Pompeo: 'If we have to, we will strike Syria'

Friday, 11 Jan, 2019

He was accompanied on the trip to Baghdad by his wife, Susan, the USA special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, and Major General Ricky Waddle, the assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, among others.

National security adviser John Bolton, speaking in Israel on Sunday, said the administration would delay the withdrawal until Turkey assures the safety of Kurdish fighters and ISIS is defeated.

The US troop withdrawal from Syria will not be scuppered despite Turkish threats against Washington's Kurdish allies there, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday, promising to ensure that the Kurds would still be protected. Ankara still expects Trump to stick to his word, he said, but acknowledged, "There are those in the field who are working to prevent the withdrawal", counting Bolton among those opposed to it.

Bolton's opening stop was in Israel, where he told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exactly what the Israeli leader wanted to hear - Trump really won't be engaging in the quick and immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Syria that he'd pledged last month.

The fighters were allegedly captured in Deir Ezzor, a region that is now being hit by a USA -led coalition.

"President Trump has reversed our willful blindness to the danger of the regime and withdrew from the failed nuclear deal, with its false promises", Pompeo said. But, he added, any operation into Syria would also target YPG positions.

He said the US was talking to the PYD/YPG and Ankara on how to effectuate the pullout in a "way that protects our forces, makes sure that the Americans are safe". Pompeo's first message to the Jordanian foreign minister was one he is expected to echo across the region: Washington is committed to isolating and restraining Iranian expansion.

Pompeo said that as a result of Obama's mindset, USA policies created a "dire" situation that allowed for the rise of the Islamic State and for Iran to spread its influence to countries such as Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon, including proxies such as Hezbollah and the Houthis.

Pompeo said that the USA was "timid" about "asserting ourselves when the times - and our partners - demanded it". We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

However, Mr Bolton, Mr Pompeo and even Mr Trump have tried to backtrack the comments, offering differing timelines ranging from 30 days to four months for the withdrawal.

He added that the U.S. was facing challenges as it attempted to end involvement with the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militant group because it was too engaged.

"In many cases diplomats at that level will not be as assertive as an ambassador in offering policy recommendations to a secretary of state, and the recommendations they do offer might not be taken as seriously", said Michele Dunne, a former State Department official and the director of the Middle East program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think tank. In the Syrian case the USA military presence also furnishes propaganda points for the Assad regime, which did not invite the Americans, and for Iran and Russian Federation, both of which it did invite.

Meanwhile, Russia, which has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the seven-year war, may seek to exploit the confusion created by the bickering between Turkey and the United States. "He's an ally, he represents a friendly country", Abdul Mahdi said of Pompeo on Tuesday.

Pompeo's speech came on the third leg of a nine-nation Mideast tour aimed at reassuring U.S. allies against threats from Iran and and ISIL.

"Despite the fact that we reached a clear agreement with Mr. Trump, different voices have been raised from different echelons of the United States administration", Erdogan said during a speech on Tuesday, adding that he could soon hold another phone call with the American president.

Recent statements by Trump's advisers indicate a continued commitment to "protect the Kurds", referring to the United States allies Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (YPG), from a Turkish military operation.

More recently, Trump and other administration officials have insisted they favour an orderly pullout.