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The United States Of America Starts Pulling Out Troops From Syria

Ankara is banking on shared regional interests and the personal chemistry of Trump and Erdogan to prevent a new crisis.

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USA, U.S., Syria
A line of US military vehicles drives through a checkpoint of the Internal Security Forces in Manbij as they head to their base on the outskirts of the northern Syrian city, Dec. 30, 2018. VOA

The U.S.-led coalition in Syria is beginning to remove troops from Syria.

The coalition “has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria,” said Colonel Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the U.S.-coalition fighting the Islamic State group. “Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements.”

Earlier this week, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton’s calls for the protection of the YPG Syrian Kurdish militia as a pre-condition to a U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria angered Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, causing the president to refuse to meet with the U.S. official.

The YPG is a crucial ally in Washington’s war against Islamic State but is considered by Ankara as a terrorist group linked to an insurgency inside Turkey.

Syria, U.S.
A former farmer at a primitive refinery makes crude oil into diesel and other products in Rmeilan, Hassakeh province, Syria, April 6, 2018. VOA

Erdogan also warned that preparations were complete for a military operation against the YPG. “We will very soon mobilize to eliminate the terrorist organization in Syria,” he said.“If there are other terrorists who would attempt to intervene in our intervention then it is our duty to eliminate them as well,” Erdogan added. Turkish forces have been massing for weeks along the Syrian border.

Observers said the threat of a Turkish operation against the YPG in northeastern Syria, where around 2,000 U.S. soldiers are deployed, was the reason for U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria. Once Trump announced his intention, Erdogan said Turkey would delay any operation until all U.S. forces left.

Ankara’s anger over preconditions announced by Bolton before any U.S. withdrawal, including security guarantees for the Kurdish militia, may have brought forward the timing of a strike against the YPG.

Last year, the Turkish currency collapsed after Trump hit Ankara with sanctions over the detention in Turkey of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who has since been released. Although the sanctions lasted only a few weeks, Turkey’s economy is now facing a recession. The lira fell sharply Tuesday on fears of renewed U.S.-Turkish tensions.

Syria, U.S.
Syrian Democratic Forces and U.S. troops are seen during a patrol near Turkish border in Hasakah, Syria, Nov. 4, 2018. VOA

Turkish media are also reporting of divisions within Turkey’s military over the launching of a military operation into Syria in winter and before the full withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Former senior Turkish diplomat Aydin Selcen predicts Erdogan will now look to Trump to resolve the current tensions. “We have to wait to see what Mr. Erdogan has to say with Mr. Trump,” said Selcen, “because he (Erdogan) himself managed to persuade Mr. Trump that the United States will be leaving Syria. We have to wait to see what Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Trump have to say in the coming weeks.”

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Turkish media are already blaming Bolton for the latest tensions, accusing him of going “rogue.” Washington is also facing criticism in Turkey for sending conflicting messages on its Syria policy.

Analysts, however, suggest Ankara is banking on shared regional interests and the personal chemistry of Trump and Erdogan to prevent a new crisis. (VOA)

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U.S. President Donald Trump Suggests, Brazil Should be Able To Join The North Atlantic Treaty Alliance

Until now, Brazilian diplomacy was a zero-sum kind of relationship, not aligned with U.S. interests and "sort of hostile in certain ways, at least at the bureaucratic level"

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U.S.
President Donald Trump greets Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, March 19, 2019. VOA

The leaders of the Western Hemisphere’s two largest economies are pledging closer trade ties and enhanced military cooperation, with U.S. President Donald Trump even suggesting Brazil should be able to join the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO).

Trump said for that to happen, however, he would “have to talk to a lot of people.”

The U.S. president, at a joint news conference with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, also pledged American support for Brazil to join the 36-member Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development (OECD), which includes most of the highly-developed economies.

Bolsonaro, speaking in Portuguese, said his visit begins a new chapter of cooperation between Brazil and the United States, adding that with his recent election, “Brazil has a president who is not anti-American, which is unprecedented in recent decades.”

U.S.
“All options are open,” Trump reiterated when asked by a reporter in the White House Rose Garden if military intervention in Venezuela by the United States is possible. VOA

The retired military officer is known as the “Trump of the Tropics” for his far-right agenda of cracking down on crime and corruption, and nostalgia for Brazil’s era of military dictatorship.

The two leaders, who met for the first time Tuesday, also discussed their mutual support for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has been recognized as Venezuela’s legitimate leader by most Western countries, including the United States and Brazil.

“All options are open,” Trump reiterated when asked by a reporter in the White House Rose Garden if military intervention in Venezuela by the United States is possible.

Trump noted that Washington has yet to apply really tough sanctions on Caracas, where Nicolas Maduro — who the U.S. president called “Cuba’s puppet” — remains in power with the backing of Venezuela’s military.

In oil-rich Venezuela there is no food, water or air-conditioning, according to Trump, while Bolsonaro said “people are starving to death” there.

“We need to put an end to this,” Bolsonaro added.

Space launches

Just ahead of the meeting between the two leaders, the United States and Brazil signed an agreement to support American space launches from Brazil. The State Department says the pact will ensure the proper handling of sensitive U.S. technology consistent with U.S. nonproliferation policy, the Missile Technology Control, and U.S. export control laws and regulations.

The two leaders “agreed to take the steps necessary to enable Brazil to participate in the Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler Global Entry Program,” according to a joint statement issued following the news conference.

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in the Oval Office of the White House, March 19, 2019, in Washington.
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in the Oval Office of the White House, March 19, 2019, in Washington. VOA

‘Common ground’

The two countries have never had particularly close relations, with Brazil traditionally wary of American influence in Latin America. But now their two leaders find themselves in sync on concerns about the Maduro regime in Venezuela, Cuba’s involvement in that country, and the threat from China’s rising influence on domestic politics in South and Central America.

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Until now, Brazilian diplomacy was a zero-sum kind of relationship, not aligned with U.S. interests and “sort of hostile in certain ways, at least at the bureaucratic level,” former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega told VOA.

“If we can find common ground with them on some key specific initiatives,” the U.S. relationship with Brazil and South America, as a whole, can be realigned, according to Noriega, an American Enterprise Institute visiting fellow.(VOA)