Mike Pence, speaking from the US Embassy in Turkey on Thursday, said he and Mike Pompeo successfully negotiated a ceasefire in northern Syria during a meeting with Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkish military operations across the border will be suspended for 120 hours, Pence said, during which time no further sanctions on Turkey will be imposed.
Once a permanent ceasefire is in place, the sanctions announced by Steve Mnuchin earlier this week will be lifted. Halkbank (which was charged in the Reza Zarrab case on Tuesday) was not part of the deal.
According to Pence, Erdogan has agreed not to take military action in Kobani, where Syrian and Russian troops reportedly moved in to bolster Kurdish forces in the wake of the US withdrawal ordered by Donald Trump last week.
The Kurds will withdraw from the contested areas as part of the agreement. That withdrawal, Pence claimed, has “already begun”. “We have repeated assurances from them that they will be going out”, he said.
If these are, in fact, the contours of the “deal”, it means that in the space of less than two weeks, Donald Trump will have i) green-lighted Erdogan’s cross-border incursion, ii) stood by while hundreds of people were killed in the first week of the operation, iii) imposed sanctions after an agonizing delay during which an estimated 700 ISIS sympathizers escaped from SDF-operated facilities in the region, iv) agreed to lift the sanctions on Turkey under the terms of a “ceasefire” that will require the Kurds to abandon their territory.
Some “deal”. You’d be forgiven for asking how this doesn’t constitute a complete and total win for Erdogan.
Pence emphasized during his remarks that the Trump administration “recognizes the value of a safe zone between Turkey and the Kurds”. Over the last several days, Trump has variously suggested that the US has no interest in protecting the country’s Kurdish allies.
On Wednesday, for instance, the president told reporters at the White House that the Kurds are “no angels” and that “It’s up to Turkey and Syria to fight over Syria’s land”.
Those comments followed a string of tweets on Monday and Tuesday which included Trump informing the public that in his estimation, “anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte”.
Pence on Thursday had the audacity to say that “today’s ceasefire is a credit to President Trump”.
That is an unimaginably tone deaf statement that could have only emanated from a sycophant. Trump’s ill-advised decision to pull US forces from YPG positions precipitated a massacre which claimed hundreds of lives and displaced as many as 200,000. That is what Trump can take “credit” for.
With Thursday’s agreement, Erdogan gets to walk away with no repercussions and the satisfaction of knowing that the US has not only abandoned its Kurdish allies, but in fact struck a devil’s bargain that requires them to leave their territory for the privilege of not being killed.
Trump called this “Great news out of Turkey”. He thanked Erdogan in a tweet.