Syrian Fight Heats Up With U.S. on Sidelines
President Donald Trump’s desire to get the U.S. out of Middle East wars is creating a mess that could reverberate long after America departs.
His decision to give Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the green light to cross the border into Syria in an operation against the Kurds, the U.S.’s erstwhile allies in the fight against Islamic State, has sparked an alliance shift.
The Kurds say they’ve now enlisted help from former foe Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who’s supported by Russia. Turkish and Syrian troops could end up in close proximity as a result.
Trump’s withdrawal of all U.S. troops from northern Syria prompted fresh criticism from lawmakers, including fellow Republicans, who return to Washington today after a two-week break ready to pursue penalties against Turkey. Critics accuse Trump of selling out the Kurds and abdicating America’s responsibilities in the region.
Having enabled Erdogan’s initial move, Trump now says he’s ready to impose “powerful” sanctions if Turkey does anything in Syria the U.S. considers off-limits.
Penalties though may not stop Erdogan, who has vowed to push the Kurds back from his border. That raises the chance of a broader clash as Assad’s troops move toward the area. Yet Damascus, with its forces fatigued by an eight-year civil war, probably doesn’t have the wherewithal to take on the Turks without Moscow’s help.
How all this plays out depends largely on Turkey and Russia. Washington is now a bystander.
Just In: Hold the champagne. China wants further talks as soon as the end of the month to hammer out the details of a “phase one” trade deal touted by Trump before President Xi Jinping agrees to sign it.
Political posturing | Queen Elizabeth II will deliver Boris Johnson’s legislative agenda today, yet, with no working majority in Parliament, the prime minister’s proposed 22 bills stand little chance of becoming law. Instead, the speech is a way for Johnson’s Conservatives to outline their election manifesto. It comes as his attempt to secure a Brexit deal ran into trouble after the European Union said talks were a long way from a breakthrough.
Need for speed | If U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to finish the impeachment inquiry into Trump before the heart of the 2020 election, she’ll likely need to do it without help from federal courts, which could take months to resolve any fight over presidential stonewalling. Even though at least two State Department officials are testifying as part of Democrats’ probe, the White House continues to block access to documents and prevent testimony from other witnesses.
- Happening today: Trump’s former Russia adviser Fiona Hill is scheduled to testify behind closed doors before three House panels leading the impeachment inquiry.
- Read more about Hunter Biden’s decision to step down from the board of a Chinese-backed private equity company. The son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has been at the center of discredited allegations by Trump related to his work on behalf of foreign companies.
Budapest brooding | Hungarian opposition parties celebrated last night after winning local elections in the capital and other cities, loosening the political stranglehold of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has clashed with the European Union over democratic standards. But another vote in regional peer Poland served to remind them how tough it is to expand local victories to the national level. A year after the nationalist ruling Law & Justice party lost big in city votes, it trounced pro-European parties in yesterday’s parliamentary election.
Jail time | Catalan separatists who tried to break away from Spain two years ago were given jail sentences of up to 13 years by the Supreme Court in Madrid in an unprecedented ruling that marks a watershed in relations with the troubled region. The convictions will inject an extra dose of rancor into the political system as Spain prepares for a fourth general election in as many years on Nov. 10.
Key state | No Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio. But Trump may not be able to count on the affluent suburbs that have helped all modern Republican presidents secure the must-win battleground state. Gregory Korte and Mark Niquette explain how one such community, Westerville, the site of tomorrow’s debate with the top 12 Democratic candidates, highlights warning signs for Republicans.
- Billionaires may have much more to fear (tax rates of up to 97.5%) from a Bernie Sanders presidency than they do from an Elizabeth Warren administration.
What to Watch This Week
- Hong Kong protesters plan a rally tonight in support of legislation the U.S. House may vote on this week that would require annual reviews of Hong Kong’s special trading status and potentially sanction some Chinese officials.
- South Korean President Moon Jae-in apologized today as his justice minister — and close confidant — offered to resign amid a widening corruption probe.
- Islamist-backed law professor Kais Saied is poised for a landslide victory in Tunisia’s presidential election, an exit poll suggested, with official results expected later today.
- U.S. tariffs on billions of dollars of EU products, including Scotch whiskeys and French wine and cheese, are scheduled to take effect Friday.
Thanks to all who responded to our pop quiz Friday and congrats to reader Jay Kraker, who was the first to correctly name Rex Tillerson as the person Trump asked to help persuade the Justice Department to drop a criminal case against Iranian-Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab. Tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And finally ... The women who spearheaded the “Me Too” movement in India are still fighting for justice. Their accusations against powerful men forced some to resign. Yet a year later, those who led the campaign and helped hundreds of others tell their stories find themselves stigmatized, out of work or embroiled in court cases. One high-profile journalist has been sued for defamation by the man she accused.
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