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Thursday, October 17, 2019
Pence Negotiates Turkish Ceasefire
Vice President Pence and Turkish President Erdogan announced a five-day ceasefire that would allow Kurdish forces, America’s former allies, to withdraw from the “safe zone” being established by Turkish forces, Reuters reported. Turkish officials hailed the agreement, saying that they got “exactly what we wanted.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called the agreement a pause, rather than a ceasefire, but that Turkey would allow Kurdish fighters to withdraw. Cavusoglu said that ceasefires could only be agreed upon by legitimate parties, which would not include the Kurds, who Turkey considers to be terrorists.
Under the terms of the agreement, Kurdish fighters would have to surrender their heavy weapons and destroy fighting positions. Disputed areas would be left in Turkish hands. Pence said that Turkey had agreed to remain clear of the border city of Kobani, but Cavusoglu denied that Turkey had made such a commitment.
In a fox-guarding-the-henhouse moment, a joint U.S.-Turkish statement released after the talks said, “The safe zone will be primarily enforced by the Turkish Armed Forces.”
In a tweet, President Trump called the agreement “great news” and thanked Erdogan for saving millions of lives.
A senior Turkish official told CNN that Turkey got ” exactly what they wanted” from the agreement. Turkey was unleashed to act against the Kurds and, amid the outcry against Turkish brutality, the Trump Administration effectively handed Erdogan a strip of land in Syria and moved the Kurds away from Turkish borders. As part of the deal, the US also agreed not to implement sanctions against Turkey.
A US official agreed that Turkey won a major diplomatic and military victory, telling CNN, “This is essentially the US validating what Turkey did and allowing them to annex a portion of Syria and displace the Kurdish population.”
“This is what Turkey wanted and what POTUS green-lighted,” the official continued. “I do think one reason Turkey agreed to it is because of the Kurds have put up more of a resistance and they could not advance south any further as a result. If we don’t impose sanctions then Turkey wins big time.”
President Assad of Syria, whose territory is being given Turkey, has not commented on the deal. The Kurds allied with the Assad regime as a protective measure after being abandoned by the US and Syrian government forces were moving into the disputed Kobani area. It is possible that Syria, backed by Iran and Putin’s Russia, will not accept a pause that indefinitely puts Syrian land under Turkish control.
As a bottom line, the Trump Administration make Erdogan a deal that he couldn’t refuse in giving him everything that he wanted. The deal repairs Donald Trump’s unforced diplomatic error by fulfilling all of Erdogan’s war aims, save for one thing. The Kurds will live to fight another day rather than being exterminated. The survival of the Kurds, in alliance with Assad, and by extension Iran and Russia, lays the seeds for future generations of violence and bloodshed.