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Westlake Legal Group > International Relations

Markets Recoil, and Then Rally, as Traders Absorb Iran Attack

Westlake Legal Group 08markets1-alt-facebookJumbo Markets Recoil, and Then Rally, as Traders Absorb Iran Attack United States Defense and Military Forces Stocks and Bonds Politics and Government Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Iraq Iran International Relations Futures and Options Trading Defense and Military Forces

Investors signaled their relief on Wednesday after President Trump backed away from further confrontation with Iran, a day after Iranian missile strikes on American positions in Iraq.

Stocks in the United States climbed to new highs shortly after the conclusion of the president’s speech, in which he said the strikes produced no American casualties and that Iran now “appears to be standing down.”

Oil prices, which had spiked after the missile attacks Tuesday night and fallen early Wednesday, fell further after the televised address. Brent crude, the international benchmark, and West Texas intermediate, were down more than 3.5 percent and 4 percent shortly after midday.

At the same time, the S&P 500 was up more roughly 0.7 percent to nearly 3,260. If the market holds that level until the end of the trading day, it would be a record, overtaking the previous high-water mark set on Jan. 2.

The rise was driven in part by fuel-sensitive sectors of the market, which benefit when crude prices decline. Airline stocks jumped, with Delta up more than 2.5 percent shortly after midday. Alaska Air and American Airlines were up both up about 2 percent.

Safe havens such as Treasury bonds and gold — markets where investors typically seek shelter during times of crisis — also reflected the easing tension.

Even before Mr. Trump’s statement, the nervousness in financial markets eased after Iran’s foreign minister suggested that he was ready to stand down for now and President Trump suggested the damage from the attack had been limited, raising hopes of a restrained conflict in a region critical to world oil supplies.

Brent crude jumped about 5 percent overnight to as high as $71.75 a barrel, immediately after news of the Iranian missile attack. But within hours it had fallen back sharply.

West Texas intermediate crude also jumped and then receded, and was trading at about $62.95 a barrel by Wednesday afternoon, about 0.2 percent lower from Tuesday.

In stock trading, Britain’s FTSE 100 was unchanged, while Germany’s DAX rose about 0.7 percent. In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng ended the day 0.8 percent lower, and Japan’s Nikkei fell 1.6 percent.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, said in a tweet that the nation had “concluded proportionate measures in self-defense.” The statement followed two missile attacks on bases in Iraq housing American forces in response to the killing last week of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.

In his own tweet shortly after, Mr. Trump suggested that damages and casualties sustained by American forces had been minimal, though the assessment was continuing. “All is well!” he said on Twitter.

The risk of a war between the United States and Iran, in the world’s most important oil-producing region, the Persian Gulf, has sent shudders through the oil markets in recent days. The fear is that an attack on shipping from the Gulf, or damage to the oil fields of a major producer in the area like Iraq or Saudi Arabia, could restrict global supplies.

On Wednesday, officials from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the producers’ group, sought to calm fears that the crisis could lead to a major disruption in supplies.

“We are not forecasting any shortage of supply unless there is a catastrophic escalation, which we don’t see,” Suhail Mohamed Faraj al-Mazrouei, the oil minister of the United Arab Emirates, told reporters in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

Markets have become so accustomed to a surplus of oil in the global market that they are not as worried about tensions in the Persian Gulf region as they once were.

“Oil has become a broken barometer for gauging Middle East tensions,” Helima Croft, head of global commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, an investment bank, said on Tuesday. “It now only reacts after something seismic happens.”

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Markets Recoil, and Then Ease, as Traders Digest Iran Attack

Westlake Legal Group 08markets-1-facebookJumbo Markets Recoil, and Then Ease, as Traders Digest Iran Attack United States Defense and Military Forces Stocks and Bonds Politics and Government Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Iraq Iran International Relations Futures and Options Trading Defense and Military Forces

HONG KONG — Oil prices rose and stocks fell as Asian markets began trading on Wednesday, following news that Iran had launched missiles at American forces based in Iraq.

The markets’ concerns eased later in the day as Iran hinted that it would not take hostilities further and President Trump suggested the damage from the attack was limited, raising hopes of a restrained conflict in a region critical to world oil supplies.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, said in a tweet that the nation had “concluded proportionate measures in self-defense.” The statement followed two missile attacks on bases in Iraq housing American forces in response to the killing last week of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.

In his own tweet shortly after, Mr. Trump suggested that damages and casualties sustained by American forces were minimal, though the assessment was continuing. “All is well!” he said on Twitter.

The world’s most broadly watched measure of oil prices, which briefly surged past $70 a barrel, fell back somewhat as trading continued. At midday on Wednesday in Asia, futures prices for Brent crude had risen 1.4 percent to $69.20 a barrel.

The most widely used benchmark for oil prices in the United States, the futures contract for West Texas Intermediate crude, was up 1.3 percent to $63.50 a barrel.

Stock losses also moderated.

At midday, stocks in Tokyo were 1.2 percent lower, Asia’s biggest drop. Earlier in the day they had traded more than 2 percent lower.

Markets in Hong Kong, mainland China and South Korea were all down less than 1 percent.

Futures markets signaled that Wall Street would open lower on Wednesday, though by a moderate amount.

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Oil Jumps and Stocks Fall as Markets Digest Iran Attack

Westlake Legal Group 08markets-1-facebookJumbo Oil Jumps and Stocks Fall as Markets Digest Iran Attack United States Defense and Military Forces Stocks and Bonds Politics and Government Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Iraq Iran International Relations Futures and Options Trading Defense and Military Forces

HONG KONG — Oil prices rose and stocks fell as Asian markets began trading on Wednesday, following news that Iran had launched missiles at American forces based in Iraq.

The markets’ concerns eased later in the day as Iran hinted that it would not take hostilities further and President Trump suggested the damage from the attack was limited, raising hopes of a restrained conflict in a region critical to world oil supplies.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, said in a tweet that the nation had “concluded proportionate measures in self-defense.” The statement followed two missile attacks on bases in Iraq housing American forces in response to the killing last week of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.

In his own tweet shortly after, Mr. Trump suggested that damages and casualties sustained by American forces were minimal, though the assessment was ongoing. “All is well!” he said on Twitter.

The world’s most broadly watched measure of oil prices, which briefly surged past $70 a barrel, fell back somewhat as trading continued. At midday on Wednesday in Asia, futures prices for Brent crude had risen 1.4 percent to $69.20 a barrel.

The most widely used benchmark for oil prices in the United States, the futures contract for West Texas Intermediate crude, was up 1.3 percent to $63.50 a barrel.

Stock losses also moderated.

At midday, stocks in Tokyo were 1.2 percent lower, representing Asia’s biggest drop. Earlier in the day they had traded more than 2 percent lower.

Markets in Hong Kong, mainland China and South Korea were all down less than 1 percent.

Futures markets signaled Wall Street would open lower on Wednesday, though by a moderate amount.

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Cries of ‘Revenge Is Coming’ at Funerals for Slain Commanders in Iraq

Westlake Legal Group merlin_166630452_8c55bda2-170b-4834-8f8f-be29113eed61-facebookJumbo Cries of ‘Revenge Is Coming’ at Funerals for Slain Commanders in Iraq Suleimani, Qassim Iraq Iran International Relations Funerals and Memorials Drones (Pilotless Planes) Defense and Military Forces Baghdad (Iraq)

BAGHDAD — As Iraq held joint funeral services on Saturday for two revered military leaders killed in an American drone strike near the Baghdad airport this past week, tens of thousands of pro-Iranian fighters marched down the streets of Baghdad, waving flags and chanting, “Revenge is coming” to the United States.

The surprise killing on Friday of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force and one of the most powerful figures in the region, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the Iraqi-Iranian deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Forces, the armed groups that are part of the Iraqi security forces, sent shock waves across the Middle East.

It also raised fears that the shadow war that had been building in the region between the United States and Iran could suddenly escalate into a major conflict.

The extent of that network added to uncertainty about how Iran might respond to his killing. Tehran could do so from any of those places by targeting United States forces, or their allies such as Israel, Saudi Arabia or other countries in the Persian Gulf.

But even as Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, promised “forceful revenge” for the killing of General Suleimani, experts said it remained unclear whether Iran would make good on its threats. They noted that the country had to balance its need to show resolve against a staunch enemy and its reluctance to thrust itself into a full-scale war with the United States, a much stronger power.

The funerals were held against a backdrop of extreme regional tension as Iran and the United States signaled they could be on the brink of a potentially catastrophic war. Since the killing of General Suleimani and Mr. al-Muhandis, neither side has made another move — although both have made threats.

At the joint funerals, as close to a state ceremony as any since the fall of Saddam Hussein, a key pillar of Iran’s regional reach was on display in Baghdad. The mobilization fighters, faces somber and almost all dressed in black, carried a vast array of flags representing their different groups.

They chanted: “The blood of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis will not be spilled in vain. Revenge is coming.”

Precisely what kind of revenge was planned was not clear. But without giving details, a senior Revolutionary Guards commander was quoted on Saturday by the Tasnim news agency as saying that Iran would punish Americans wherever they are within reach of the Islamic Republic in retaliation for the killing of General Suleimani.

Gen. Gholamali Abuhamzeh, the commander of the Guards in the southern province of Kerman, raised the prospect of possible attacks on ships in the Gulf.

Iran reserved the right to take revenge against the United States for the death of Soleimani, he said in comments made late on Friday and reported on Saturday by Tasnim.

“The Strait of Hormuz is a vital point for the West, and a large number of American destroyers and warships cross there,” he said. “Vital American targets in the region have been identified by Iran since long time ago, some 35 U.S. targets in the region as well as Tel Aviv are within our reach.”

The loss of Mr. al-Muhandis was a profound one for the Iraqi fighters who saw him not just as a militia leader close to Iran, but also as someone who had helped rally the armed groups when they first formed in 2014 to fight the Islamic State. The extremists were then threatening to sweep from the north to Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.

Many proclaimed during his funeral: “Our men do not fear America; each man dies on his day. Your voice, Abu Mahdi, remains the loudest one.”

General Suleimani’s body will be taken to Najaf, Iraq, a prominent Shiite burial place, then flown to Mashhad, Iran, on Sunday for a funeral service. A large state service is expected in Tehran on Monday, and the general is expected to be buried in his hometown, Kerman, on Tuesday, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported.

Amid the tensions, the United States has called on its citizens to leave Iraq, shuttered its embassy in Baghdad, sent additional Marines and on Thursday deployed 700 members of the 82nd Airborne Division to the region.

After the strike, President Trump said the attack had been intended “to stop a war” and warned Iran that the United States military had already identified targets for further strikes “if Americans anywhere are threatened.”

Among those attending the funeral on Saturday were Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi of Iraq and a number of senior Shiite leaders, including Ammar al-Hakim; Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a former prime minister; Falih Al Fayad, the national security adviser; and Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of the Badr Organization, which is both a political party and has one of the largest and oldest militias.

Missing from the cortege were Qais al-Khazali, the leader of one of the most notorious pro-Iran militias in Iraq, Asaib al-Haq; and Hamid al-Jazaeri, who leads the Khorasani Brigades, a pro-Iran militia.

Mr. Abdul Mahdi looked visibly upset as he walked surrounded by security officers in a sea of militia fighters. As Iraq’s leader, he has been caught between Iran, its neighbor, and the United States as the two have ratcheted up their confrontations.

The latest conflict started with a rocket attack a week ago that killed an American contractor working at an Iraqi military base in the north of the country. That was followed by an American attack on five Popular Mobilization militia bases in western Iraq and Syria that killed more than 24 people and set in motion the events that led to a nearly two-day siege of the United States Embassy in Baghdad.

After the funerals on Saturday, some mourners tried to again enter the Green Zone, the seat of the Iraqi government and many embassies. But they were pushed back, in contrast to a violent attack on Tuesday, when pro-Iranian protesters pushed past guards and laid siege to the American Embassy, effectively imprisoning diplomats inside, burning and looting the reception area and climbing inside the compound.

In Iran, the news media flooded its broadcasts and front pages with coverage of General Suleimani’s death, and even news outlets perceived to be more moderate called for revenge.

When President Hassan Rouhani of Iran paid his condolences on Saturday during a visit to General Suleimani’s home, he, too, spoke of revenge — but with an open-ended timeline.

“The Americans did not realize what a great mistake they made,” Mr. Rouhani said. “They will see the effects of this criminal act, not only today, but for years to come.”

Alissa J. Rubin and Falih Hassan reported from Baghdad, and Ben Hubbard from Beirut.

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The Broken Promise of a Panda: How Prague’s Relations With Beijing Soured

Westlake Legal Group xxprague-being1-facebookJumbo The Broken Promise of a Panda: How Prague’s Relations With Beijing Soured Taiwan Prague (Czech Republic) Politics and Government International Relations Economic Conditions and Trends Czech Republic China

PRAGUE — On the top floor of an opulent Art Deco building in the heart of old Prague, the new lord mayor was standing with a glass of sparkling wine in hand, greeting diplomats as they made their way into his official residence for a New Year’s gathering.

But when the Chinese ambassador reached Mayor Zdenek Hrib, the diplomat was not in a celebratory mood.

“He demanded that I kick out the representative of Taiwan,’’ Mr. Hrib recalled of the confrontation last January. “I said, ‘We do not kick out our guests.’”

As the line of people backed up, with other ambassadors urging the Chinese representative to move on, he grew more and more incensed until, finally, he stormed out.

For Mr. Hrib, who had been elected just two months earlier, it was the first skirmish in a diplomatic spat that would culminate with Beijing and Prague severing ties as “sister cities” and that today threatens lasting damage to relations between the Czech Republic and China.

At the root of the fight was the mayor’s refusal to line up behind Beijing’s “One China” policy, which insists that Taiwan is a part of China despite having its own democratically elected government.

But more broadly, the disagreement has illuminated the ways China uses its economic clout as it tries to get its way diplomatically and looks to secure a foothold in the European marketplace.

The Czech Republic is one of the smaller nations that Beijing has most aggressively courted.

The high point came in 2016, when China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, was welcomed for a state visit by the populist President Milos Zeman, who had declared that his country would be China’s “gateway to Europe.”

Before the visit, the local government in Prague had signed a sister-city agreement with Beijing that included a commitment to the “One China” policy — language not usually found in sister-city agreements that Beijing has with other municipalities around the world.

For the Czech Republic, closer ties with China came with promises of increased trade, investment and business deals. For Prague, the deal held the promise of more tourism, cultural exchanges and even a much-coveted panda for the city’s zoo.

Three years later, much of the investment has not materialized, there is greater concern about Chinese espionage than excitement about trade deals and there is no panda at the Prague Zoo.

“The honeymoon is over,” said Filip Jirous, an analyst at Sinopsis, a research group focused on China based at Charles University in Prague. “This is the sobering-up period.”

And Mr. Hrib is part of the hangover. A 38-year-old doctor, he became mayor running with the anti-establishment Pirate Party, which has become the third-largest force in the Czech Parliament in less than a decade.

The party has steadily gained power in part by challenging the eastward-looking foreign policy of Mr. Zeman and the transactional approach of Prime Minister Andrej Babis.

When he took office last November, Mr. Hrib promised to examine the wording of the city’s agreement with Beijing.

“Some people say that we should not be involved in foreign affairs,” Mr. Hrib said. “But what we have done is get rid of this ‘One China’ declaration, which dragged Prague into foreign affairs.”

He said he had initially wanted to keep the agreement and just amend it by taking out the “One China” commitment.

But unlike the previous mayor, he was not willing to bend to what he thought unreasonable demands of the Chinese, and he invited a Taiwan representative to the New Year’s reception.

In March, Mr. Hrib traveled to Taiwan, where he had spent two months as a student, a visit that caused more ripples.

By the summer, with the mayor making it clear that he was going to bring the language in the agreement to a vote in the City Council, the issue blew up.

Chinese officials issued threats and began taking actions against institutions tied to the city.

One was the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, which had spent more than two years preparing a 14-city autumn tour of China.

If the orchestra wanted the show to go on, Chinese officials suggested, it should sign a document rejecting the mayor’s actions.

The group refused. The trip was canceled.

“The cancellation of the tour meant for the orchestra an economic loss of several million Czech crowns,” the orchestra’s director, Radim Otepka, said in a statement. “However, we consider as much more damaging the fact that culture has been subject to political pressure.”

Mr. Hrib said the overt pressure by China reminded many Czechs of the ways their former Communist rulers operated. The tensions have also strayed into more consequential arenas.

In December, the Czech government’s cybersecurity agency issued a directive warning that the Chinese tech giant Huawei represented a potential national security threat.

It recommended blocking Huawei from building the infrastructure of the fifth generation of wireless technology, known as 5G, in key sectors.

Huawei threatened legal and financial retaliation, and Mr. Zeman has accused the Czech intelligence services of “dirty tricks.”

More recently, there have been concerns that China was trying to use its influence at academic institutions.

The company that has profited the most from close ties to China is a privately held financial and investment firm, PPF Group. Its founder, Petr Kellner, is the Czech Republic’s richest man.

The firm’s Home Credit division issued loans worth more than $15 billion to Chinese consumers this year alone, according to public records.

So when Home Credit announced that it wanted to sponsor a program at Charles University, the oldest institution of higher education in Central Europe, it had a condition: The university must agree not to do anything to hurt the company’s business around the world.

That meant keeping China happy.

Students and professors recoiled, and faculty members threatened to quit. The plan was scrapped, and the school’s rector issued a public apology.

The Czech president, Mr. Zeman, has sought to limit the damage. He wrote a personal letter to Mr. Xi emphasizing “that the Czech Republic, its government, fully respects the policy of one China,” according to a summary provided by his office.

Chinese officials, for their part, have threatened to limit the number of tourists coming to the country — a prospect that does not have many people in the clogged historical center of the city concerned.

After sanctions were placed on Russia following its annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Chinese quickly supplanted them as the biggest spenders on Prague’s version of Fifth Avenue, Parizska Street, which is lined with stores like Prada, Tiffany & Company, and Hermès.

It is not the threat of fewer tourists that concerns officials, but rather, creating sustainable tourism that truly benefits local businesses.

“We are not exactly trying to get more people into Prague,” Barbora Hruba, a spokeswoman for the Prague tourism office, said.

At the zoo, where officials had unveiled a $9 million plan to create a panda pavilion on top of a hill overlooking the city, two polar bears were still swimming, and officials have turned their sights on a different animal.

“When I was little, I had this book with very nice black-and-white photos,” Mayor Hrib said. It illustrated a walk through the Prague Zoo.

“And the coolest animal there was the pangolin,” he said.

The creatures, which look like scaly anteaters, are the most trafficked nonhuman animals in the world. Taiwan has played a key role in saving them from extinction and is now home to what is probably the largest population of the creatures in captivity.

Mr. Hrib has spoken the mayor of Taipei and is hopeful that where panda diplomacy failed, the promise of the pangolin will become reality.

Magdalena Sodomkova contributed reporting.

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‘Keep the Oil’: Trump Revives Charged Slogan for New Syria Troop Mission

Westlake Legal Group merlin_163346592_153467c1-5a59-4274-9418-d7f0b90c2b82-facebookJumbo ‘Keep the Oil’: Trump Revives Charged Slogan for New Syria Troop Mission United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Syria Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline International Relations Defense and Military Forces

WASHINGTON — President Trump has offered several justifications for an American withdrawal from Syria. He has dismissed the country as nothing but “sand and death,” discounted its American-backed Kurdish fighters as “no angels,” and argued that he is winding down “endless wars.”

But in recent days, Mr. Trump has settled on Syria’s oil reserves as a new rationale for appearing to reverse course and deploy hundreds of additional troops to the war-ravaged country. He has declared that the United States has “secured” oil fields in the country’s chaotic northeast and suggested that the seizure of the country’s main natural resource justifies America further extending its military presence there.

“We’ve secured the oil,” Mr. Trump told reporters last week at the White House, before reminding them of how, during the Iraq war, he called for selling off Iraq’s oil to defray the conflict’s enormous cost.

“I always said, if you’re going in — keep the oil,” he said. “Same thing here: Keep the oil.”

Speaking again at the White House on Friday, Mr. Trump said he had done precisely that in Syria. “We’ve secured the oil,” the president told reporters. “We have a lot of oil.”

Mr. Trump’s message is puzzling to former government officials and Middle East analysts who say that controlling Syria’s oil fields — which are the legal property of the Syrian government — poses numerous practical, legal and political obstacles.

They also warn that Mr. Trump’s discourse, which revives language he often used during the 2016 campaign to widespread condemnation, could confirm the world’s worst suspicions about American motives in the region. A Russian Defense Ministry official on Saturday denounced Mr. Trump’s action as “state banditry.”

“He has a short notebook of old pledges, and this was one of the most frequently repeated pledges during the campaign: that we were going to take the oil,” said Bruce Riedel, a former C.I.A. official who served as a Middle East adviser to several presidents. “And now he actually is in a position where he can quote, take some oil.”

Pentagon officials said on Friday that the United States would deploy several hundred troops to guard oil fields in eastern Syria, despite Mr. Trump’s repeated boasts that he is bringing American soldiers home from Syria. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said that the United States would “maintain a reduced presence in Syria to deny ISIS access to oil revenue,” leaving what military officials said would be about 500 troops in the country, down from about 2,000 a year ago.

Mr. Trump first spoke approvingly about the United States seizing foreign oil in April 2011, when he complained about President Barack Obama’s troop withdrawal from Iraq. “I would take the oil,” Mr. Trump told The Wall Street Journal. “I would not leave Iraq and let Iran take the oil.”

He elaborated in an interview with ABC News a few days later. “In the old days, you know, when you had a war, to the victor belong the spoils.” he said. “You go in. You win the war and you take it.”

That year, Mr. Trump endorsed the United States seizing oil reserves not only in Iraq, but also in Libya, where Mr. Obama had recently intervened in the country’s civil war. “I would just go in and take the oil,” he told Fox News. “We’re a bunch of babies. We have wars and we leave. We go in, we have wars, we lose lives, we lose money, and we leave.”

Once he took office, Mr. Trump largely dropped the idea until recently, when it re-emerged after his widely criticized decision to remove American troops from northeastern Syria who had been helping Kurdish militias battle the remnants of the Islamic State in the region. The move effectively gave Turkey a greenlight to invade the area and push back those Kurds, whom the Turks viewed as a threat to their security.

His change in thinking follows multiple conversations with Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who talks frequently with the president and has long pushed for a greater American presence in Syria, for reasons like fighting the Islamic State in the region and checking the influence of Russia and Iran.

Mr. Trump has also consulted on the subject with the former Army vice chief of staff, Jack Keane, who visited the White House in mid-October and showed the president a map of Syria illustrating that 70 percent of the country’s oil fields are in areas in the northeast that have been under American control. Mr. Keane, who declined to comment, has also warned that the oil fields risk falling into the hands of Iranian proxies in the region.

Mr. Graham, too, contends that American control of the oil fields would “deny Iran and Assad a monetary windfall,” as he put it in a statement last week.

But Mr. Graham has taken the argument a step further, to suggest that Syrian oil could go into American coffers, as Mr. Trump once implied for Iraq. “We can also use some of the revenue from oil sales to pay for our military commitment in Syria,” Mr. Graham added.

Last week, Mr. Trump offered a variation on that idea, saying that “we’ll work something out with the Kurds so that they have some money, they have some cash flow.” He added that he might “get one of our big oil companies to go in and do it properly.”

But energy and security experts say it is unlikely that any American companies would be interested in the enormous risks and limited profits such an arrangement would entail. Even at its peak, Syrian oil production was modest. And any short-term revenue potential is severely limited by logistical challenges posed by infrastructure damaged by war, pipelines that run into unfriendly areas and the unusually low grade of the oil itself.

Talk of monetizing the Syrian oil also diverges from the message of top Trump administration officials, including Mr. Esper, who said last week that the American mission in Syria was unchanged from its original purpose of defeating the Islamic State.

But the president has repeatedly boasted that the militant group has already been defeated. And although ISIS currently controls no territory, and is little threat to the oil reserves, experts warn that it could regenerate.

Framing control of oil as part of the fight against ISIS, however, may provide cover for an action motivated, at least in part, for reasons that analysts say have no basis in domestic or international law.

“Esper is being very careful to say this is about ISIS. And that’s because the legality is being framed around ISIS,” said Aaron Stein, an expert on Syria and Turkey with the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

When the Obama administration sent troops to Syria to fight the Islamic State several years ago, it relied on the authorization of military force passed by Congress days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which gave the government broad authority to battle Al Qaeda and affiliated groups. The Trump administration has invoked the same authorization for its own activities in Syria, despite many critics arguing that even the previous administration overreached in citing it to cover the battle against the Islamic State in Syria.

Then there is the basic question of the oil’s ownership.

“Oil, like it or not, is owned by the Syrian state,” Brett H. McGurk, Mr. Trump’s former envoy to the 70-nation coalition to defeat ISIS, said at a panel discussion on Syria hosted Monday by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Mr. McGurk said that Mr. Trump’s first secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, had studied the issue and concluded there was no practical way for the United States to monetize its control over oil-rich areas.

“Maybe there are new lawyers now, but it was just illegal for an American company to go and seize and exploit these assets,” Mr. McGurk said.

Mr. McGurk said the only legal way to make money from the Syrian oil fields would be to work with Russia and the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to place the revenue into an escrow account to help fund Syria’s postwar reconstruction. But he said Russia had little interest in the idea, even before America assumed a diminished role in the country this month. Nor has Mr. Trump expressed any public interest in using the oil to fund Syria’s reconstruction.

Mr. Stein said he believed the true goal of some Trump administration officials and advisers was to keep the oil fields not from ISIS but from Mr. Assad’s forces, to deny him funds to rebuild his country and thus ensure that Syria remained a financial burden on its ally, Iran.

In recent days, hostile foreign governments have seized on Mr. Trump’s commentary as evidence of America’s sinister motives.

On Saturday, a spokesman for Russia’s Defense Ministry, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said that “what Washington is doing now, the seizure and control of oil fields in eastern Syria under its armed control, is, quite simply, international state banditry.”

And Iran’s state-controlled Fars News Agency wrote that while Washington “claims that the move is in the line with its alleged antiterror campaign in Syria, analysts see it no more than an excuse to impose control over Syria’s oil revenues.”

Mr. Riedel doubted that the president would wind up insisting on control of the oil fields. Beyond the many military, technical and legal challenges, there are the optics to consider.

“Let’s say he does do it,” Mr. Riedel said. “Let’s say we establish the precedent that we are in the Middle East to take the oil. The symbolism is really bad.”

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Trump Will Host Next G7 Summit at His Doral Resort

WASHINGTON — President Trump has decided to host the Group of 7 meeting next June at Trump National Doral, his luxury resort near Miami, the White House announced Thursday, a decision that prompted immediate questions about whether it was a conflict of interest for him to choose one of his own properties for a diplomatic event.

In discussing the choice, Mick Mulvaney, the president’s acting chief of staff, said Mr. Trump had considered the possibility of “political criticism” for picking the resort. But the president chose it anyway because administration officials had considered hotels throughout the country, and concluded that it was “by far and away, far and away, the best physical facility for this meeting,” Mr. Mulvaney said.

“‘It’s almost like they built this facility to host this type of event,’” Mr. Mulvaney told reporters, quoting what he said an unnamed official told him during the planning process. And he dismissed any suggestion that the president would profit from the choice.

Mr. Mulvaney said the hotel would put on the summit “at cost,” dismissing questions about whether Mr. Trump would profit from the choice. “The president has made it clear since he’s been here that he hasn’t profited since he’s been here,” he said.

But Representative Jerrold Nadler, the New York Democrat who leads the House Judiciary Committee, said that in hosting a summit for hundreds of world leaders and their staffs, the White House had potentially violated the emoluments clauses of the Constitution, which prohibit gifts or payments from foreign government sources.

“The administration’s announcement that President Trump’s Doral Miami resort will be the site of the next G7 summit is among the most brazen examples yet of the president’s corruption,” Mr. Nadler said. “He is exploiting his office and making official U.S. government decisions for his personal financial gain. The emoluments clauses of the Constitution exist to prevent exactly this kind of corruption.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_159850590_7a0c2a6a-d1d9-4e3a-b0fc-09d5c62597d2-articleLarge Trump Will Host Next G7 Summit at His Doral Resort Trump, Donald J Trump National Doral Miami (Doral, Fla) International Relations Group of Seven Ethics and Official Misconduct Conflicts of Interest

The Trump National Doral resort near Miami has struggled financially since the Trump family bought it out of bankruptcy in 2012.CreditMichele Eve Sandberg/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Holding the event at the Doral would effectively be forcing foreign government officials to pay the Trump family to stay at his resort, said Deepak Gupta, a constitutional lawyer who is already involved in two lawsuits claiming that Mr. Trump is violating the Constitution by accepting foreign government payments at his hotels.

“This is indefensible,” Mr. Gupta said. “It is as blatant as of mixing of private interests and official action that we have seen from this president.”

Mr. Mulvaney’s announcement was hardly a surprise; the president had not made it a secret that he wanted to hold the summit at his hotel. At the Group of 7 summit this year, held in Biarritz in the south of France in August, Mr. Trump suggested the resort would be a “great place” to hold next year’s meeting.

“It’s got tremendous acreage, many hundreds of acres, so we can handle whatever happens,” Mr. Trump said. “People are really liking it, and plus it has buildings that have 50 to 70 units. And so each delegation can have its own building.”

In the past Mr. Trump has been an aggressive promoter of the hotel. When the PGA Tour announced in 2016, while Mr. Trump was running for president, that it was moving its annual golf tournament — which had brought international attention to the resort for over five decades — to Mexico City, he reacted angrily.

“They’re moving it to Mexico City which, by the way, I hope they have kidnapping insurance,” Mr. Trump said at the time, in an interview on Fox.

But the resort has struggled financially since the Trump family bought it out of bankruptcy in 2012, reportedly paying $150 million for the property. More than $100 million in loans to help finance the project came from Deutsche Bank.

Financial documents obtained by The New York Times as part of tax appeals filed by the Trump Organization showed that the property lost $2.4 million in 2014. The Trump Organization has not disclosed profits in the past several years.

Still, the resort as of last year was the single biggest moneymaking asset, among the hotels, golf courses, office buildings and other properties owned by the Trump family. It generated $75.96 million in income in 2018, up from $74.76 million in 2017. But both of those figures are overall revenue, not profits.

Since he was elected, Mr. Trump has made a habit of visiting his own resorts and hotels, with a total of 308 days since 2017 spent at one of his properties, or about a third of his days in office.

His most frequently visited spot is his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, followed by Trump National Golf Clubs in New Jersey and Virginia. Another frequent venue has been the Trump International Hotel in Washington, which has become a magnet for Republican political events and other conferences hosted by Trump supporters.

Overall, Mr. Trump has made visits to at least 13 of his family’s revenue-generating properties since he was sworn in, including golf courses in Ireland and Scotland, according to a tally by The Times.

Previous use of Mr. Trump’s properties by the president and other federal government employees has drawn controversy, including the decision by the Air Force to send dozens of flight crews making stopovers at an airport in Scotland to the Trump Turnberry resort, where the Pentagon alone has spent $184,000 in the past two years.

The Group of 7 meeting will be held in the middle of June, the off-season for South Florida when the weather is hot and humid, and hosting a summit at the Doral will be complicated, local officials said, given the proximity of the resort to major area roads, including two right next to the resort that may need to be closed to ensure security.

“It is the middle of the metro area of Dade County,” said Rey Valdes, a Doral Police Department spokesman. “This will require a logistical feat. But with careful planning, I am confident we will be able to pull it off.”

Juan Carlos Bermudez, the mayor of Doral, did not have advance notification from the White House that the city had been picked for the Group of 7 summit. Mr. Bermudez said Thursday that he would leave questions surrounding potential conflicts of interest for the “Democrats and Republicans and pundits” to discuss.

“We are honored that it is being held here,” Mr. Bermudez said. “And the world will be able to see what Doral and South Florida are about.”

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Trump Will Host 2020 G7 Summit at His Doral Resort

Westlake Legal Group merlin_159850590_7a0c2a6a-d1d9-4e3a-b0fc-09d5c62597d2-facebookJumbo Trump Will Host 2020 G7 Summit at His Doral Resort Trump, Donald J Trump National Doral Miami (Doral, Fla) International Relations Group of Seven Ethics and Official Misconduct Conflicts of Interest

WASHINGTON — President Trump will host next year’s Group of 7 meeting next June at Trump Doral, his luxury resort near Miami, the president’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, told reporters on Thursday.

“‘It’s almost like they built this facility to host this type of event,’” Mr. Mulvaney said during a press briefing, quoting what he said an unnamed official had told him before quickly saying that the issue was not a conflict of interest. “The president has made it clear since he’s been here that he hasn’t profited since he’s been here.”

The decision to host the summit at the Trump National Doral Miami Golf Club is almost sure to alarm ethics watchdogs and critics of the administration who would see an immediate conflict of interest. Hosting the Group of 7 meeting of world leaders at a Trump property could provide a windfall for the Trump Organization and raise the resort’s profile around the world.

“Donald Trump’s brand is strong as it is,” Mr. Mulvaney said when asked about possible criticism. “It’s the most recognized name in the English language.”

The president has been publicly laying the groundwork for hosting the meeting. At the Group of 7 summit this year, held in Biarritz in the south of France, Mr. Trump suggested that his luxury golf resort, west of Miami, would be a “great place” to hold next year’s meeting.

“It’s got tremendous acreage, many hundreds of acres, so we can handle whatever happens,” Mr. Trump said. “People are really liking it and plus it has buildings that have 50 to 70 units. And so each delegation can have its own building.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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Russia Troops Patrol Between Turkish and Syrian Forces, Filling an American Void

CEYLANPINAR, Turkey — Russia said on Tuesday that its military units were patrolling territory in northern Syria vacated by the Americans following the withdrawal ordered by President Trump, underscoring the sudden loss of United States influence in the eight-year-old Syria war.

The Americans had until Monday maintained two military bases in the area, and Russia’s announcement signaled that Moscow, the Syrian government’s most important ally, was moving to fill a security void left by the withdrawal of both the American military and its partners in their effort to destroy the Islamic State and its Syrian base.

Videos circulating on social media appeared to show a Russian-speaking man filming himself walking around a recently evacuated United States military base in northern Syria, punctuating the message that the Russians were now in charge.

President Trump decided last week to abruptly yank American forces from a Kurdish enclave of northern Syria, ending a longstanding alliance with Syrian Kurdish fighters regarded by Turkey as terrorists. Turkey’s military then invaded, driving tens of thousands of civilians from their homes and forcing the Syrian Kurdish fighters to align themselves with the Syrian military in a stunning switch of allegiances for survival.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that its military police, which had already established a presence in other parts of Syria, were patrolling along a line of contact separating Syrian and Turkish forces, who have been racing to control large parts of northern Syria since the Turkish invasion began last Wednesday.

The Russians were patrolling near the strategically important city of Manbij, vacated by the Americans and Syrian Kurds and now occupied Syrian government troops. The statement also said Russian troops were coordinating “with the Turkish side.”

Where Russian and Syrian Army forces are located in northern Syria

Westlake Legal Group syria-zoom-map-900 Russia Troops Patrol Between Turkish and Syrian Forces, Filling an American Void United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Russia Ras al-Ain (Syria) Manbij (Syria) Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) International Relations Defense and Military Forces Ceylanpinar (Turkey)

Turkish army AND

syrian opposition

Turkish airstrikes

Ras al Ain

Tel Tamer

Syrian Army

forces

Russian

forces

Ain Issa

Syrian Army

forces

KURDISH

Control

Area of detail

Government

Control

Westlake Legal Group syria-zoom-map-600 Russia Troops Patrol Between Turkish and Syrian Forces, Filling an American Void United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Russia Ras al-Ain (Syria) Manbij (Syria) Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) International Relations Defense and Military Forces Ceylanpinar (Turkey)

Turkish army AND

syrian opposition

Turkish airstrikes

Ras al Ain

Tel Tamer

Syrian Army

forces

Ain Issa

Syrian Army

forces

Russian

forces

KURDISH

Control

Government

Control

Westlake Legal Group syria-zoom-map-280 Russia Troops Patrol Between Turkish and Syrian Forces, Filling an American Void United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Russia Ras al-Ain (Syria) Manbij (Syria) Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) International Relations Defense and Military Forces Ceylanpinar (Turkey)

Turkish

airstrikes

Turkish army AND

syrian opposition

Ras al Ain

Tel Tamer

Syrian Army

forces

Ain Issa

Syrian Army

forces

KURDISH

Control

Russian

forces

Government

Control

Area of

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Sources: Times reporting; Control areas as of Oct. 14 via Conflict Monitor by IHS Markit | By Allison McCann, Sarah Almukhtar and Anjali Singhvi

The developments came as a spokesman for the United States-led coalition said on Twitter that its forces, which include French and British soldiers, had left Manbij. “Coalition forces are executing a deliberate withdrawal from northeast Syria,” Col. Myles B. Caggins wrote. “We are out of Manbij.”

Russia and Turkey will soon be the only foreign armies in the area.

Syria’s state broadcaster also reported that Syrian government troops had deployed inside Manbij, as Turkish-led forces advanced in the countryside outside the city. Elsewhere, Kurdish-led fighters attempted to retake another important town near the Turkish border, Ras al-Ain, from Turkish-led forces.

Heavy fire from machine guns could be heard to the south and southwest of Ras al-Ain and from the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, which is less than a mile from the fighting. Turkish artillery pounded an eastern suburb of the Syrian settlement midmorning, raising clouds of smoke above low farmhouses and pistachio groves.

As of Tuesday, fighting in Ras al-Ain and other areas of northern Syria has forced at least 160,000 people from their homes, according to United Nations estimates. The Kurdish authorities put the figure at 270,000.

Westlake Legal Group syria-turkey-promo-1571094797315-articleLarge-v3 Russia Troops Patrol Between Turkish and Syrian Forces, Filling an American Void United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Russia Ras al-Ain (Syria) Manbij (Syria) Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) International Relations Defense and Military Forces Ceylanpinar (Turkey)

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.

Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw from northern Syria drew global condemnation, left Kurdish fighters feeling betrayed, and raised the possibility that the president had made a strategic blunder that would open a volatile new chapter in the war. Experts on the region warned that the withdrawal of American troops would embolden Russia, Iran and the Islamic State.

Abandoned by the Americans, and quickly losing land to the Turkish force, the Kurdish authorities sought protection from the Syrian government and Russia.

Since the Kurdish authorities asked the government of President Bashar al-Assad for assistance, thousands of Syrian Army troops have flooded into northern Syria for the first time since the government lost control of the region several years ago.

But Syrian government troops have stayed clear of the border region near Ras al-Ain, where Kurdish troops fight on alone. Instead, government forces have deployed to other strategic positions, such as Manbij, to help alleviate pressure on Kurdish fighters on the front line.

The last-minute alliance comes at great cost to the Kurdish authorities, who are effectively giving up self-rule.

Syrian Kurdish militias established a system of self-rule in northern Syria in 2012, when the chaos of the Syrian civil war gave them the chance to create a sliver of autonomous territory free of central government influence.

The fighters greatly expanded their territory after they partnered with an international military coalition, led by the United States, to push the Islamic State from the area.

After the Kurdish-led fighters captured ISIS territory, they assumed responsibility for its governance, eventually controlling roughly a quarter of the Syrian landmass. They have also been guarding thousands of ISIS fighters and their families, hundreds of whom fled a detention camp in Ras al-Ain after Turkish-led forces bombed the surrounding area.

The Kurds’ control of the land in Syria enraged Turkey, since the militia is an offshoot of a guerrilla group that has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state. Turkey has long pressed the United States to abandon its alliance with Kurdish fighters so Turkish troops could enter Syria and force the Kurds from territory close to the border.

Washington rebuffed Turkey’s requests for several years, maintaining a de facto peacekeeping presence along the border near Ras al-Ain, the town at the center of the fighting on Friday. But that changed last week, when Mr. Trump made a sudden decision to withdraw troops — first from that particular area, and later from all of northern Syria.

In Britain, meanwhile, a day after foreign ministers from all 28 European Union member states agreed unanimously to stop selling arms to Turkey — the first time the bloc has reached such a decision about a NATO ally — Britain announced a pause in such ties with Turkey.

Dominic Raab, Britain’s foreign secretary, told the House of Commons on Tuesday that “no further export licenses to Turkey for items which might be used in military operations in Syria will be granted” until the government had conducted a review.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has made clear he will not bow to pressure to halt the offensive. “We will soon secure the region from Manbij to the border with Iraq,” he said on Tuesday during a visit to Azerbaijan, referring to the 230-mile expanse of territory.

Carlotta Gall reported from Ceylanpinar, and Patrick Kingsley from Istanbul. Anton Troianovski contributed reporting from Moscow, and Iliana Magra from London.

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Assad Forces Surge Forward in Syria as U.S. Pulls Back

Westlake Legal Group 14syria-briefing-facebookJumbo-v2 Assad Forces Surge Forward in Syria as U.S. Pulls Back United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Politics and Government Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) International Relations Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Assad, Bashar al-

DOHUK, Iraq — Syrian government forces streamed into the country’s northeast on Monday, seizing towns where they had not stepped foot in years and filling a vacuum opened up by President Trump’s decision to abandon the United States’ Syrian Kurdish allies.

Less than a week after Turkey launched an incursion into northern Syria with Mr. Trump’s assent, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, considered a war criminal by the United States, has benefited handsomely, striking a deal with the United States’ former allies to take the northern border and rapidly gaining territory without a fight.

In addition to Mr. al-Assad, Mr. Trump’s decision to pull United States forces out of the way has also quickly redounded to the gain of Russia and Iran, as well as the Islamic State, as the American retreat reconfigures battle lines and alliances in the eight-year war.

“For the Syrian regime and Russia, the Americans are leaving, so that is a big achievement,” said Hassan Hassan, a Syria analyst at the Center for Global Policy. “In just one day, gone. They don’t have to worry about what this presence means for the future.”

The greatest risk to American troops as they pull back comes from the Turkish-backed militia, the Free Syrian Army, which has spearheaded the Turkish offensive in many places, supported by Turkish Army artillery and mortar fire, and Turkish airstrikes.

American officials say these Turkish-backed militia are less disciplined than regular Turkish soldiers and, deliberately or inadvertently, have fired on retreating American troops.

In a sign of the concern over the safety of the remaining American troops in Syria, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke on Monday with his Russian counterpart about the deteriorating security in the country’s northeast.

Faced with a fast-unraveling situation, Mr. Trump’s policy toward the region continued to fishtail. Having essentially greenlighted the Turkish incursion a week ago, then threatening ruin to the Turkish economy, on Monday Mr. Trump announced that he would impose sanctions on Turkey, raising tariffs on steel and suspending negotiations on a $100 billion trade deal with Ankara.

Mr. Trump’s decision has turned a relatively stable corner of Syria into its most dynamic battleground. As Turkey and Syrian fighters it supports push in from the north to root out the Kurdish-led militia that was allied with the United States, Mr. al-Assad’s forces have moved in from the south, gobbling up territory.

On Monday, without a fight, government forces seized a number of towns that had recently been held by the United States’ allies, including Tel Tamer, home to an Assyrian Christian community; Tabqa, which has a large hydroelectric dam on the Euphrates River; and Ein Issa, where the United States kept a contingent of forces, until recently.

Fighting continued in towns near the Turkish border to the north, pitting a number of forces against each other and terrifying civilians.

Kurdish militiamen battled Turkish troops around Ras al Ain and Tal Abyad, Syrian border towns the Turks claim to have taken. And both Turkey and the Syrian government were sending troops toward Manbij, raising the specter of new fighting there.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has said the incursion is necessary for his country’s security and that Turkey seeks to establish a 20-mile-deep “safe zone” for hundreds of miles inside Syria’s border.

The invasion has provoked widespread international condemnation and on Monday, the foreign ministers of all 28 European Union member states agreed to stop selling arms to Turkey, an unprecedented step toward a fellow NATO member.

But Mr. Erdogan appeared unfazed, vowing that Turkey would press on in a speech in Azerbaijan.

“We are determined to take our operation to the end,” he said. “We will finish what we started. A hoisted flag does not come down.”

Much of the territory contested in the current fighting was wrested from the jihadists of the Islamic State by an international coalition led by the United States in partnership with a Kurdish-led militia known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F. As the jihadists were rolled back, the S.D.F. seized its territory, which it sought to govern under protection from the United States.

But that partnership angered Turkey, which considers the Kurdish fighters terrorists for their links to a Kurdish guerrilla organization that has been fighting the Turkish state for decades.

It was Mr. Trump’s decision to pull American troops out of northern Syria that gave Turkey the opening to strike, setting off the current violence.

No longer protected by the United States, the Kurds struck a deal with the Syrian government, an American enemy, to bring its forces north to protect the area.

A Kurdish official, Aldar Xelil, said in a statement Monday that the agreement would put Syrian government forces on two strips along the border, but not in a section where Kurdish fighters are currently battling the Turks. The government forces would defend the border against the Turks, he said, while the Kurdish-led administration would continue to oversee governance and internal security in the region.

But much about the agreement remained unclear, and the Syrian state news media made no mention of it in its coverage of Syrian troops seizing towns and being welcomed by locals chanting in support of Mr. al-Assad.

About 1,000 United States troops serve on a number of bases throughout northeastern Syria, but President Trump’s orders will remove the troops over the next few weeks, sending them, at least initially, to Iraq. From there, they could be repositioned to other neighboring countries such as Jordan or Lebanon, or head back to the United States, military officials said.

For now, the Pentagon plans to leave 150 Special Operations forces at a base called al-Tanf, in southern Syria.

Trump administration officials had long argued that the troops were needed to check the influence of Iran, Russia and Mr. al-Assad; prevent the resurgence of the Islamic State; and give the United States leverage in eventual peace talks aimed at ending Syria’s war.

The administration has not explained how it plans to pursue these goals without troops or local allies in Syria.

Mr. Hassan, the Syria analyst, said it had become clear that Turkey and Mr. al-Assad had the most to gain from the American withdrawal and the reshuffling of Syria’s northeast.

Despite the international condemnation, Turkey had managed to quash the dream of Kurdish-led self-rule that had been growing for years in less than a week.

“This is the end or the beginning of the end of the Kurdish project in Syria,” Mr. Hassan said.

Mr. al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers had also won big because the United States had expended tremendous resources to defeat the Islamic State, and now Mr. al-Assad is poised to regain the territory.

“It is not just that you left, but that you did all this fighting on his behalf for the last five years,” Mr. Hassan said.

The biggest losers were the Kurds, who lost their foreign backers and saw their political dreams collapse, and the region’s civilians, who were now subject to yet another era of violence and uncertainty.

The new fighting in the north has displaced more than 160,000 people, according to the United Nations, limited access for aid organizations, and scattered families looking for safe places to wait out the violence.

Syrian refugees living in Turkey said they had lost contact with relatives in the border region as families had fled south into the desert hoping to avoid airstrikes and shelling by camping out in the open far from any cellphone coverage.

A Syrian house painter in the Turkish town of Suruc near the Syrian border said three of his wife’s cousins and another couple had disappeared and were thought to have been kidnapped on the road between Manbij and Raqqa.

“No one knows what is happening,” said the painter, Ali, who gave only his first name for fear of reprisals against relatives in Syria.

The loss of American support has terrified the region’s Kurds, many of whom distrust Mr. al-Assad but fear Turkey more.

Giving up the dream of self-rule would still be “a million times better than having our cities taken over by the terrorist mercenaries and criminal Turks,” said Arin Sheikhmous, a Kurdish activist in the border town of Qamishli.

But as Mr. al-Assad’s forces advanced, others feared the horrors often associated with the Syrian state: conscription into the Syrian military or random arrests that have made untold numbers of people vanish into Syria’s prisons.

It remains unclear what will become of the more than 10,000 former Islamic State fighters held in Kurdish-run prisons, as well as the tens of thousands of women and children from the Islamic State now detained in squalid camps.

Some worried that the new deal between the Kurds and the government could see prisoners handed over to Mr. al-Assad.

Hamida Mustafa, a Syrian activist in southern Turkey, said he worried about his brother, who had been detained two years ago by the Kurdish-led militia.

He had heard on the first night of the Turkish incursion that the common criminals had been released while political prisoners had been moved to another prison in the city of Hasakah. He had not been able to locate his brother, but worried that he would end up being passed to the Syrian government and never seen again.

“We are fearful now,” he said. “They did that before.”

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