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January 7, 2019 2:51 pm

US Officials Seek to Assuage Middle East Allies’ Fears Over Syria Pullout

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Brasilia, Jan. 1, 2019. Photo: Avi Ohayon / GPO.

In the wake of US President Donald Trump’s surprise decision last month to withdraw American troops from Syria, administration officials have been scrambling to reassure nervous allies in the Middle East.

Speaking during a visit to Israel this past weekend, US National Security Adviser John Bolton expressed opposition to threatened Turkish military action against the Kurds of northern Syria, who had previously enjoyed the protection of the US military presence.

“We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that is not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States at a minimum so they don’t endanger our troops, but also so that they meet the president’s requirement that the Syrian opposition forces that have fought with us are not endangered,” said Bolton, in a clear reference to the Kurds.

Bolton also vowed that the US would not quit Syria until it was certain that ISIS was permanently defeated.

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“There are objectives that we want to accomplish that condition the withdrawal,” Bolton said. “The timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement.”

In an interview with Bloomberg News published on Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sounded a similar note, this time in reference to countering Iran’s regional ambitions.

“That campaign hasn’t changed one lick,” said Pompeo. “A component of that is being altered, the reduction of the forces in Syria is being changed, but the mission set hasn’t changed a bit.”

“There are lots of things taking place that are overt,” Pompeo stated of anti-Iran efforts, “there are other activities taking place as well.”

Pompeo also directly criticized the Tehran regime itself and hinted at efforts to undermine it, saying, “The charade of Iranian democracy is what we are hoping to fix. We want the Iranian people’s voices to be heard, we want the government to be responsive to those voices.”

Furthermore, Pompeo echoed Bolton’s remarks about the Kurds, stating, “We will find a relationship with them that accommodates all of our interests. We are not just military to military, but diplomatically engaged. We understand the good work they have done, we appreciate that, and we will do all that we can to honor that.”

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