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Oct 08 2019

The Russian Connection: “Great And Unmatched” Stupidity

Over the weekend, Donald Trump sowed more chaos when he announced that he was pulling US troops out of northeastern Syria abandoning the Kurdish forces who helped defeat ISIS giving the green light to Turkey to attack the Kurds, whom the Turks consider terrorists. The decision came after a Sunday phone call Trump had with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan which blindsided, not only the Kurds, but his advisers, the Pentagon and Trump’s Republican congressional supporters.

The White House has given the green light to a Turkish offensive into northern Syria, moving US forces out of the area in an abrupt foreign policy change that will in effect abandon the Kurds, Washington’s longtime military partner.

Kurdish forces have spearheaded the campaign against Islamic State in the region, but the policy swerve, after a phone conversation between Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday, means Turkey would take custody of captured Isis fighters, the White House said.

It has also raised fears of fresh fighting between Turkey and Kurdish forces in Syria’s complex war now the US no longer acts as a buffer between the two sides.

An anonymous official, who heard the call, said that Trump got “rolled” by Erdoğan and was spineless

The phone call was scheduled after Turkey announced it was planning to invade Syria, and hours after Erdogan reinforced his army units at the Syrian-Turkish border and issued his strongest threat to launch a military incursion, according to the National Security Council official to whom Newsweek spoke on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. withdrawal plays into the hands of the Islamic State group, Damascus and Moscow, and the announcement left Trump’s own Defense Department “completely stunned,” said Pentagon officials. Turkey, like the United States, wants regime change in Syria. Russia and Iran support the Assad regime.

“President Trump was definitely out-negotiated and only endorsed the troop withdraw to make it look like we are getting something—but we are not getting something,” the National Security Council source told Newsweek. “The U.S. national security has entered a state of increased danger for decades to come because the president has no spine and that’s the bottom line.”

Asked on Monday, if he had consulted with congressional leadership, the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs, Trump naturally lied. National security leaders were left out of the loop on the move which bucked their views:

The White House announcement upended military and State Department plans to deter a Turkish offensive with a system of safe zones and joint patrols that were getting underway. And it bucked views by top officials that the Turks’ threat of an incursion against the Kurds was a bluff, according to current and former defense officials and people familiar with the U.S. government’s efforts to forestall a new Turkish military operation.

“Everyone was absolutely flabbergasted by this. I tell you that as a fact,” retired Adm. James Stavridis said Monday on MSNBC, describing what he saw as the view from the Pentagon. “Nobody saw it coming, and that is a real problem when you’re trying to conduct not only foreign policy … but also military operations. That kind of whipsawing effect is extremely detrimental, not only in this tactical situation, but strategically as our planners try and prepare in other theaters, from North Korea to Afghanistan.” [..]

But a person familiar with the U.S. government’s policy deliberations on the issue said Trump is operating against the advice of his national security leaders — noting that Sunday night’s announcement came just three days after Defense Secretary Mark Esper spoke by phone with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.

“POTUS went rogue,” the person said. “It’s not too surprising for those of us who’ve been following him, but it was a surprise and went against what Esper was talking to Akar about.”

The backlash from both sides of the congressional aisle started almost immediately with the Republican lead Senate gearing up to sanction Turkey if they invade Syria.

From steadfast GOP allies and liberal Democrats backing an impeachment inquiry, the blowback to Trump is coming from all angles, suggesting a real bipartisan pressure campaign that could force the president to reverse himself.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is reminding Trump of supermajorities supporting a U.S. presence in Syria. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is threatening sanctions against Turkey in partnership with Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). And a bipartisan pair of Senate Foreign Relations Committee members are demanding administration officials testify before Congress. [..]

Graham said Monday he will put forward a Senate resolution asking Trump to change course, predicting it “will receive strong bipartisan support.” In February, 70 senators supported a nonbinding amendment backing U.S. operations in both Syria and Afghanistan. [..]

In a rare statement chiding Trump, McConnell referenced the amendment adopted earlier this year, noting “the conditions that produced that bipartisan vote still exist today.”

“ISIS and al Qaeda remain dangerous forces in Syria and the ongoing Syrian civil war poses significant security and humanitarian risks. A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime,” the GOP leader said. “I urge the president to exercise American leadership to keep together our multinational coalition to defeat ISIS.”

Not far behind came a statement from Speaker Nancy Pelosi that echoed the Kentucky Republican: “This decision poses a dire threat to regional security and stability, and sends a dangerous message to Iran and Russia, as well as our allies, that the United States is no longer a trusted partner.” [..]

And the sheer volume of criticism from Capitol Hill suggests this move on Syria is even more offensive to the GOP. Other than Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), there were almost no members of Congress defending the president on Monday.

The question is if congress passes veto proof resolution to stop the withdrawal, will Trump comply? If he doesn’t, how will that effect Republicans on an impeachment trial?

While we are trying to process Trump’s Chaos Circus, October 7 was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s birthday and here is some more food for thought from Paul Krugman:

And now this: