US seeks to pivot to Turkey-first policy on Syria

The US hopes to push Turkey to greater action against the Syrian regime and Russia in Syria’s northern Idlib province

By SETH J. FRANTZMAN |The Jerusalem Post |


James Jeffrey, U.S. State Department special representative for Syria Engagement, testifies before a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on President Trump’s decision to remove U.S. forces from Syria, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 23, 2019
(photo credit: REUTERS/YURI GRIPAS)

The US has come with strong words in support of Turkey’s policies in northern Syria, hoping to push Turkey to greater action against the Syrian regime and Russia in Syria’s northern Idlib province. US envoy James Jeffrey landed in Turkey on Tuesday where he commemorated Turkey’s “martyrs” who had been killed by the Syrian regime and pledged support for Ankara.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Jeffrey have been seeking to pivot the US back to a Turkey-first foreign policy in regards to Syria, to slowly jettison parts of what they see as the problematic Kurdish region of eastern Syria and get online with big power politics to confront the Russians and Iranians.

The Russian-backed Syrian regime offensive in Idlib that began last year and has increased in recent weeks has led to 700,000 Syrians fleeing toward Turkey and has killed Turkish soldiers. Turkey has sent armored vehicle columns to Idlib to warn the Syrian regime. Turkey has observation points in Idlib in northern Syria, a system of posts it set up after 2017.

In 2018 Turkey and Russia signed a ceasefire deal for Idlib. Idlib is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham a n extremist group linked to al Qaeda. The Syrian regime sees HTS and Syrian rebel groups  as “terrorists.” Turkey backs Syrian rebel groups, which it has used to fight Kurds in Afrin and Tel Abyad in 2018 and 2019.

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