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Westlake Legal Group > Erdogan, Recep Tayyip

Turkey’s Deportations Force Europe to Face Its ISIS Militants

Westlake Legal Group merlin_163136634_c48fc4a7-2965-42f7-89d6-828255a0a973-facebookJumbo Turkey’s Deportations Force Europe to Face Its ISIS Militants Turkey Terrorism Politics and Government Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Immigration and Emigration Great Britain Gondal, Tooba France Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Detainees Deportation

PARIS — As Turkey followed through on its threat to release more Islamic State detainees last week, Western European nations were confronted with a problem they had long sought to avoid: what to do about the potential return of radicalized, often battle-hardened Europeans to countries that absolutely do not want them back.

Faced with fierce popular opposition to the repatriation of such detainees and fears over the long-term threat they could pose back home, European leaders have sought alternative ways to prosecute them — in an international tribunal, on Iraqi soil, anywhere but on the Continent.

But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, made more powerful by a sudden shift in American policy, is determined to foist the problem of the captured European Islamic State fighters back on the countries they came from.

Last week, Turkey sent a dozen former Islamic State members and relatives to Britain, Denmark, Germany and the United States, and Mr. Erdogan says hundreds more are right behind them.

“All of the European countries, especially those with most of the foreign fighters, have desperately been looking for the past year for a way to deal with them without bringing them back,” said Rik Coolsaet, an expert on radicalization at the Egmont Institute, a Brussels-based research group. “But now, European nations are being forced to consider repatriation since Turkey is going to put people on the plane.”

The sudden problem for Europe is a long-tail consequence of President Trump’s precipitous decision last month to withdraw American forces from northern Syria, which cleared the way for Turkey to take control of territory as well as many of the Islamic State members who had been held there in Kurdish-run prisons or detention camps.

The issue is further complicated by the fact that nearly two-thirds of the Western European detainees, or about 700, are children, many of whom have lost one parent, if not both.

Now that more of the former fighters are in Turkish hands, Mr. Erdogan has not hesitated to use the threat of returning them as leverage over European countries who have been deeply critical of his incursion, and who have threatened sanctions against Turkey for unauthorized oil drilling in the eastern Mediterranean off Cyprus.

The fate of the former fighters and their families has become yet another point of contention between Turkey and Europe, which is already paying Mr. Erdogan’s government billions of dollars to stem the flow of asylum seekers from conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

Turkey is already home to some three million refugees from the Syria conflict, and Mr. Erdogan is determined to lighten his country’s load. But his real intent remains unclear: Does he really plan to send back all foreign fighters to Europe? Or is he opening the spigot, with the threat of a flood to come, to wring concessions from Europe?

What is clear is that with limited military reach in Syria, European nations are ever more vulnerable to Mr. Erdogan’s whims. Turkish officials say that Turkey now holds 2,280 Islamic State members from 30 countries, and that all of them will be deported.

The problem is not Europe’s alone. On Friday, Turkey deported an American it described as an Islamic State member, Muhammad Darwish Bassam, to the United States. Last week, a federal judge in the United States ruled that an American-born woman who joined the Islamic State in 2014 was not an American citizen, potentially thwarting her return.

But the numbers and risks for Europe are far greater than for the United States. More than 1,100 citizens of countries in Western Europe are believed to be detained in northern Syria in territory once controlled by the Islamic State, according to a recent study by the Egmont Institute.

Their potential return has confronted European justice systems with competing security and civil liberties demands as they attempt to vet returnees, decide whether to detain them, and build cases on potential crimes that often happened hundred of miles away on remote Syrian battlefields.

France, the Western European nation with the most detainees in Syria, is getting ready to take back 11 former Islamic State members. The Netherlands has also agreed to take back some of its citizens.

On Thursday, a 26-year-old man suspected of being an Islamic State fighter was arrested after landing at London’s Heathrow Airport on a flight from Turkey.

That same day, seven members of a German-Iraqi family arrived in Berlin from Turkey, from which they had been deported after several months in custody over suspected links to terrorism.

The father was detained, but the other family members were allowed to return to their homes.

On Friday, a woman deported by Turkey was detained upon arrival at Frankfurt Airport on suspicion of being a member of a terrorist organization abroad. Federal prosecutors in Germany said the woman, a German citizen identified only as Nasim A., left the country in 2014 and married an ISIS fighter, whom she supported until Kurdish-led security forces detained her this year.

A second woman was released after landing in Germany, but will be tracked by experts on de-radicalization.

German officials said they believed more than 130 people left the country to join ISIS, 95 of whom were German citizens and had the right to return to the country. Nearly a third of the Germans are under investigation by federal prosecutors.

French officials said there had been no change in French policy, which opposes repatriation from Syria.

But pressure has been building, and security experts and some government officials have increasingly warned that the repatriation of militants — and their processing in European courts and detention in prisons — would be the only way to ensure Europe’s safety.

The deteriorating situation in northern Syria, some experts say, further increases the need for an orderly repatriation to Europe.

Left in Syria, more detainees could fall into the hands of Turkish forces or the Syrian government, which could use them as bargaining chips with the West.

Others could run away and try to regroup, or be taken back by Islamic State sleeper cells, as is feared in the case of some women who recently escaped from a camp in the region.

“There are a lot of risks associated with the policy of leaving them where they are,’’ said Anthony Dworkin, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations who has studied the Islamic State’s foreign fighters.

The potential dangers and difficulties are vividly demonstrated in the case of Tooba Gondal, a 25-year-old French citizen of Pakistani origin who grew up and lived in London until she traveled to Syria in 2015. She is believed to still be in the custody of the Turkish authorities.

A mother of two, she does not speak French and had spent most of her life in Britain, and although French intelligence services knew of her case, it is unclear that they had expected her to come to France.

“Tooba Gondal is a very notorious ISIS female recruiter, but until recently she wasn’t on the radar of French intelligence services,” said Jean-Charles Brisard of the Paris-based Center for Analysis of Terrorism, who was first to reveal that she would be deported.

A former London university student, Ms. Gondal became known in the British news media as an Islamic State “matchmaker.” She is accused of persuading other young Western women, like the British schoolgirl Shamima Begum, to marry Islamic State fighters.

She also posed with assault rifles in pictures on social media, and praised the Paris terrorist attacks in November 2015.

In recent months, Ms. Gondal has pleaded to be taken back to Britain, which had issued an expulsion order against her in 2018. She declared in an open letter to The Sunday Times of London that she was a “changed person” who wished to “face justice in a British court.” As a non-British citizen but a French passport holder, she is now likely to be deported to France.

France has already repatriated more than 250 Islamic State fighters and their families from Turkey since signing a bilateral agreement with the government there in 2014. But 400 French citizens are still estimated to be detained in Syria, according to the Egmont Institute, and France does not want them back.

Instead, France wants Iraq to try them, especially the male fighters. French officials have led European negotiations with the Iraqi government to set up trials in Iraq. But disagreements between Iraqi and European officials — over legal matters like the death penalty and costs — have prevented an accord.

“It is legitimate that people who have committed terrorist acts should be judged closest to the place where they committed those said terrorist acts,’’ Sibeth Ndiaye, a spokeswoman for the French government, said at a meeting of the Anglo-American Press Association.

The other French citizens expected to return home — three Frenchwomen and their five children, all under 4 years old — were held in the camp of Ain Issa, according to their lawyer, Marie Dosé.

She said the families escaped in mid-October when the facility was abandoned by Kurdish forces. “They have risked their lives and their children’s to join Turkey and be expelled to France,” Ms. Dosé said.

For more than a year, Ms. Dosé and other French lawyers have fought to bring the mothers back with their children, as the women argued that they wanted to be tried at home. Last year, when a French television crew met one of the four women set to be deported, she said she wouldn’t leave without her son.

“If he leaves, I’m leaving with him,” said Amandine le Coz, a 29-year-old woman who grew up in a suburb near Paris. “He’s my life.”

In France and other European nations, the stories of people like Ms. le Coz and Ms. Gondal have elicited little sympathy.

“There’s been more sympathy for vulnerable children, but as you go up to adults, there’s a lot of pushback against women and there’s even more pushback against male militants,’’ said Joana Cook, a researcher at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization in London.

Dr. Cook, who has studied women and children who have returned to their home countries from Syria, said there had been no known incidents involving returnees.

Instead, terrorist cases, including the failed attempt to ignite a car loaded with gas canisters near the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, involved women who had become radicalized at home and had never stepped foot in Syria.

In France, about 100 people who returned from Syria have already been judged and given sentences averaging 10 years, Mr. Brisard said. Some of those serving the shortest sentences have already been released, he said.

“They’ll be freed one day, that’s for sure,’’ Mr. Brisard said. “But it’s preferable that they be incarcerated in French prisons from where they can’t escape. And after they’ve served their sentences, it’s preferable that they be tracked by a competent intelligence service. In Iraq or Syria, I don’t have much faith in their intelligence services keeping track of our jihadists.’’

Norimitsu Onishi reported from Paris, and Elian Peltier from London. Carlotta Gall contributed reporting from Istanbul, and Melissa Eddy from Berlin.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Syria Peace Talks to Open After a Long, Strange Month

Westlake Legal Group 28syria-peace1a-facebookJumbo Syria Peace Talks to Open After a Long, Strange Month United Nations Trump, Donald J Syria Putin, Vladimir V Jeffrey, James F Geneva (Switzerland) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Assad, Bashar al-

GENEVA — The first United Nations mediator who tried to broker peace in Syria declared it “mission impossible” and abandoned the effort. That was seven years and hundreds of thousands of deaths ago.

Now, as Mediator No. 4 prepares to try again, diplomats appear to be setting their sights lower and choosing their language carefully. In recent weeks, they spoke only of “a glimmer of hope” and of “a door opener to a political process.”

And that was before the following happened:

  • And, perhaps most important for the new talks, President Bashar al-Assad suddenly appeared more firmly ensconced in power than he had in years.

Despite the turmoil, for the first time in years, Syrian government and opposition delegates will meet this week to weigh the devastated country’s future.

On Thursday, after months of intensive but low-key diplomacy, the United Nations special envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, plans to bring 150 Syrians to Geneva. There, they will begin work on a constitutional committee intended to shift attention from the battlefield to what happens when, sooner or later, the fighting in their country stops.

Mr. Pedersen’s immediate goals are modest. He does not expect to achieve a peace, he said in an interview, but reforming Syria’s Constitution, could serve as “a door opener to a political process.”

“We all understand that the constitutional committee itself will not bring a solution to the conflict,” he said.

The Geneva talks are meant to be a first step under a United Nations Security Council mandate that calls for a nationwide cease-fire and elections under United Nations supervision.

A senior State Department official said Monday that the United States and other nations had several points of leverage to try to get Mr. Assad to work on a political settlement. The official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity, said that could include keeping reconstruction assistance from Mr. Assad’s government, barring Syria’s re-entry into the Arab League and refusing to restore diplomatic ties with Damascus.

When the new talks were announced at the United Nations General Assembly in September, some in the West still hoped that Mr. al-Assad’s grip on his country might be loosened in any eventual settlement.

“There may be a glimmer of hope that this conflict can be ended the right way,” James F. Jeffrey, the State Department’s special envoy on Syria policy, told reporters.

But just days later, on Oct. 6, Mr. Trump announced the withdrawal, clearing the way for a Turkish military move against the Kurds. That decision in effect redrew the battle lines and strengthened Mr. al-Assad’s negotiating hand. It gave him and Russia, his strongest ally, control over parts of the country the Syrian government had relinquished years ago.

The American military withdrawal paved the way for joint Russian-Turkish security patrols in formerly Kurdish-held territory in northeast Syria, under a deal struck last week between President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

Mr. al-Assad’s government is also now negotiating directly with Kurdish fighters in the northeast, a region Syrian troops had once all but given up.

Russian airstrikes on the few remaining rebel enclaves in Syria’s Idlib and Hama Provinces on Thursday raised concerns that Mr. Erdogan may have agreed to a bargain that will also gird Mr. al-Assad’s grasp in the northwest. Mr. Erdogan had previously provided backing to some of the rebels who have fought Mr. al-Assad in that region for more than eight years.

“At some point, one has to come to terms with the fact that the international effort of 2011 to change the regime, to change the political nature of the country, has failed,” said Robert Malley, who oversaw Middle East policy at the White House during the Obama administration and is now president of the nonprofit International Crisis Group in Washington.

“There has to be a reassessment of what is realistic to do in Syria,” he said, “given the balance of power on the ground.”

It has been seven years since the first United Nations mediator, Kofi Annan, gave up on peace talks. Now it is Mr. Pedersen’s turn. For the first time in years, he said, the United Nations, Damascus and the Syrian opposition have agreed on an approach.

The constitutional committee negotiated by the United Nations includes three delegations: one from the Syrian government, one from the opposition and one drawn from civil society and different ethnic and religious groups.

The uncertainty surrounding the process is such that the United Nations has not given a detailed timeline for the talks, and the Syrian delegates have no idea how long they will be staying in this lakeside city.

Mr. Pedersen said he expects the 150 committee members to spend several days laying out their visions and aims for the Constitution, and then hand the work over to a smaller body of 45 people. To build confidence in the process, he has pushed all the parties to release detainees, but the results have been meager: freedom for 109 people. The biggest release, in February, involved 42 people, with the government setting free 20 detainees, 11 of them women and two of them children presumed to have been born in captivity.

“I had hoped for more,” Mr. Pedersen said. “I want much bigger releases in future, particularly women and children.”

To take the political process forward, he said, “we need a nationwide cease-fire and this is the opportunity to work seriously on that.”

Opposition delegates are not holding their breath. “There is no indication showing the regime is inclined to détente,” said Basma Kodmani, a member of the Syrian opposition’s negotiating team. “There’s no sign of good will.”

Delegates have also found themselves pilloried in social media as unrepresentative or unqualified, and the meetings condemned as a futile endeavor that merely buys time for Mr. al-Assad’s government.

“The difference this time,” Ms. Kodmani said, “is that Russia absolutely wants to get something moving. The incentive is to get money flowing.”

Without a political process that gives some legitimacy to postwar government, Western governments say they will withhold reconstruction aid and investment that Damascus needs to achieve stability.

The talks beginning in Geneva underscore how far the political needle has shifted in Mr. al-Assad’s favor as his once failing army, steeled by Russian and Iranian support, has expanded its control on the ground.

Some senior European officials have suggested that Mr. al-Assad not be allowed to remain in power, given chemical weapons attacks and other atrocities his forces have committed against civilians.

But forcing Mr. al-Assad to step down, as the Obama administration once demanded and even Mr. Trump suggested a few months after taking office in 2017, is not the aim of the negotiations, and it is no longer the American policy objective — even if some members of Congress still nurse the hope.

“I have about as much use for Assad as I’ve got for Erdogan,” Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, told Mr. Jeffrey at a congressional hearing last week. “Is it still our government’s position that we don’t talk to Assad, and that Assad can be part of no negotiations?”

Mr. Jeffrey affirmed that the United States does not engage directly with Mr. al-Assad or his government. But, he said, the Trump administration has made clear that it is not seeking “to overthrow Assad.”

Days later, in Geneva, he was even more explicit.

Mr. al-Assad’s administration, Mr. Jeffrey said, “is “the legal government — even if you think it is a horrific, terrible and laden-with-war-crimes government.”

Nick Cumming-Bruce reported from Geneva, and Lara Jakes from Washington. Catie Edmonson contributed reporting from Washington.

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Putin and Erdogan Announce Plan for Northeast Syria, Bolstering Russian Influence

Westlake Legal Group 22russia-turkey1-facebookJumbo Putin and Erdogan Announce Plan for Northeast Syria, Bolstering Russian Influence United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Russia Putin, Vladimir V Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Assad, Bashar al-

SOCHI, Russia — His jets patrol Syrian skies. His military is expanding operations at the main naval base in Syria. He is forging closer ties to Turkey. He and his Syrian allies are moving into territory being vacated by the United States.

And on Tuesday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia played host to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, for more than six hours of talks on how they and other regional players will divide control of Syria, a land devastated by eight years of civil war.

The negotiations ended with a victory for Mr. Putin: Russian and Turkish troops will take joint control over a vast swath of formerly Kurdish-held territory in northern Syria, in a move that cements the rapid expansion of Russian influence in Syria at the expense of the United States and its Kurdish former allies.

Under the terms of the agreement, Syrian Kurdish forces must now retreat more than 20 miles from the border, abandoning land that they had controlled uncontested until earlier this month — when their protectors, the American military, suddenly began to withdraw from the region.

Mr. Putin has emerged as the dominant force in Syria and a major power broker in the broader Middle East — a status showcased by Mr. Erdogan’s hastily arranged trip to the president’s summer home in Sochi. And it looks increasingly clear that Russia, which rescued the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria with brutal airstrikes over the last four years, will be the arbiter of the power balance there.

As President Trump questions American alliances and troop deployments around the world, Russia, like China, has been flexing its muscles, eager to fill the power vacuum left by a more isolationist United States. In Syria, both Mr. Putin and Mr. Erdogan see opportunity in Mr. Trump’s sudden withdrawal this month of American forces in the country.

Mr. Erdogan had long wanted go to war against the Kurdish-led forces that control northeast Syria, but he dared not, as long as the Kurds’ American allies were stationed there, too. He responded to Mr. Trump’s withdrawal by launching an invasion.

Tuesday’s meeting began hours before the end of an American-brokered truce between Turkish and Kurdish forces in Syria, where Mr. Erdogan says his troops have seized more than 900 square miles of territory since invading on Oct. 6.

“The U.S. is still the 500-pound gorilla,” said Howard Eissenstat, a professor of Middle East history at St. Lawrence University. “If the U.S. decided that ‘issue X’ was a primary concern to its national security, there would be very little that anybody in the region could do about it.”

But with the United States increasingly removing itself from the picture — as symbolized in the Russian news media by the images of abandoned washing machines and unopened cans of Coca-Cola left behind in the chaotic withdrawal — it was Russia whose consent Mr. Erdogan needed on Tuesday to consolidate and extend his gains.

“Before, Turkey could play the U.S. against Russia and Russia against the U.S.,” said Sinan Ulgen, chairman of the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, an Istanbul-based research group. “Now that’s no longer the case, and Russia has shaped up to be Turkey’s only real counterpart in Syria.”

Tuesday’s meeting looked to be a culmination of Mr. Putin’s yearslong strategy of taking advantage of Western divisions to build closer ties with Turkey — a NATO member and long a key United States ally — and to increase Moscow’s influence in the Middle East.

As the United States and Western Europe vacillated in their approach to Syria — to the frustration of Turkey and other Middle Eastern powers — Russia chose to protect its ally, Mr. al-Assad, and stuck with him despite fierce criticism from the West that the Syrian ruler was a brutal despot.

The upshot, Russians now say, is that while their country lacks the West’s economic might, it can be counted on to keep its word.

“Some people are furious again, some people are jealous and some people are drawn to power,” Dmitri Kiselyov, the prominent host of a news program on state-controlled television, told viewers Sunday night. “Whatever the case, Erdogan is flying to Russia to meet with Putin.”

The negotiations highlight the loss of American influence in the days since Mr. Trump ordered troops to withdraw from northeast Syria. The pullout not only cleared the way for Turkey’s assault on American allies, it also prompted the area’s Kurdish leaders to turn to Mr. al-Assad’s government and its main backer, Russia, for protection.

This sudden alliance has allowed Syrian government forces back into parts of northeast Syria that they have not entered in half a decade and thrust Mr. Putin even more prominently into the Syrian affairs.

“The situation in the region is very tense — we understand that,” Mr. Putin said as he began talks with Mr. Erdogan. “I would like to express the hope that the level of Russian-Turkish relations that has been attained recently will play a role in resolving all of the issues that the region has encountered and will help find answers to all questions, even very difficult ones, in the interests of Turkey, Russia, and all countries.”

Russian television showed Mr. Putin looking relaxed as he delivered his opening remarks, leaning back and his hands clasped easily over an armrest. Mr. Erdogan, by contrast, sat up straight as he eyed his Russian counterpart.

Mr. Putin, who relishes chances to drive wedges into Western alliances, has drawn closer to Mr. Erdogan, whose relations with Europe and the United States have been rocky. They have met eight times this year, according to Yuri Ushakov, a Kremlin foreign policy adviser.

In July, Turkey defied Western warnings and began taking delivery of a Russian antiaircraft missile system, prompting the United States to cancel Turkey’s purchase of American-made fighter jets. NATO had warned that the purchase could reveal Western technological secrets to Russia, and that the Russian weapons were incompatible with the alliance’s systems.

Mr. Putin has also cultivated ties to the United States’ closest American ally in the region, Israel, and its bitterest adversary, Iran, another supporter of Mr. al-Assad.

Russia “doesn’t have the economic or military capabilities the U.S. has,” Mr. Eissenstat said, “but it has been very savvy about using its power in limited and effective means.”

Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Putin were expected on Tuesday to discuss whether Turkey will be allowed to expand its sphere of influence beyond the central pocket of formerly Kurdish-held territory that Turkish-led forces have already seized this month.

“With my dear friend Putin, we will discuss the current situation in northern Syria, primarily to the east of the Euphrates,” Mr. Erdogan said to reporters at an airport in Ankara, shortly before departing for Russia.

Kurdish fighters had managed to carve out their own autonomous region in northeast Syria, free of government control, amid the chaos of the eight-year civil war. They greatly expanded their territory from 2015 onward, when they became the principal Syrian partner of an American-led coalition working to defeat militants from the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS.

As Kurdish fighters won back ISIS-held land, they took over its governance, eventually establishing control over roughly a quarter of Syria.

Mr. Erdogan’s goal is to create a buffer zone along the entire length of the Turkish-Syrian border, roughly 20 miles deep, to keep Kurdish fighters from getting within mortar range of Turkey. Analysts in Moscow expect Mr. Putin to accept some measure of Turkish control over a buffer zone, though it’s not clear how deep into Syrian territory he would agree for it to extend, or how it would be policed.

Mr. Erdogan views the main Kurdish militia in northeast Syria, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, as a threat to Turkish national security, since the group is an offshoot of a guerrilla movement that has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.

“We understand Turkey’s concern in connection with the need to ensure its safety and with the need to fight terrorist elements,” the Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov told reporters on Tuesday, ahead of the meeting.

“But we are also expecting that all actions should be proportionate to these concerns and that these actions should in no way make the process of peaceful political settlement in Syria more difficult.”

For Mr. Putin, the meeting with Mr. Erdogan provided an opportunity to solidify and extend Mr. al-Assad’s hold on power.

Mr. al-Assad attempted to project his own influence on Tuesday, visiting the northwestern province of Idlib for the first time since the area fell out of government control several years ago. He was pictured near the front line of a battle between rebels and his own military, in photographs released by a state-run news agency.

Before his meeting with Mr. Erdogan was arranged, Mr. Putin was already scheduled to be in Sochi this week to host the leaders of 43 African countries, a first-of-its-kind summit that will offer another measure of Russia’s growing foreign policy ambitions.

Turkey is part of NATO, which Russia sees as an adversary. But ties between Moscow and Ankara have rapidly warmed as a result of the war in Syria and growing tensions between Turkey and its longtime allies in Western Europe and the United States.

As American troops crossed the border from Syria into Iraq this week, the Iraqi government faced questions about whether the withdrawal was camouflage for an American buildup in Iraq. The United States military has a large camp in Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, and the troops are going there until arrangements are made for them to move on.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper seemed mindful of the Iraqis’ concerns on Monday when he wrote on Twitter, “As we withdraw from NE Syria, we will temporarily reposition those forces in the region outside Syria until they return home.”

The Iraqis had agreed that the Americans could leave Syria through Iraq and then fly out to Kuwait or Doha, according to generals in the Iraqi Joint Command. In a statement, the Joint Command said that it wanted to make clear that “there is an agreement for U.S. troops to enter Iraqi Kurdistan in order to leave Syria, but there is no approval for them to stay in Iraq.”

Earlier this year, Mr. Trump said he wanted troops in Iraq to “watch Iran,” angering Iraqi politicians who said they feared the United States would use Iraq as a launching pad for a war against Iran.

Anton Troianovski reported from Sochi, and Patrick Kingsley from Istanbul. Alissa J. Rubin contributed reporting from Baghdad, and Eric Schmitt from Washington.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

With Syria on the Table, Erdogan Pays Court to Putin

Westlake Legal Group 22russia-turkey1-facebookJumbo With Syria on the Table, Erdogan Pays Court to Putin United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Russia Putin, Vladimir V Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Assad, Bashar al-

SOCHI, Russia — His jets patrol Syrian skies. His military is expanding operations at the main naval base in Syria. He is forging closer ties to Turkey. He and his Syrian allies are moving into territory being vacated by the United States.

And on Tuesday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia played host to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, for talks on how they and other regional players will divide control of Syria, a land devastated by eight years of civil war.

Mr. Putin has emerged as the dominant force in Syria and a major power broker in the broader Middle East — a status showcased by Mr. Erdogan’s hastily arranged trip to the president’s summer home in Sochi. And it looks increasingly clear that Russia, which rescued the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria with brutal airstrikes over the last four years, will be the arbiter of the power balance there.

As President Trump questions American alliances and troop deployments around the world, Russia, like China, has been flexing its muscles, eager to fill the power vacuum left by a more isolationist United States. In Syria, both Mr. Putin and Mr. Erdogan see opportunity in Mr. Trump’s sudden withdrawal this month of American forces in the country.

Mr. Erdogan had long wanted to go to war against the Kurdish-led forces that control northeast Syria, but he dared not, as long as the Kurds’ American allies were stationed there, too. He responded to Mr. Trump’s withdrawal by launching an invasion.

Tuesday’s meeting began hours before the end of an American-brokered truce between Turkish and Kurdish forces in Syria, where Mr. Erdogan says his troops have seized more than 900 square miles of territory since invading on Oct. 6.

“The U.S. is still the 500-pound gorilla,” said Howard Eissenstat, a Turkey expert at the Project on Middle East Democracy, a Washington-based research group. “If the U.S. decided that ‘issue X’ was a primary concern to its national security, there would be very little that anybody in the region could do about it.”

But with the United States increasingly removing itself from the picture — as symbolized in the Russian news media by the images of abandoned washing machines and unopened cans of Coca-Cola left behind in the chaotic withdrawal — now it is Russia whose tacit consent Mr. Erdogan needs to consolidate and extend his gains.

“Before, Turkey could play the U.S. against Russia and Russia against the U.S.,” said Sinan Ulgen, chairman of the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, an Istanbul-based research group. “Now that’s no longer the case, and Russia has shaped up to be Turkey’s only real counterpart in Syria.”

Tuesday’s meeting looked to be a culmination of Mr. Putin’s yearslong strategy of taking advantage of Western divisions to build closer ties with Turkey — a NATO member and long a key United States ally — and to increase Moscow’s influence in the Middle East.

As the United States and Western Europe vacillated in their approach to Syria — to the frustration of Turkey and other Middle Eastern powers — Russia chose to protect its ally, Mr. al-Assad, and stuck with him despite fierce criticism from the West that the Syrian ruler was a brutal despot.

The upshot, Russians now say, is that while their country lacks the West’s economic might, it can be counted on to keep its word.

“Some people are furious again, some people are jealous and some people are drawn to power,” Dmitri Kiselyov, the prominent host of a news program on state-controlled television, told viewers Sunday night. “Whatever the case, Erdogan is flying to Russia to meet with Putin.”

The negotiations highlight the loss of American influence in the days since Mr. Trump ordered troops to withdraw from northeast Syria. The pullout not only cleared the way for Turkey’s assault on American allies, it also prompted the area’s Kurdish leaders to turn to Mr. al-Assad’s government and its main backer, Russia, for protection.

This sudden alliance has allowed Syrian government forces back into parts of northeast Syria that they have not entered in half a decade and thrust Mr. Putin even more prominently into the Syrian affairs.

“The situation in the region is very tense — we understand that,” Mr. Putin said as he began talks with Mr. Erdogan. “I would like to express the hope that the level of Russian-Turkish relations that has been attained recently will play a role in resolving all of the issues that the region has encountered and will help find answers to all questions, even very difficult ones, in the interests of Turkey, Russia, and all countries.”

Russian television showed Mr. Putin looking relaxed as he delivered his opening remarks, leaning back and his hands clasped easily over an armrest. Mr. Erdogan, by contrast, sat up straight as he eyed his Russian counterpart.

Mr. Putin, who relishes chances to drive wedges into Western alliances, has drawn closer to Mr. Erdogan, whose relations with Europe and the United States have been rocky. They have met eight times this year, according to Yuri Ushakov, a Kremlin foreign policy adviser.

In July, Turkey defied Western warnings and began taking delivery of a Russian antiaircraft missile system, prompting the United States to cancel Turkey’s purchase of American-made fighter jets. NATO had warned that the purchase could reveal Western technological secrets to Russia, and that the Russian weapons were incompatible with the alliance’s systems.

Mr. Putin has also cultivated ties to the United States’ closest American ally in the region, Israel, and its bitterest adversary, Iran, another supporter of Mr. al-Assad.

Russia “doesn’t have the economic or military capabilities the U.S. has,” Mr. Eissenstat said, “but it has been very savvy about using its power in limited and effective means.”

Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Putin were expected on Tuesday to discuss whether Turkey will be allowed to expand its sphere of influence beyond the central pocket of formerly Kurdish-held territory that Turkish-led forces have already seized this month.

“With my dear friend Putin, we will discuss the current situation in northern Syria, primarily to the east of the Euphrates,” Mr. Erdogan said to reporters at an airport in Ankara, shortly before departing for Russia.

Kurdish fighters had managed to carve out their own autonomous region in northeast Syria, free of government control, amid the chaos of the eight-year civil war. They greatly expanded their territory from 2015 onward, when they became the principal Syrian partner of an American-led coalition working to defeat militants from the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS.

As Kurdish fighters won back ISIS-held land, they took over its governance, eventually establishing control over roughly a quarter of Syria.

Mr. Erdogan’s goal is to create a buffer zone along the entire length of the Turkish-Syrian border, roughly 20 miles deep, to keep Kurdish fighters from getting within mortar range of Turkey. Analysts in Moscow expect Mr. Putin to accept some measure of Turkish control over a buffer zone, though it’s not clear how deep into Syrian territory he would agree for it to extend, or how it would be policed.

Mr. Erdogan views the main Kurdish militia in northeast Syria, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, as a threat to Turkish national security, since the group is an offshoot of a guerrilla movement that has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.

“We understand Turkey’s concern in connection with the need to ensure its safety and with the need to fight terrorist elements,” the Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov told reporters on Tuesday, ahead of the meeting.

“But we are also expecting that all actions should be proportionate to these concerns and that these actions should in no way make the process of peaceful political settlement in Syria more difficult.”

For Mr. Putin, the meeting with Mr. Erdogan provides an opportunity to solidify and extend Mr. al-Assad’s hold on power.

Mr. al-Assad attempted to project his own influence on Tuesday, visiting the northwestern province of Idlib for the first time since the area fell out of government control several years ago. He was pictured near the front line of a battle between rebels and his own military, in photographs released by a state-run news agency.

Before his meeting with Mr. Erdogan was arranged, Mr. Putin was already scheduled to be in Sochi this week to host the leaders of 43 African countries, a first-of-its-kind summit that will offer another measure of Russia’s growing foreign policy ambitions.

Turkey is part of NATO, which Russia sees as an adversary. But ties between Moscow and Ankara have rapidly warmed as a result of the war in Syria and growing tensions between Turkey and its longtime allies in Western Europe and the United States.

As American troops crossed the border from Syria into Iraq this week, the Iraqi government faced questions about whether the withdrawal was camouflage for an American buildup in Iraq. The United States military has a large camp in Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, and the troops are going there until arrangements are made for them to move on.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper seemed mindful of the Iraqis’ concerns on Monday when he wrote on Twitter, “As we withdraw from NE Syria, we will temporarily reposition those forces in the region outside Syria until they return home.”

The Iraqis had agreed that the Americans could leave Syria through Iraq and then fly out to Kuwait or Doha, according to generals in the Iraqi Joint Command. In a statement, the Joint Command said that it wanted to make clear that “there is an agreement for U.S. troops to enter Iraqi Kurdistan in order to leave Syria, but there is no approval for them to stay in Iraq.”

Earlier this year, Mr. Trump said he wanted troops in Iraq to “watch Iran,” angering Iraqi politicians who said they feared the United States would use Iraq as a launching pad for a war against Iran.

Anton Troianovski reported from Sochi, and Patrick Kingsley from Istanbul. Alissa J. Rubin contributed reporting from Baghdad, and Eric Schmitt from Washington.

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Erdogan’s Ambitions Go Beyond Syria. He Says He Wants Nuclear Weapons.

Westlake Legal Group 19dc-turkeynukes1-sub-facebookJumbo Erdogan’s Ambitions Go Beyond Syria. He Says He Wants Nuclear Weapons. Turkey Trump, Donald J Syria Putin, Vladimir V Nuclear Weapons Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty North Atlantic Treaty Organization Kurds International Atomic Energy Agency Incirlik Air Base (Turkey) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip

WASHINGTON — Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wants more than control over a wide swath of Syria along his country’s border. He says he wants the Bomb.

In the weeks leading up to his order to launch the military across the border to clear Kurdish areas, Mr. Erdogan made no secret of his larger ambition. “Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads,” he told a meeting of his governing party in September. But the West insists “we can’t have them,” he said. “This, I cannot accept.”

With Turkey now in open confrontation with its NATO allies, having gambled and won a bet that it could conduct a military incursion into Syria and get away with it, Mr. Erdogan’s threat takes on new meaning. If the United States could not prevent the Turkish leader from routing its Kurdish allies, how can it stop him from building a nuclear weapon or following Iran in gathering the technology to do so?

It was not the first time Mr. Erdogan has spoken about breaking free of the restrictions on countries that have signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and no one is quite sure of his true intentions. The Turkish autocrat is a master of keeping allies and adversaries off balance, as President Trump discovered in the past two weeks.

“The Turks have said for years that they will follow what Iran does,” said John J. Hamre, a former deputy secretary of defense who now runs the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “But this time is different. Erdogan has just facilitated America’s retreat from the region.”

“Maybe, like the Iranians, he needs to show that he is on the two-yard line, that he could get a weapon at any moment,” Mr. Hamre said.

If so, he is on his way — with a program more advanced than that of Saudi Arabia, but well short of what Iran has assembled. But experts say it is doubtful that Mr. Erdogan could put a weapon together in secret. And any public move to reach for one would provoke a new crisis: His country would become the first NATO member to break out of the treaty and independently arm itself with the ultimate weapon.

Already Turkey has the makings of a bomb program: uranium deposits and research reactors — and mysterious ties to the nuclear world’s most famous black marketeer, Abdul Qadeer Khan of Pakistan. It is also building its first big power reactor to generate electricity with Russia’s help. That could pose a concern because Mr. Erdogan has not said how he would handle its nuclear waste, which could provide the fuel for a weapon. Russia also built Iran’s Bushehr reactor.

Experts said it would take a number of years for Turkey to get to a weapon, unless Mr. Erdogan bought one. And the risk for Mr. Erdogan would be considerable.

“Erdogan is playing to an anti-American domestic audience with his nuclear rhetoric, but is highly unlikely to pursue nuclear weapons,” said Jessica C. Varnum, an expert on Turkey at Middlebury’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, Calif. “There would be huge economic and reputational costs to Turkey, which would hurt the pocketbooks of Erdogan’s voters.”

“For Erdogan,” Ms. Varnum said, “that strikes me as a bridge too far.”

There is another element to this ambiguous atomic mix: The presence of roughly 50 American nuclear weapons, stored on Turkish soil. The United States had never openly acknowledged their existence, until Wednesday, when Mr. Trump did exactly that.

Asked about the safety of those weapons, kept in an American-controlled bunker at Incirlik Air Base, Mr. Trump said, “We’re confident, and we have a great air base there, a very powerful air base.”

But not everyone is so confident, because the air base belongs to the Turkish government. If relations with Turkey deteriorated, the American access to that base is not assured.

Turkey has been a base for American nuclear weapons for more than six decades. Initially, they were intended to deter the Soviet Union, and were famously a negotiating chip in defusing the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when President John F. Kennedy secretly agreed to remove missiles from Turkey in return for Moscow doing the same in Cuba.

But tactical weapons have remained. Over the years, American officials have often expressed nervousness about the weapons, which have little to no strategic use versus Russia now, but have been part of a NATO strategy to keep regional players in check — and keep Turkey from feeling the need for a bomb of its own.

When Mr. Erdogan put down an attempted military coup in July 2016, the Obama administration quietly drew up an extensive contingency plan for removing the weapons from Incirlik, according to former government officials. But it was never put in action, in part because of fears that removing the American weapons would, at best, undercut the alliance, and perhaps give Mr. Erdogan an excuse to build his own arsenal.

For decades, Turkey has been hedging its bets. Starting in 1979, it began operating a few small research reactors, and since 1986, it has made reactor fuel at a pilot plant in Istanbul. The Istanbul complex also handles spent fuel and its highly radioactive waste.

“They’re building up their nuclear expertise,” Olli Heinonen, the former chief inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in an interview. “It’s high quality stuff.”

He added that Ankara might “come to the threshold” of the bomb option in four or five years, or sooner, with substantial foreign help. Mr. Heinonen noted that Moscow is now playing an increasingly prominent role in Turkish nuclear projects and long-range planning.

Turkey’s program, like Iran’s, has been characterized as an effort to develop civilian nuclear power.

Russia has agreed to build four nuclear reactors in Turkey, but the effort is seriously behind schedule. The first reactor, originally scheduled to go into operation this year, is now seen as starting up in late 2023.

The big question is what happens to its spent fuel. Nuclear experts agree that the hardest part of bomb acquisition is not coming up with designs or blueprints, but obtaining the fuel. A civilian nuclear power program is often a ruse for making that fuel, and building a clandestine nuclear arsenal.

Turkey has uranium deposits — the obligatory raw material — and over the decades has shown great interest in learning the formidable skills needed to purify uranium as well as to turn it into plutonium, the two main fuels of atom bombs. A 2012 report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “Turkey and the Bomb,” noted that Ankara “has left its nuclear options open.”

Hans Rühle, the head of planning in the German Ministry of Defense from 1982 to 1988, went further. In a 2015 report, he said “the Western intelligence community now largely agrees that Turkey is working both on nuclear weapon systems and on their means of delivery.”

In a 2017 study, the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington that tracks the bomb’s spread, concluded that Mr. Erdogan’s efforts to consolidate power and raise Turkey’s regional status were increasing “the risk that Turkey will seek nuclear weapons capabilities.”

In response to the German assertion and other similar assessments, Turkey has repeatedly denied a secret nuclear arms effort, with its foreign ministry noting that Turkey is “part of NATO’s collective defense system.”

But Mr. Erdogan’s recent statements were notable for failing to mention NATO, and for expressing his long-running grievance that the country has been prohibited from possessing an arsenal of its own. Turkey has staunchly defended what it calls its right under peaceful global accords to enrich uranium and reprocess spent fuel, the critical steps to a bomb the Trump administration is insisting Iran must surrender.

Turkey’s uranium skills were highlighted in the 2000s when international sleuths found it to be a covert industrial hub for the nuclear black market of Mr. Khan, a builder of Pakistan’s arsenal. The rogue scientist — who masterminded the largest illicit nuclear proliferation ring in history — sold key equipment and designs to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

The most important items were centrifuges. The tall machines spin at supersonic speeds to purify uranium, and governments typically classify their designs as top secret. Their output, depending on the level of enrichment, can fuel reactors or atom bombs.

According to “Nuclear Black Markets,” a report on the Khan network by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London think tank, companies in Turkey aided the covert effort by importing materials from Europe, making centrifuge parts and shipping finished products to customers.

A riddle to this day is whether the Khan network had a fourth customer. Dr. Rühle, the former German defense official, said intelligence sources believe Turkey could possess “a considerable number of centrifuges of unknown origin.” The idea that Ankara could be the fourth customer, he added, “does not appear far-fetched.” But there is no public evidence of any such facilities.

What is clear is that in developing its nuclear program, Turkey has found a partner: President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. In April 2018, Mr. Putin traveled to Turkey to signal the official start of construction of a $20 billion nuclear plant on the country’s Mediterranean coast.

Part of Russia’s motivation is financial. Building nuclear plants is one of the country’s most profitable exports. But it also serves another purpose: Like Mr. Putin’s export of an S-400 air defense system to Ankara — again, over American objections — the construction of the plant puts a NATO member partly in Russia’s camp, dependent on it for technology.

David E. Sanger reported from Washington, and William J. Broad from New York.

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Trump Said to Favor Leaving a Few Hundred Troops in Eastern Syria

Westlake Legal Group 20dc-MILITARY-facebookJumbo Trump Said to Favor Leaving a Few Hundred Troops in Eastern Syria United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Syria North Atlantic Treaty Organization Kurds Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense Department

WASHINGTON — President Trump is leaning in favor of a new Pentagon plan to keep a small contingent of American troops in eastern Syria, perhaps numbering about 200, to combat the Islamic State and block the advance of Syrian government and Russian forces into the region’s coveted oil fields, a senior administration official said on Sunday.

If Mr. Trump approves the proposal to leave a couple of hundred Special Operations forces in eastern Syria, it would mark the second time in 10 months that he has reversed his order to pull out nearly all American troops from the country. Last December, Mr. Trump directed 2,000 American troops to leave Syria immediately, only to relent later and approve a more gradual withdrawal.

The decision would also be the potential second major political reversal in a matter of days under pressure from his own party, after he rescinded on Saturday a decision to host next year’s Group of 7 summit at his own resort.

Mr. Trump has come under withering criticism from former military commanders, Democrats and even some of his staunchest Republican allies for pulling back United States troops from Syria’s border with Turkey, clearing the way for a Turkish offensive that in nearly two weeks has killed scores of Syrian Kurdish fighters and civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands of residents.

A senior administration official said on Sunday that Mr. Trump has since last week been considering a plan to leave a couple of hundred troops in northeast Syria, near the border with Iraq, for counterterrorism efforts. The official said it is a concept Mr. Trump favors.

Three other administration and Defense Department officials, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential military planning, confirmed over the weekend that the option was being discussed among top American policymakers and commanders.

The senior administration official said it was highly likely that troops would be kept along the Iraqi border area — away from the cease-fire zone that Vice President Mike Pence negotiated with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey last week. The main goal would be to prevent the Islamic State from re-establishing all or parts of its religious state, or caliphate, in Syria and neighboring Iraq.

A side benefit would be helping the Kurds keep control of oil fields in the east, the official said.

Mr. Trump seemed to hint at this outcome in a message on Twitter on Sunday, saying, “We have secured the Oil.”

The senior administration official suggested that the president was balancing competing impulses: achieving the ultimate goal of bringing United State forces home from Syria — part of a signature campaign promise to pull American troops from “endless wars” — and ensuring that efforts to contain and diminish ISIS continue. The order also could be heard as at least a partial answer to those who have criticized the president’s policy.

The officials indicated that Mr. Trump could describe the continued deployment of the small contingent of troops as a thoughtful, reasonable way to help safeguard regional and American security without violating his campaign pledge.

The senior official insisted the president’s approach to the incursion ordered by Mr. Erdogan had been mischaracterized, and pushed back against a widely held public narrative that Mr. Trump “greenlighted” the attack. Critics of Mr. Trump’s Syria policy have said the president, by telling Mr. Erdogan that he would order American troops to pull back from positions along the border where they had fought alongside Syrian Kurds, essentially acquiesced to the Turkish offensive.

Mr. Erdogan called Mr. Trump on Oct. 6 for the express purpose of informing him that Turkish forces planned to cross the border, the official said, and Mr. Trump made it clear to him that it was not a good idea — and did not endorse the attack. Mr. Trump followed up on Oct. 9 with a now-infamous letter to Mr. Erdogan.

The senior administration official said that the American troops were withdrawn from the border area because Turkish forces were coming across into Syria, and that they were sitting in harm’s way, a rationale that Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also have expressed in recent days.

Spokeswomen for Mr. Esper and General Milley declined on Sunday to comment on any options under discussion.

White House officials argue that leaving a small contingent of troops in eastern Syria is not a policy reversal because the goal of the original withdrawal was to protect lives. Unlike Mr. Trump’s withdrawal order in December, administration officials say, this time was never about bringing troops home because they were always going to remain elsewhere in the region, in particular in Iraq.

But the White House has struggled to articulate a clear position on what the administration is trying to accomplish as Mr. Erdogan has clearly been undeterred and Mr. Trump, who hates appearing weak, has shrugged off the fighting on his Twitter feed and in a campaign rally.

“It is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home. WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN. Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter on Oct. 7.

“After defeating 100% of the ISIS Caliphate, I largely moved our troops out of Syria. Let Syria and Assad protect the Kurds and fight Turkey for their own land. I said to my Generals, why should we be fighting for Syria and Assad to protect the land of our enemy?” Mr. Trump said in another Twitter message on Oct. 14.

The discussion over leaving a residual counterterrorism force in eastern Syria was unfolding as the bulk of the nearly 1,000 American forces now in Syria continued to withdraw on Sunday. Mr. Esper told reporters traveling with him to Afghanistan on Saturday that the troops would go to bases in western Iraq.

From there, Mr. Esper said, American troops would “help defend Iraq” and “perform a counter-ISIS mission” — presumably carrying out periodic cross-border Special Operations raids and conducting armed drone strikes against Islamic State cells. ISIS has already sought to exploit the chaos in northern Syria to break out insurgents from Kurdish-run jails, to attack Kurdish fighters and to regain momentum overall.

“They will rally. These are resilient adversaries,” Gen. Tony Thomas, who retired after serving as head of the military’s Special Operations Command, said of the Islamic State on the CBS program “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “We’ve done nothing to knock down the ideology, and I think they’ll see this as certainly a respite, if not an opportunity to have a resurgence.”

The proposal to keep a counterterrorism force in eastern Syria resulted from the Defense Department directing the military’s Central Command in recent days to provide options for continuing the fight against Islamic State in Syria.

One of those options, which is said to be Mr. Trump’s choice, would keep a contingent of about 200 Special Operations forces at a few bases in eastern Syria, some near the Iraqi border, where they have been working alongside Syrian Kurdish partners.

Military officials also are expected to brief Mr. Trump this week on that plan and of the other counterterrorism options — including keeping some troops in Syria and using other commandos based in Iraq. Mr. Trump would need to approve any plan to leave forces in any part of Syria in addition to the about 150 in Al-Tanf, a small garrison in south-central Syria.

The commander of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, Mazlum Kobani, whose fighters switched sides to join Syrian government forces after Mr. Trump announced the American withdrawal, said on Saturday that despite the Turkish offensive, his troops had resumed counterterrorism operations near Deir al-Zour.

American officials widely interpreted the comments as a signal to Washington that the Syrian Kurds were still willing to fight in partnership with the United States against the Islamic State in eastern Syria, despite their abandonment in other parts of the country.

Some lawmakers suggested that it may be too late to contain the damage done to the counterterrorism mission and, more broadly, American credibility overseas. Representative Will Hurd, a Texas Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, described the cease-fire agreement announced on Thursday as “terms of surrender” to Turkey.

Also appearing on “Face the Nation,” Mr. Hurd, a former C.I.A. officer, referred to Turkey, a NATO ally, as part of a group of American “enemies” and “adversaries” who will benefit from the cease-fire agreement.

“Our enemies and our adversaries like Iran, Russia, Turkey, they’re playing chess,” he said. “Unfortunately, this administration is playing checkers.”

Eric Schmitt reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York.

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In Bipartisan Rebuke, House Majority Condemns Trump for Syria Withdrawal

WASHINGTON — The House on Wednesday dealt a stinging bipartisan rebuke to President Trump for his decision to withdraw American forces just inside Syria’s border, registering overwhelming opposition in Congress to a move that has thrown the region into bloody chaos and unraveled Middle East policy.

In a rare break with a president they are normally unwilling to criticize, two-thirds of House Republicans, including all of the party’s elected leaders, joined Democrats in approving a resolution that opposed Mr. Trump’s acquiescence to the Turkish assault against the Kurds, who have been crucial American allies in the fight against the Islamic State. The measure passed, 354 to 60, in the most significant bipartisan repudiation of Mr. Trump since he took office.

It enraged the president, who lashed out at Democratic congressional leaders at the White House shortly afterward at a meeting called to discuss the incursion, which devolved into a bitter confrontation in which he hurled insults at Speaker Nancy Pelosi after she pointedly mentioned the devastating vote tally.

“He was shaken up by it,” Ms. Pelosi said of the resounding support, including by Republicans, for the resolution.

The vote unfolded only hours before Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were to travel to Ankara, Turkey, to call for a cease-fire in a battle the president appears to have greenlit.

“At President Trump’s hands, American leadership has been laid low, and American foreign policy has become nothing more than a tool to advance his own interests,” said Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, who introduced the measure. “Today we make clear that the Congress is a coequal branch of government and we want nothing to do with this disastrous policy.”

The measure, which was largely symbolic, upbraided the withdrawal as “beneficial to adversaries of the United States government” including Russia, Syria and Iran, and called on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to immediately end unilateral military action in northern Syria. A companion measure in the Senate, sponsored by Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Todd Young, Republican of Indiana, was introduced on Tuesday.

Westlake Legal Group white-house-trump-letter-promo-1571261887115-articleLarge In Bipartisan Rebuke, House Majority Condemns Trump for Syria Withdrawal Van Hollen, Christopher Jr United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Terrorism Syria Paul, Rand Kurds Graham, Lindsey Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Cheney, Liz

Read Trump’s Letter to Turkey’s President

Trump said he’d written the “very powerful” letter to warn the Turkish leader.

Even as Mr. Trump defended his decision to pull American troops out of northern Syria, telling reporters at the White House that the battle there had “nothing to do with us,” Republicans and Democrats lined up on the House floor to denounce his action.

“Because of this decision and inaction that led up to this decision, we have let our friends down, we have hurt our national security and we have ceded leadership in the region to Russia and Iran,” said Representative Will Hurd, Republican of Texas and a former C.I.A. officer who is retiring. “I hope we can change our course, but I fear it may be too late.”

The resolution drew support from 129 Republicans including all three of the party’s House leaders, while 60 opposed it and three — Representatives Chip Roy of Texas, Jody B. Hice of Georgia and Bob Gibbs of Ohio — voted present. Representative Justin Amash, independent of Michigan, also voted present.

The resolution was not the first bipartisan rebuke by Congress of Mr. Trump’s mercurial approach to foreign policy. The president’s allies on Capitol Hill have shown they are most comfortable criticizing him on matters of international affairs, and have previously joined Democrats to denounce his administration’s unflagging support of Saudi Arabia after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist. And they declared their disapproval this year of attempts to withdraw American forces from Syria in a bipartisan effort led by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader.

But Mr. Trump’s decision last week to essentially clear the way for a Turkish military operation against America’s Kurdish allies in northern Syria has provoked the strongest response yet from Republicans, including many of the president’s most reliable allies.

Mr. McConnell opened his weekly news conference on Wednesday by expressing his “gratitude to the Kurds,” and added, “I’m sorry that we are where we are.”

After Mr. Trump said Wednesday that Turkey’s invasion into Syria had nothing to do with us” and that the Kurds “are no angels,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, called it “an astonishing statement which I completely and totally reject.”

Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican, wrote on Twitter that it is “Impossible to understand why @realDonaldTrump is leaving America’s allies to be slaughtered and enabling the return of ISIS.”

Hawkish lawmakers like Ms. Cheney and Mr. Graham, as well as Democratic leaders in the House, are preparing additional legislative action to punish the Turks’ incursion. Mr. Graham introduced a sanctions package with Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, last week, that would impose harsher sanctions on Turkey than the White House has enacted, including the prohibition of American military assistance and the freezing of the American assets of Mr. Erdogan and other Turkish leaders.

Westlake Legal Group syria-turkey-promo-1571094797315-articleLarge-v3 In Bipartisan Rebuke, House Majority Condemns Trump for Syria Withdrawal Van Hollen, Christopher Jr United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Terrorism Syria Paul, Rand Kurds Graham, Lindsey Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Cheney, Liz

4 Big Questions About Syria’s Future

The surprise American withdrawal from parts of northern Syria reshuffled old alliances and touched off a new stage of the eight-year war.

A small handful of libertarian-minded Republicans on Capitol Hill, including Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, have defended Mr. Trump’s decision as being consistent with the president’s campaign promise to end America’s intractable military conflicts.

“If we can save one American soldier from losing their life or limbs in another senseless middle eastern war, it is worthwhile,” Mr. Paul wrote on Twitter. “@realDonaldTrump knows this.”

It is unclear exactly how far congressional Republicans will go in their objections to Mr. Trump’s latest decision. Some of the president’s defenders who immediately vented their ire at the Syria withdrawal, including Mr. Graham, have since cooled their tone.

Mr. Graham, for example, released a long statement on Monday after meeting with Mr. Trump at the White House and joining a call with Mr. Erdogan.

“The president’s team has a plan and I intend to support them as strongly as possible, and to give them reasonable time and space to achieve our mutual goals,” Mr. Graham said.

Representative Michael Waltz, Republican of Florida, who had sharply criticized the withdrawal, emerged from a meeting with the White House on Tuesday sounding reassured.

“It was useful to see a lot of the promises that Erdogan made the president and to understand how forcefully the president, Secretary Esper, told the Turks across the board not to do this,” Mr. Waltz said in a brief interview, referring to Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper. Mr. Waltz added that the White House was “livid” with Mr. Erdogan.

Mr. Pence and Mr. Pompeo are to meet on Thursday with the Turkish president to relay Mr. Trump’s demand that Mr. Erdogan negotiate a cease-fire, and to reiterate the president’s threat to impose economic sanctions if he does not.

Mr. Trump is also set to meet with Mr. Erdogan in November at the White House. But lawmakers on Wednesday called for the president to cancel the talks.

“Erdogan’s attack on our Kurdish partners has served to liberate ISIS prisoners, bolster the Assad regime, and strengthen Russia,” said Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee. “His invitation to the White House should be revoked.”

Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.

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The World Condemns Erdogan’s War on Kurds. But Turkey Applauds.

ISTANBUL — A raft of new American sanctions. An embargo on European arms sales. The indictment of a state-owned Turkish bank. Threats to isolate Turkey within NATO. A rise in global sympathy for the Kurdish cause. And the Syrian Army back in northern Syria.

The problems keep escalating for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, whose invasion of Kurdish-held northern Syria last week unraveled already tense relations with American and European partners and radically reshuffled the battle lines and alliances of Syria’s eight-year-old Syrian war.

But as challenging as Mr. Erdogan’s predicament appears from the outside, analysts say, it is only likely to buttress his standing at home, as the fighting fans an already heightened state of nationalist feeling.

It also masks the near-fulfillment of one of the president’s most important foreign policy goals: Breaking the stranglehold of a hostile Kurdish militia on a vast stretch of the border, and the fracturing of the United States’ alliance with a group that Mr. Erdogan considers an existential threat to the Turkish state.

All of that has made make it harder for the opposition to unite against Mr. Erdogan, or even to criticize him, and it has bolstered the president’s narrative that he and Turkey are the victims of an international conspiracy.

“Americans, Europeans, Chinese, Arabs — all united against Turkey,” the front-page of Sozcu, a newspaper usually fiercely opposed to Mr. Erdogan, said on Wednesday. “Bring it on.”

In the last few weeks, the Turkish national soccer team has backed Mr. Erdogan’s campaign by giving military salutes at two international matches. Pop singers have expressed their support on social media. Even the head of Turkey’s largest art fair emailed its international mailing list to condemn the “black propaganda” of international media coverage of the military operation.

“Overall, this operation has been a success,” said Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, an analyst who heads the Ankara office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a Washington-based research group.

Turkey has long opposed the influence of a Syrian Kurdish militia, known by its initials as the Y.P.G., since it is the offshoot of a guerrilla movement that has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state. Turkish officials grew alarmed when the militia took control of pockets of northern Syria in 2012, following a retreat by government forces amid the chaos of the Syrian civil war.

Ankara became particularly concerned when the militia expanded its grip by partnering with the United States military to force the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, from the border region.

Military positions in northern Syria as of Oct. 16

Turkish Army and Syrian opposition Syrian Army deployed U.S. military bases and outposts Russian bases

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Westlake Legal Group map-detailed-600 The World Condemns Erdogan’s War on Kurds. But Turkey Applauds. Turkey Syria Kurds Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense and Military Forces Assad, Bashar al-

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Westlake Legal Group map-detailed-335 The World Condemns Erdogan’s War on Kurds. But Turkey Applauds. Turkey Syria Kurds Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense and Military Forces Assad, Bashar al-

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Sources: Times reporting; Control areas as of Oct. 16 via Conflict Monitor by IHS Markit; Military positions for Russia are from the Institute for the Study of War. | By Allison McCann, Sarah Almukhtar, Anjali Singhvi and Jin Wu

To Turkish fury, the United States protected the militia for nearly half a decade, encouraging the group to blur its identity by changing its name and enlisting more non-Kurdish fighters.

But this delicate peace was shattered last week when President Trump ordered American troops to withdraw from the Turkish-Syrian border. That allowed Turkish forces to invade, prompted American ground-forces and their international allies to abandon their bases in the area, and forced the Kurds to request protection from Russian and Syrian government troops.

The intervention by Russia and Syria came far quicker than expected, and will likely stop Mr. Erdogan from creating as large a buffer zone along the border as he previously hoped.

But it nevertheless brings him close to achieving his primary objective, said Mr. Unluhisarcikli.

“What’s Turkey’s objective? It’s to stop the Y.P.G. from controlling territory in northeast Syria,” Mr. Unluhisarcikli said. “Whether it’s Turkey doing it or the Syrian regime, the Y.P.G.’s control has been loosened.”

Mr. Erdogan once hoped to topple President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, but now seems to see Mr. al-Assad as a lesser evil than the Kurdish militia. On Wednesday, he told a gaggle of reporters that he could accept the Assad regime re-entering the previously Kurdish-held city of Manbij, as long as it expelled Kurdish fighters from the area.

“We are not very concerned about being in Manbij ourselves,” Mr. Erdogan said. “We have only one concern: Either Russia or the regime should remove the Y.P.G. from there.”

He called for Kurdish fighters battling his troops in northeastern Syria to lay down their weapons and withdraw from the border area “this very night.”

Mr. al-Assad’s predecessor and father, Hafez al-Assad, provided Kurdish guerrillas fighting the Turkish state with refuge and space to organize in Syria in the 1980s and 90s, and Mr. Erdogan may fear a similar outcome.

But the younger al-Assad has repeatedly promised to re-establish control over every inch of Syria and few believe he will allow the Syrian Kurds to maintain their current level of autonomy.

Mr. Erdogan’s authoritarian domestic policies have long been a target of international criticism and unease, but the assault on Kurdish-held Syria has prompted an unusually high level of censure, even by Mr. Erdogan’s standards.

This week, Mr. Trump raised trade tariffs on Turkish steel, called off negotiations for a new Turkish trade deal worth $100 billion and placed financial sanctions on three Turkish ministers. “I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path,” he said in a statement on Monday.

On the same day, the defense secretary, Mark T. Esper, asked NATO members to take “collective and individual diplomatic and economic measures” against Turkey. On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary Mike Pompeo flew to Ankara to press Mr. Erdogan into a cease-fire.

Several European countries, including Germany, the Netherlands and France, have now imposed embargoes on arms sales to Turkey.

On Tuesday, Volkswagen suspended plans to build a factory that would provide 4,000 jobs in western Turkey, saying it was concerned by the current situation but without explaining further.

Hours later, United States prosecutors in New York announced charges against a Turkish state-owned bank, accusing it of having helped Iran evade American sanctions by transferring billions of dollars on the Iranian government’s behalf. As a punishment, prosecutors are pushing for the bank to forfeit an equivalent amount and the situation could hurt the bank’s ability to make international transactions.

The case may also have implications for Mr. Erdogan personally, as he is accused in the indictment of directing the scheme himself.

But though Turkey’s economy is already teetering, some of these measures may turn out to be less effective than they appear.

“Maybe people will come up with creative ways of excluding” Turkey from NATO, said Amanda Sloat, a former State Department official who oversaw relations with Turkey. “But there’s no provision about the removal of a NATO member in the NATO founding documents.”

The United States has ruled out a Turkish arms embargo, while the European arms embargoes are merely “symbolic,” said Marc Pierini, a former European Union ambassador to Turkey. “They’re not going to dent in any shape or form the Turkish military,” Mr. Pierini added.

The European measures apply only to future sales, blunting their effect on the current operation. And though Germany supplies some of Turkey’s tanks, the Turkish military was already more reliant on its U.S.-made tanks, because of pre-existing problems with the German models.

What’s more, the three sanctioned Turkish ministers have no known American assets. The $100 billion trade deal was never taken seriously in the first place. The new tariffs will likely not have much more effect, since Turkish exports to the U.S. are already low because of levies enforced last year.

Even if Congress imposes harsher measures of its own, the Trump administration could slow-walk putting them in place.

And though the economic crisis poses long-term challenges to Mr. Erdogan’s electoral prospects, in the past he has used external economic threats to boost his short-term popularity, portraying himself as Turkey’s only viable bulwark against a sea of foreign troubles.

The war, then, has made it harder for opposition leaders to criticize Mr. Erdogan without being accused of a lack of patriotism.

Even Ekrem Imamoglu, an opposition politician who defeated Mr. Erdogan’s candidate in recent mayoral elections in Istanbul, and who is perceived as a future rival for the presidency, has been careful to show his strong support for the invasion. In a series of Twitter posts, he described the Kurdish militiamen as a “treacherous terror group” and said he was praying for the operation’s success.

Such statements add another obstacle to attempts by Turkey’s opposition parties to defeat Mr. Erdogan’s party.

To win the mayoralty, Mr. Imamoglu required the informal support of a pro-Kurdish party, which typically receives around 10 percent of the national vote and whose supporters helped pull him over the line. But the party’s perceived links to the Kurdish militant movement may now make it an electoral liability.

“In the medium term,” said Mr. Unluhisarcikli, “President Erdogan has made it harder for the cohesion of the opposition alliance.”

Reporting was contributed by Jack Ewing from Frankfurt; Matina Stevis-Gridneff from Brussels; Ben Hubbard from Dohuk, Iraq; and Carlotta Gall from Nusaybin, Turkey.

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Trump Lashes Out on Syria as Republicans Rebuke Him in House Vote

WASHINGTON — President Trump seemed to wash his hands of the conflict between Turkey and America’s Kurdish allies in Syria on Wednesday, generating withering criticism from Republican allies, who rebuked him in a House vote. The day ended with a heated confrontation between Mr. Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the Oval Office.

Mr. Trump told reporters that the Turkish assault on Kurdish fighters in northern Syria that began after he pulled out American troops “has nothing to do with us.” He declared that the Kurds who battled the Islamic State alongside United States forces for years were “not angels,” but instead essentially self-interested mercenaries who fought because they were paid to.

The president’s comments triggered a strong rebuttal from fellow Republicans who accused him of abandoning friends of the United States and jeopardizing America’s leadership in the region. Mr. Trump then engaged in a sharp exchange at the White House with Democratic congressional leaders, who walked out of a meeting, complaining that he had been more offensive to them than any president in modern times.

During the meeting, according to Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Trump berated her as “a third-grade politician” and suggesting that she would be happy if communists gained influence in the Middle East. Ms. Pelosi told reporters on the White House driveway afterward that the president seemed “very shaken up” and was having “a meltdown.”

Mr. Trump also dismissed his own former defense secretary, Jim Mattis, who resigned last year when the president first tried to withdraw troops from Syria. When Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, began to cite Mr. Mattis, a retired Marine general, the president interjected, calling him “the world’s most overrated general,” according to a Democrat briefed on the meeting.

“You know why?” Mr. Trump said. “He wasn’t tough enough. I captured ISIS. Mattis said it would take two years. I captured them in one month.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_162822540_19578b24-5e6b-48ea-9341-e331f3a2bb59-articleLarge Trump Lashes Out on Syria as Republicans Rebuke Him in House Vote United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Pompeo, Mike Pence, Mike Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense and Military Forces

Speaker Nancy Pelosi with Representative Steny H. Hoyer, left and Senator Chuck Schumer at the White House on Wednesday. Ms. Pelosi told reporters that the president seemed “very shaken up” and was having “a meltdown.”CreditT.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

The confrontation with the Democrats followed a series of public appearances where the president attempted to justify his decision to withdraw a small number of American troops from the border who had been serving as a kind of trip wire deterring Turkey from attacking Kurdish forces in northern Syria. The decision to pull out the troops was seen as an implicit green light to Turkey, which then launched a powerful offensive against the Kurds.

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office alongside the visiting president of Italy, Mr. Trump said that the American soldiers he had ordered to pull back were no longer in harm’s way and that “they shouldn’t be as two countries fight over land.”

“That has nothing to do with us,” Mr. Trump said, all but dismissing the Kurdish fighters. “The Kurds know how to fight, and, as I said, they’re not angels, they’re not angels,” he said.

But the president denied that he gave a green light to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey during a phone call last week, citing a letter that he wrote a few days afterward.

“History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way,” Mr. Trump said in the letter, which was dated Oct. 9 and obtained by Fox News on Wednesday and confirmed by a White House official. “It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen. Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool! I will call you later.”

The president’s comments in the Oval Office and again during a later news conference in the East Room came as Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Robert C. O’Brien, the president’s new national security adviser, were preparing to fly to Turkey in a bid to persuade Mr. Erdogan to pull back his offensive.

Westlake Legal Group white-house-trump-letter-promo-1571261887115-articleLarge Trump Lashes Out on Syria as Republicans Rebuke Him in House Vote United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Pompeo, Mike Pence, Mike Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense and Military Forces

Read Trump’s Letter to Turkey’s President

Trump said he’d written the “very powerful” letter to warn the Turkish leader.

Republicans and Democrats alike have denounced the president for abandoning the Kurds, who now are fighting Turkish forces in a chaotic battlefield that also has put at risk American troops pulling back from the Syrian border with Turkey. Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw the small American force from the border, where they had served as a kind of trip wire deterring Turkish aggression, has been widely criticized as a signal permitting Turkey to launch its offensive.

Mr. Trump insisted his handling of the matter had been “strategically brilliant” and minimized concerns for the Kurds, implying that they allied with the United States only out of their own self-interest. “We paid a lot of money for them to fight with us,” he said. Echoing Mr. Erdogan’s talking points, Mr. Trump compared one faction of the Kurds to the Islamic State and he asserted that Kurds intentionally freed some Islamic State prisoners to create a backlash for him. “Probably the Kurds let go to make a little bit stronger political impact,” he said.

Turkey has been upset about the Kurdish presence across the border in Syria for years because the American-backed militia has ties to a Kurdish guerrilla group known as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., that has waged a decades-long insurgency inside Turkey. Both Turkey and the United States consider it to be a terrorist organization. Turkey fears the Kurdish-controlled part of northern Syria could be used as a base of operations against its territory.

Mr. Trump dismissed concerns that his decision to pull back had opened the way for Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and the Islamic State to move into the abandoned territory and reassert their influence in the area. “I wish them all a lot of luck,” Mr. Trump said of the Russians and Syrians. Warning of a repeat of the disastrous decade-long Soviet war in Afghanistan, he added, “If Russia wants to get involved in Syria, that’s really up to them.”

Critics in both parties condemned the president’s approach. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, opened his weekly news conference by expressing his “gratitude to the Kurds,” adding, “I’m sorry that we are where we are.”

Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, said that by sending Mr. Pence and Mr. Pompeo to Turkey, Mr. Trump was trying to fix a problem of his own creation, but too late.

“It’s very hard to understand why it is the vice president and secretary of state and others are going to talk with Erdogan and Turkey,” Mr. Romney told reporters. “It’s like the farmer who lost all his horses and goes to now shut the barn door.”

Mr. Trump got into an extended back and forth with Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who has been one of the president’s closest allies but emerged as one of the sharpest opponent of his Syria decision After Mr. Trump said the Turkish-Kurdish conflict was of no interest to the United States, Mr. Graham took to Twitter to castigate the president.

“I hope President Trump is right in his belief that Turkeys invasion of Syria is of no concern to us, abandoning the Kurds won’t come back to haunt us, ISIS won’t reemerge, and Iran will not fill the vacuum created by this decision,” Mr. Graham wrote.

“However,” he added, “I firmly believe that if President Trump continues to make such statements this will be a disaster worse than President Obama’s decision to leave Iraq.”

Mr. Trump pushed back on Mr. Graham during his second meeting with reporters, saying that the South Carolina senator should be focusing on investigating the president’s Democratic opponents, including former President Barack Obama. “The people of South Carolina don’t want us to get into a war with Turkey, a NATO member, or with Syria,” Mr. Trump said. “Let them fight their own wars.”

Mr. Graham then rebutted Mr. Trump again. “With all due respect for the president, I think I’m elected to have a say about our national security that in my view,” he told reporters who relayed Mr. Trump’s remarks. “I will not ever be quiet about matters of national security.”

“And here’s what I would tell the president,” he added. “You’re doing this against sound military advice. Forget about me. Listen to your own. You’re not.”

The president’s isolation on the issue was on display in the East Room when his guest, President Sergio Mattarella of Italy, was far more critical of Turkey’s incursion than Mr. Trump was. While the president said it had nothing to do with the United States, Mr. Mattarella emphasized that “Italy, aligned with the E.U.’s position, condemns the Turkish operations.”

Even as the president washed his hands of the conflict, his vice president and secretary of state prepared to head to the region to try to stop them from fighting their own wars. Mr. Pompeo said the main goal of meeting with Mr. Erdogan was to secure a cease-fire between Turkish and Kurdish forces.

Amid reports that Turkish forces were moving near the Syrian town of Kobani, which has a large Kurdish population, Mr. Pompeo said he was given a commitment by the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, that troops would not enter the town.

“We need them to stand down, we need a cease-fire, at which point we can begin to put this all back together again,” Mr. Pompeo said on Fox Business Network.

Military positions in northern Syria as of Oct. 16

Turkish Army and Syrian opposition Syrian Army deployed U.S. military bases and outposts Russian bases

Westlake Legal Group map-detailed-900 Trump Lashes Out on Syria as Republicans Rebuke Him in House Vote United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Pompeo, Mike Pence, Mike Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense and Military Forces

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Westlake Legal Group map-detailed-600 Trump Lashes Out on Syria as Republicans Rebuke Him in House Vote United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Pompeo, Mike Pence, Mike Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense and Military Forces

Turkish army AND

syrian opposition

Ras al Ain

Russian troops are

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the city.

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Westlake Legal Group map-detailed-335 Trump Lashes Out on Syria as Republicans Rebuke Him in House Vote United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Pompeo, Mike Pence, Mike Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense and Military Forces

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Sources: Times reporting; Control areas as of Oct. 16 via Conflict Monitor by IHS Markit; Military positions for Russia are from the Institute for the Study of War. | By Allison McCann, Sarah Almukhtar, Anjali Singhvi and Jin Wu

“Our goal isn’t to break the relationship,” Mr. Pompeo said. “It is to deny Turkey the capacity to continue to engage in this behavior. The president said this was a bad deal, it was a bad thing; we’re working to stop it.”

Mr. Pence, who has been spending most of his time on domestic travel promoting policies like the revised trade agreement with Mexico and Canada in states being targeted by Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign, had scratched all foreign trips from his schedule through the end of the year. The trip to Turkey was unplanned, added at the last minute.

Mr. Pence also has a tense relationship with Mr. Erdogan. He was one of the administration’s leading advocates for the freedom of Andrew Brunson, an American pastor who had been detained in Turkey for two years but was freed last fall.

“The president is seeking a cease-fire because he feels that from a humanitarian perspective, this is not good,” said Marc Short, the vice president’s chief of staff.

Mr. Short said that Mr. Pence had no personal relationship with Mr. Erdogan to lean on, although they had met when Mr. Erdogan visited Washington. Mr. Pence’s trip to Ankara to meet with Mr. Erdogan, he said, was “one in which the imprimatur of the vice president is important.”

Former officials described the trip as all risk for Mr. Pence and Mr. Pompeo and all reward for Mr. Trump. The vice president and secretary of state are now in an awkward position of being sent to stop an invasion after Mr. Trump described it as “not our problem,” while the president looks like he sent a delegation to conduct talks but will ultimately do whatever he wants.

Robert Ford, who was the last American ambassador to serve in Syria before the civil war forced the closing of the United States Embassy in 2012, said it would be counterproductive to punish Turkey to the point of driving it “further into the arms of Russia.”

He also said the United States should not be beholden to long-term interests of Kurdish fighters to carve out a state in eastern Syria, and that the Trump administration “is right to stop the mission creep in U.S. strategy in Syria.”

But given Mr. Erdogan’s widely known interests in invading the Kurdish territory, Mr. Ford said the Trump administration mishandled the delicate diplomacy. He noted that the very day that Mr. Erdogan announced the invasion, Mr. Pompeo was in the region — and could have attempted to head off the military campaign hours earlier with a quick visit to Turkey to meet officials there instead of flying back to Washington.

“The Trump administration is correct to limit our commitment in eastern Syria, but it is very clumsy in managing the policy and the rollout,” said Mr. Ford, now a fellow at the Middle East Institute and Yale University. The mission by Mr. Pence and Mr. Pompeo comes a full week after the invasion began. “At this late stage,” Mr. Ford said, “it is not clear what the administration can hope to salvage.”

Eileen Sullivan, Katie Rogers and Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.

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Trump Lashes Out on Syria as Republicans Rebuke Him in House Vote

WASHINGTON — President Trump seemed to wash his hands of the conflict between Turkey and America’s Kurdish allies in Syria on Wednesday, generating withering criticism from Republican allies, who rebuked him in a House vote. The day ended with a heated confrontation between Mr. Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the Oval Office.

Mr. Trump told reporters that the Turkish assault on Kurdish fighters in northern Syria that began after he pulled out American troops “has nothing to do with us.” He declared that the Kurds who battled the Islamic State alongside United States forces for years were “not angels,” but instead essentially self-interested mercenaries who fought because they were paid to.

The president’s comments triggered a strong rebuttal from fellow Republicans who accused him of abandoning friends of the United States and jeopardizing America’s leadership in the region. Mr. Trump then engaged in a sharp exchange at the White House with Democratic congressional leaders, who walked out of a meeting, complaining that he had been more offensive to them than any president in modern times.

During the meeting, according to Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Trump berated her as “a third-grade politician” and suggesting that she would be happy if communists gained influence in the Middle East. Ms. Pelosi told reporters on the White House driveway afterward that the president seemed “very shaken up” and was having “a meltdown.”

Mr. Trump also dismissed his own former defense secretary, Jim Mattis, who resigned last year when the president first tried to withdraw troops from Syria. When Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, began to cite Mr. Mattis, a retired Marine general, the president interjected, calling him “the world’s most overrated general,” according to a Democrat briefed on the meeting.

“You know why?” Mr. Trump said. “He wasn’t tough enough. I captured ISIS. Mattis said it would take two years. I captured them in one month.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_162822540_19578b24-5e6b-48ea-9341-e331f3a2bb59-articleLarge Trump Lashes Out on Syria as Republicans Rebuke Him in House Vote United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Pompeo, Mike Pence, Mike Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense and Military Forces

Speaker Nancy Pelosi with Representative Steny H. Hoyer, left and Senator Chuck Schumer at the White House on Wednesday. Ms. Pelosi told reporters that the president seemed “very shaken up” and was having “a meltdown.”CreditT.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

The confrontation with the Democrats followed a series of public appearances where the president attempted to justify his decision to withdraw a small number of American troops from the border who had been serving as a kind of trip wire deterring Turkey from attacking Kurdish forces in northern Syria. The decision to pull out the troops was seen as an implicit green light to Turkey, which then launched a powerful offensive against the Kurds.

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office alongside the visiting president of Italy, Mr. Trump said that the American soldiers he had ordered to pull back were no longer in harm’s way and that “they shouldn’t be as two countries fight over land.”

“That has nothing to do with us,” Mr. Trump said, all but dismissing the Kurdish fighters. “The Kurds know how to fight, and, as I said, they’re not angels, they’re not angels,” he said.

But the president denied that he gave a green light to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey during a phone call last week, citing a letter that he wrote a few days afterward.

“History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way,” Mr. Trump said in the letter, which was dated Oct. 9 and obtained by Fox News on Wednesday and confirmed by a White House official. “It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen. Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool! I will call you later.”

The president’s comments in the Oval Office and again during a later news conference in the East Room came as Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Robert C. O’Brien, the president’s new national security adviser, were preparing to fly to Turkey in a bid to persuade Mr. Erdogan to pull back his offensive.

Westlake Legal Group white-house-trump-letter-promo-1571261887115-articleLarge Trump Lashes Out on Syria as Republicans Rebuke Him in House Vote United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Pompeo, Mike Pence, Mike Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense and Military Forces

Read Trump’s Letter to Turkey’s President

Trump said he’d written the “very powerful” letter to warn the Turkish leader.

Republicans and Democrats alike have denounced the president for abandoning the Kurds, who now are fighting Turkish forces in a chaotic battlefield that also has put at risk American troops pulling back from the Syrian border with Turkey. Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw the small American force from the border, where they had served as a kind of trip wire deterring Turkish aggression, has been widely criticized as a signal permitting Turkey to launch its offensive.

Mr. Trump insisted his handling of the matter had been “strategically brilliant” and minimized concerns for the Kurds, implying that they allied with the United States only out of their own self-interest. “We paid a lot of money for them to fight with us,” he said. Echoing Mr. Erdogan’s talking points, Mr. Trump compared one faction of the Kurds to the Islamic State and he asserted that Kurds intentionally freed some Islamic State prisoners to create a backlash for him. “Probably the Kurds let go to make a little bit stronger political impact,” he said.

Turkey has been upset about the Kurdish presence across the border in Syria for years because the American-backed militia has ties to a Kurdish guerrilla group known as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., that has waged a decades-long insurgency inside Turkey. Both Turkey and the United States consider it to be a terrorist organization. Turkey fears the Kurdish-controlled part of northern Syria could be used as a base of operations against its territory.

Mr. Trump dismissed concerns that his decision to pull back had opened the way for Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and the Islamic State to move into the abandoned territory and reassert their influence in the area. “I wish them all a lot of luck,” Mr. Trump said of the Russians and Syrians. Warning of a repeat of the disastrous decade-long Soviet war in Afghanistan, he added, “If Russia wants to get involved in Syria, that’s really up to them.”

Critics in both parties condemned the president’s approach. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, opened his weekly news conference by expressing his “gratitude to the Kurds,” adding, “I’m sorry that we are where we are.”

Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, said that by sending Mr. Pence and Mr. Pompeo to Turkey, Mr. Trump was trying to fix a problem of his own creation, but too late.

“It’s very hard to understand why it is the vice president and secretary of state and others are going to talk with Erdogan and Turkey,” Mr. Romney told reporters. “It’s like the farmer who lost all his horses and goes to now shut the barn door.”

Mr. Trump got into an extended back and forth with Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who has been one of the president’s closest allies but emerged as one of the sharpest opponent of his Syria decision After Mr. Trump said the Turkish-Kurdish conflict was of no interest to the United States, Mr. Graham took to Twitter to castigate the president.

“I hope President Trump is right in his belief that Turkeys invasion of Syria is of no concern to us, abandoning the Kurds won’t come back to haunt us, ISIS won’t reemerge, and Iran will not fill the vacuum created by this decision,” Mr. Graham wrote.

“However,” he added, “I firmly believe that if President Trump continues to make such statements this will be a disaster worse than President Obama’s decision to leave Iraq.”

Mr. Trump pushed back on Mr. Graham during his second meeting with reporters, saying that the South Carolina senator should be focusing on investigating the president’s Democratic opponents, including former President Barack Obama. “The people of South Carolina don’t want us to get into a war with Turkey, a NATO member, or with Syria,” Mr. Trump said. “Let them fight their own wars.”

Mr. Graham then rebutted Mr. Trump again. “With all due respect for the president, I think I’m elected to have a say about our national security that in my view,” he told reporters who relayed Mr. Trump’s remarks. “I will not ever be quiet about matters of national security.”

“And here’s what I would tell the president,” he added. “You’re doing this against sound military advice. Forget about me. Listen to your own. You’re not.”

The president’s isolation on the issue was on display in the East Room when his guest, President Sergio Mattarella of Italy, was far more critical of Turkey’s incursion than Mr. Trump was. While the president said it had nothing to do with the United States, Mr. Mattarella emphasized that “Italy, aligned with the E.U.’s position, condemns the Turkish operations.”

Even as the president washed his hands of the conflict, his vice president and secretary of state prepared to head to the region to try to stop them from fighting their own wars. Mr. Pompeo said the main goal of meeting with Mr. Erdogan was to secure a cease-fire between Turkish and Kurdish forces.

Amid reports that Turkish forces were moving near the Syrian town of Kobani, which has a large Kurdish population, Mr. Pompeo said he was given a commitment by the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, that troops would not enter the town.

“We need them to stand down, we need a cease-fire, at which point we can begin to put this all back together again,” Mr. Pompeo said on Fox Business Network.

Military positions in northern Syria as of Oct. 16

Turkish Army and Syrian opposition Syrian Army deployed U.S. military bases and outposts Russian bases

Westlake Legal Group map-detailed-900 Trump Lashes Out on Syria as Republicans Rebuke Him in House Vote United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Pompeo, Mike Pence, Mike Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense and Military Forces

Turkish army AND

syrian opposition

Ras al Ain

Russian troops are

positioned outside

the city.

KURDISH

Control

Government

Control

Turkish army AND

syrian opposition

Turkey’s

proposed

buffer zone

Other

opposition

KURDISH

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Deir al-Zour

Government

Control

Mediterranean

Sea

Westlake Legal Group map-detailed-600 Trump Lashes Out on Syria as Republicans Rebuke Him in House Vote United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Pompeo, Mike Pence, Mike Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense and Military Forces

Turkish army AND

syrian opposition

Ras al Ain

Russian troops are

positioned outside

the city.

KURDISH

Control

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Turkish army AND

syrian opposition

Turkey’s

proposed

buffer zone

Other

opposition

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Deir al-Zour

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Westlake Legal Group map-detailed-335 Trump Lashes Out on Syria as Republicans Rebuke Him in House Vote United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Pompeo, Mike Pence, Mike Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense and Military Forces

Turkish army AND

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Gov’t

Control

Turkish army AND

syrian opposition

Turkey’s

proposed

buffer

zone

KURDISH

Control

Other

opposition

Deir al-Zour

Government

Control

Sources: Times reporting; Control areas as of Oct. 16 via Conflict Monitor by IHS Markit; Military positions for Russia are from the Institute for the Study of War. | By Allison McCann, Sarah Almukhtar, Anjali Singhvi and Jin Wu

“Our goal isn’t to break the relationship,” Mr. Pompeo said. “It is to deny Turkey the capacity to continue to engage in this behavior. The president said this was a bad deal, it was a bad thing; we’re working to stop it.”

Mr. Pence, who has been spending most of his time on domestic travel promoting policies like the revised trade agreement with Mexico and Canada in states being targeted by Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign, had scratched all foreign trips from his schedule through the end of the year. The trip to Turkey was unplanned, added at the last minute.

Mr. Pence also has a tense relationship with Mr. Erdogan. He was one of the administration’s leading advocates for the freedom of Andrew Brunson, an American pastor who had been detained in Turkey for two years but was freed last fall.

“The president is seeking a cease-fire because he feels that from a humanitarian perspective, this is not good,” said Marc Short, the vice president’s chief of staff.

Mr. Short said that Mr. Pence had no personal relationship with Mr. Erdogan to lean on, although they had met when Mr. Erdogan visited Washington. Mr. Pence’s trip to Ankara to meet with Mr. Erdogan, he said, was “one in which the imprimatur of the vice president is important.”

Former officials described the trip as all risk for Mr. Pence and Mr. Pompeo and all reward for Mr. Trump. The vice president and secretary of state are now in an awkward position of being sent to stop an invasion after Mr. Trump described it as “not our problem,” while the president looks like he sent a delegation to conduct talks but will ultimately do whatever he wants.

Robert Ford, who was the last American ambassador to serve in Syria before the civil war forced the closing of the United States Embassy in 2012, said it would be counterproductive to punish Turkey to the point of driving it “further into the arms of Russia.”

He also said the United States should not be beholden to long-term interests of Kurdish fighters to carve out a state in eastern Syria, and that the Trump administration “is right to stop the mission creep in U.S. strategy in Syria.”

But given Mr. Erdogan’s widely known interests in invading the Kurdish territory, Mr. Ford said the Trump administration mishandled the delicate diplomacy. He noted that the very day that Mr. Erdogan announced the invasion, Mr. Pompeo was in the region — and could have attempted to head off the military campaign hours earlier with a quick visit to Turkey to meet officials there instead of flying back to Washington.

“The Trump administration is correct to limit our commitment in eastern Syria, but it is very clumsy in managing the policy and the rollout,” said Mr. Ford, now a fellow at the Middle East Institute and Yale University. The mission by Mr. Pence and Mr. Pompeo comes a full week after the invasion began. “At this late stage,” Mr. Ford said, “it is not clear what the administration can hope to salvage.”

Eileen Sullivan, Katie Rogers and Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.

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