reality setting in that you got to plan this out".

However, speaking on Sunday before leaving for his Camp David retreat, he told reporters: "We're going to be removing our troops".

"Our position is clear - we continue to act against the Iranian military buildup in Syria, including in these days, and we are acting against anyone who undermines or tries to undermine Israel's security", Netanyahu said.

Asked if a USA pullout would be halted if Turkey could not guarantee the Kurdish fighters would be safe, Bolton said: "Basically, that's right".

Granting that request and withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria will likely depend in part on whether U.S. State Department envoy Jim Jeffrey is successful in his efforts to reach an agreement with Turkey in which Turkish forces would be allowed to enter northern Syria but avoid areas populated mainly by Kurds.

Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey's focus was on the YPG and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) - which Ankara also regards as a terror group. "That was obvious", House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., said Sunday on ABC News" "This Week". Either we will never withdraw from "northeastern Syria", or we will stand by and watch our anti-ISIS allies get massacred as Turkey reneges on any security pledge they make.

USA president Donald Trump said in December that he was withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria, where he claimed Isis had been defeated.

He defended the legal basis for the deployment, saying it is justified by the president's Constitutional authority, adding "I'm a strong believer in Article II".

Trump national security adviser John Bolton has warned the Syrian government it should not see the impending USA military withdrawal as an invitation to use chemical weapons.

Donald Trump's national-security advisor met with Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel yesterday to discuss plans for the region, including a withdrawal from "northeast Syria", as Bolton specified in a joint presser.

Ziya Meral, director of the London and Beirut-based Centre on Religion and Global Affairs, said it would be "naive" for the United States to expect Turkey not to "interfere" in Syria while the YPG remained in control across the border.

Plans and assurances offered by Bolton in Israel were additional confirmation that withdrawal plans are on hold until conditions on the ground match the president's stated assessment of the situation in Syria.

Bolton is also slated to visit Turkey. Trump, however, also toured the area in a previous visit.

Israel has often voiced alarm at the clout of Iran, an ally of Assad, in the Syrian civil war.

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