Romney: What we've done to the Kurds will stand as a bloodstain on American history

Romney: What we've done to the Kurds will stand as a bloodstain on American history

I … can’t help but feel that this lecture won’t be warmly received by most righties.

And that the plainly obvious fact that Republicans would be annihilating a Democratic president who had overseen this Syria debacle won’t provide Romney with much of a defense.

He goes on here for nine minutes but his points are simple. What we’ve done is dishonorable and weak, letting Turkey essentially dictate U.S. policy in Syria towards an American ally. It’s also difficult for him to understand why Pence and Pompeo weren’t sent to Turkey after Erdogan first told Trump on the phone that he was prepared to invade. They might have prevented an incursion altogether instead of negotiating a ceasefire after the fact. I think that one’s actually easy to answer: Trump called Erdogan’s bluff. He’s threatened before to push the Kurds off the Syrian border and Trump didn’t believe he’d follow through. It turned out he wasn’t bluffing this time.

The most noteworthy bit comes at the end, when Romney calls on the Senate to hold public hearings about how the administration behaved here. I think there might have been a chance of that if no deal had been reached today in Ankara between Erdogan and Pence. As it is, Senate Republicans are going to hold their breaths, hope that the ceasefire sticks, and try to put all of this behind them.

Trump spoke today after the ceasefire announcement, naturally praising it as an unprecedented deal. He referred at one point to Turkey “cleaning out” the border area of terrorists, an unfortunate choice of words when critics are accusing the U.S. of complicity in the de facto ethnic cleansing of Kurds under Pence’s deal:

“We got exactly what we wanted out of the meeting,” said one Turkish official of the negotiations with Pence and Pompeo. The leader of Kurdish forces in Syria says he’s willing to give the deal a try, though:

Mazloum Abdi tells Ronahi TV that the extent of the cease-fire stretches 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the town of Tal Abyad to Ras al-Ayn.

That appeared to conflict with Turkey’s insistence that its “safe zone” from which Kurdish forces must be removed should stretch the entire length of the border from the Euphrates River to Iraq.

“We will do whatever we can for the success of the ceasefire agreement,” Mazloum said Thursday, describing it as a “tentative agreement.”

Why are the Kurds suddenly willing to “clean” themselves out of the territory Turkey wants? It’s not that they fear the Turkish military; if that were the case they would have withdrawn years ago rather than risk an offensive from Erdogan. Some experts think the Kurds have calculated that there won’t be a real solution to this crisis until Erdogan consults with the true superpower in the region in the Trump era — Russia. Putin is set to meet Erdogan five days from now in Sochi to discuss the fate of northern Syria. A five-day ceasefire negotiated by the U.S. is useful to the Kurds in pausing Turkish operations until then. Hopefully Putin can cajole/threaten the Sultan into leaving the area with assurances that Russia will fill the void left by the Americans. If he can’t or won’t, the ceasefire will end and the Turks and Kurds can get back at it. There may be a limit to how far Turkey can advance anyway: With Russian and Syrian troops now in the area, a renewed offensive might turn into a multinational free-for-all, which would be messy for Turkey.

That is, maybe Erdogan banked today’s ceasefire in the expectation that he’d have to cease fire soon regardless, if only at Russia’s behest. Might as well sign a deal with Pence and get the United States to commit to Turkey’s position that the Kurds don’t belong in the parts of Syria that Erdogan wants under Turkish rule.

Your exit quotation:

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