Tags: Russia | Syria | Trump Administration | russia | syria | pompeo

As US Sanctions Syrians, It Finally Calls Out Russia

pompeo in front of an american flag
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (AFP via Getty Images)

By Thursday, 19 March 2020 01:19 PM Current | Bio | Archive

It seems hard to believe, and while it feels as if coronavirus is taking over our lives and the lives of our neighbors and loved ones, there are still other things, other important things, happening in the world.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that new sanctions would be placed on Syrian officials, especially on Syrian Defense Minister Ali Ayoub. When making that announcement, Pompeo also took the opportunity to blame Russia for killing 34 Turkish soldiers in the Idlib region in Syria. 

An announcement of this type and the pointing of a finger directly at Russia is a new policy decision for the United States. Up until now the United States has been politically quiet when it comes to Russia

Pompeo's statement was a welcome change. Russia needs to be called out and criticized.

Not only did the secretary of state say that Russia was responsible for the deaths of dozens of Turkish military, he took it a step further and said that Russia must be held accountable for their actions. Interestingly, Turkey blamed Assad's Syrian government — not the Russians, for the deaths.

The decision to absolve Russia of responsibility can probably best be understood by the fact that at the same time that their military was killed, Turkey was reaching a ceasefire agreement with the Russians. Actually, after the killings, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Ergogan flew to Moscow to negotiate the ceasefire directly with Vladimir Putin. Part of the deal included Russian/Turkish patrols.

In his statement Pompeo said, "We stand with our NATO ally Turkey and will consider additional measures that support Turkey at the end of the violence."

The United States must check Russian actions. They must call them out and even intervene when necessary. Russia has become too powerful in the Middle East. They do whatever they want, whenever they want and, until now, no other country has dared — or had the gumption, to stand in their way.

In Idlib, for example, a Syrian city, Russia identifies the priorities. The Russians claim that they have a cease fire with Turkey, yet Idlib is the hub of anti-Assad forces, it is where they are headquartered. And those anti-Assad fighters are backed by Turkey.

President Bashar Assad of Syria, on the other hand, is backed by Russia. In this situation, what the Russians say and what is really happening — the facts on the ground as they are called — are most certainly not one and the same. 

The decision to kill Turkish forces fighting in Syria was an easy one for Russia. They have invested far more time, money and military might propping up Assad in the 9-year-long civil war being waged in Syria than they have in their relationship with Turkey.   Defending Assad and attacking rebel fighters which they knew included Turkish support and advisory personnel, was for them, an obvious choice, a no-brainer. 

And yet, although Turkey has been far from a good friend of either the United States or of NATO, the U.S. secretary of state went out on a diplomatic limb and defended Turkey. 

Erdogan's government has stopped their participation in the U.S. F-35 program. The United States is no longer providing Turkey weapons. Instead, Turkey has purchased, but not yet activated, the Russian S-400 missile defense system. That's a massive affront to the United States and to NATO. 

Despite Turkey's actions, the United States will defend them. They will defend them because it is the right thing to do and because letting Russia do anything they want to do, is wrong.   

So yes, coronavirus aside, the world goes on. And important things are happening.

Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. To read more of this reports — Click Here Now.

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that new sanctions would be placed on Syrian officials, and also took the opportunity to blame Russia for killing 34 Turkish soldiers in the Idlib region in Syria. 
russia, syria, pompeo
Thursday, 19 March 2020 01:19 PM
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