Pompeo counters Graham on Syria; Netanyahu slams Turkey

by WorldTribune Staff, October 10, 2019

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded to critics of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria by saying the mission to eradicate ISIS was a success and adding the move was not an authorization for Turkey to invade Syria.

Pompeo, in an interview with PBS, rejected the criticism, which came from top Republican senators including Lindsey Graham. Pompeo argued that the Trump administration had already had success in eradicating religious extremism in the region, including ISIS’s losses in territory in recent years.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. / C-SPAN

“I love Sen. Graham, he is a friend, but remember where we were when this administration came into office and now just judge us by our results,” Pompeo said, repeating the claim that the Trump administration had taken down ISIS.

“There are a dozen other countries where the threat from radical Islamic terrorism continues to exist, and we, the United States, has to make sure we position our forces, our resources appropriately to reduce that threat to the United States,” Pompeo said.

Graham, in a series of tweets on Oct. 7, wrote: “I don’t believe it is a good idea to outsource the fight against ISIS to Russia, Iran, and Turkey. They don’t have America’s best interests at heart.”

“The most probable outcome of this impulsive decision is to ensure Iran’s domination of Syria. The U.S. now has no leverage and Syria will eventually become a nightmare for Israel,” he added.

“I feel very bad for the Americans and allies who have sacrificed to destroy the ISIS Caliphate because this decision virtually reassures the reemergence of ISIS. So sad. So dangerous. President Trump may be tired of fighting radical Islam. They are NOT tired of fighting us,” continued Graham.

“Finally,” wrote Graham, “this decision makes it difficult for the U.S. to recruit allies against radical Islam. By abandoning the Kurds we have sent the most dangerous signal possible – America is an unreliable ally and it’s just a matter of time before China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea act out in dangerous ways.”

Pompeo said it became clear after Trump’s call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Oct. 6, before the withdrawal announcement, that U.S. troops were in danger in northeastern Syria. The withdrawal was to protect them, Pompeo said.

The secretary of state said that, in withdrawing its troops, the United States “didn’t give Turkey a green light” to invade Syria.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Oct. 10 said “Israel strongly condemns the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish areas in Syria and warns against the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds by Turkey and its proxies.”

Netanyahu also offered humanitarian aid to the Syrian Kurds.

“Israel is prepared to extend humanitarian assistance to the gallant Kurdish people.”

The prime minister’s statement came a day after Turkey launched a wide-scale operation into northern Syria.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported on Oct. 10 that Turkish ground forces had continued their advance on the second day of their offensive against Kurdish-led forces controlling Syrian territory along the border with Turkey.

Erdogan rejected international criticism of the military operation east of the Euphrates River, reiterating that the offensive was aimed at “eliminating terror” along Turkey’s borders.

Erdogan also said that Turkish armed forces “neutralized” a total of 109 “terrorists” so far, referring to Kurdish militias.

Turkey-allied Syrian opposition fighters have “cleared ” the border villages of Yabisa and Tel Fander, Turkish state media reported.

Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Turkish commandos entered the village of Beir Asheq.

Turkish armed forces earlier said they had struck 181 targets with air strikes and howitzers since the start of the operation.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reported “heavy clashes” in border villages.

The SDF said they held off an incursion attempt near the border town of Ras al-Ain and repulsed a ground assault on Tal Abyad.

The Syrian Kurdish-led authorities also accused Turkey of shelling a prison in Qamishli holding ISIS militants, calling it “a clear attempt” to help them escape.

Tens of thousands of people are reported to be leaving their homes in the conflict zone, including dozens of ethnic Armenians.

Erdogan says the aim of the offensive is to create a “safe zone” cleared of Kurdish militias that will also house Syrian refugees.


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