- US officials who negotiated a ceasefire deal in Syria with Turkey caved in to nearly all its demands, a NATO official told Business Insider.
- The deal saw Turkey agree to a ceasefire in Syria in exchange for Kurdish forces withdrawing from the border region and US ending sanctions imposed earlier in the week.
- “I can’t think of anything the Turks realistically wanted and didn’t get,” said the NATO official.
- US President Donald Trump has faced fierce criticism for his decision to pull US forces from Syria, and had hailed the ceasefire Thursday as “great for everybody.”
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
US officials caved to virtually all Turkish demands when negotiating a ceasefire in northeast Syria which President Donald Trump nonetheless held up as a triumph and said will be “great for everybody.”
In Turkey, the government seemed pleasantly shocked that it managed to agree a five-day pause to operations in response to facing no sanctions from the US.
One NATO official, who is part of the anti-ISIS coalition in Syria and Iraq, which the US recently pulled out of, said: “I can’t think of anything the Turks realistically wanted and didn’t get.”
“The Americans made a big show of sending their Vice President and Secretary of State to confront the Turks with impending sanctions – but they settled for everything the Turks were going to do anyway.”
The official, who is barred from officially speaking to the media, said that the planned five day ceasefire was mostly holding as of Friday afternoon local time.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2019
Turkish troops and their local proxy militias already occupy and control most of the population centres along the border which it was their original aim to take in the last week’s widely-condemned invasion.
In exchange for doing nothing more than further consolidating its gains, Turkey appears to have received what it wanted all along: the withdrawal of Kurdish units from its border with Syria.
The NATO official said: “There’s some reports of light clashes in some of the cities and towns where the [Kurdish] YPG is still fighting militias backed by Turkey.
“But, 11 days into this debacle, Turkey doesn’t seem to have many objectives to still capture, so this ceasefire is perfectly timed for the Turks to consolidate and control their areas they came to take.”
The Turkish invasion of northeast Syria, where a Kurdish-dominated group had established an autonomous state called Rojava, was first supported by Trump 11 days ago in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Erdogan.
Bipartisan outcry in the US later forced the Trump administration to threaten stiff sanctions, which were averted with Thursday’s deal.
Pro-government papers in Turkey see yesterday's ceasefire deal as a win for Erdogan.
Yeni Safak – "Turkey got everything it wanted. Big victory"
Gunes – "Turkey wins on the field and at the table" pic.twitter.com/0NhObxk5js
— BBC Monitoring (@BBCMonitoring) October 18, 2019
At the same time, the collapse of the Kurdish-led anti-ISIS coalition forced about 1,000 US troops to conduct a hasty, embarrassing exit from Syria, in many cases leaving their bases intact for Russian troops to occupy.
The outcry by many in the US and Europe against Trump’s actions has been substantial.
For its part, the Kurdish militia aligned itself with Damascus, inviting Syrian government forces and Russian special forces advisors into Rojava, and consolidating their forces to oppose any further Turkish incursions.
“Now Turkey can ignore concerns from the US and begin negotiating with the only people left in Syria with any real influence: The Russians and Syrian regime,” the NATO official added.
That the overall ceasefire was holding, despite some small-scale fighting in a handful of towns and villages was confirmed by an Kurdish fighter with the YPG, a Syrian militia closely tied to the Kurdistan Workers Party, which Turkey and the US consider a terrorist organisation.
Despite that designation, the YPG worked closely with US special operations troops for over five years to defeat ISIS in northeastern Syria.
“We are still fighting the Turkish gangsters in Ras al Ayn but General Kobani has ordered most units to pull away from the border region to regroup and coordinate with the Syrian government and Russian forces,” said Mazen, a YPG fighter who did not give his real name to preserve his safety.
“There will still be some fighting. But right now we are seeing how much of Rojava the Americans gave to the Turks in this betrayal,” he said.
The official Turkish response to the negotiations with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was euphoric after days of concern that the Trump White House would slap sanctions on Turkey.
Instead. they received what many see as a green light to maintain their positions inside Syria and a withdrawal of the Kurdish forces.
“The humiliation of the United States in Syria is complete,” the NATO official concluded.
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