U.S. will not condone Turkish atrocities against Kurds, says senate chair

While Turkey is a U.S. ally, Washington will not condone Ankara committing "atrocities" against Kurds in neighbouring Syria, Republican Sen. Jim Risch, the new chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told American PBS TV.

‘’The Turks, in my judgement, are not as sophisticated as they should be in dealing with the Kurds. They paint all the Kurds with the same brush. With the Turks, they are allies of ours, but we cannot condone and will not condone them going in and doing atrocities against the Kurds,’’ Risch said during an interview on Tuesday with News Hour.

Rich said Trump’s decision to withdrawal from Syria was ''rolled out on Twitter'' as opposed to a in-depth paper on the position

Four U.S. soldiers were killed and three wounded in an attack in the Syrian province of Manbij on Wednesday, a U.S. official told Reuters. 

Risch’s statements arrive as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan  announced on Tuesday an agreement with the United States to a safe zone in northern Syria, where Turkey is preparing to attack Kurdish militias stationed alongside allied U.S. forces. Turkish state run Anadolu Agency had a detailed news item on Tuesday about the planned buffer zone.

According to reported plans, the buffer zone will be 460 kilometres (285 miles) wide and 32 kilometres (20 miles) deep, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said.

Turkish leaders have vowed to launch a military operation against areas in northern Syria controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and allied groups. Ankara views these militias as a threat due to their links to armed Kurdish insurgent groups in Turkey, though they have been a valuable ally to the Washington in northern Syria, where they have helped clear the Islamic State (ISIS) from vast swathes of territory and have been touted as a potential barrier to Iranian expansion.

Risch stressed that Washington’s first goal in Syria has been to destroy ISIS and the the U.S. withdrawal plan, announced on Dec. 19, requires Turkey to go in and help with that effort.

The administration is creating a withdrawal plan through negotiations with Turkey, and Risch criticized Turkey’s long-standing concerns that the Syrian Kurdish forces teamed with the United States in Syria are “terrorists.”

The United States will ensure that the Turkish Army does not slaughter Kurds while it pulls American troops out of Syria, said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an interview with Newsmax news organization in early January which created a backlash in Ankara.

Several leading Republican Senators, including Senate's Chairman for the Judiciary Committee Lindsay Graham opposed Trump's plan of immediate withdrawal from Syria. 

Risch has joined the Republican lawmakers who appear to have strong objections against Trump's quick green light of the safe zone or a buffer zone for Turkey's Erdogan. Risch's statement that U.S. will not and cannot condone such Turkish attacks reveals that the buffer zone is not a done deal yet. Trump appears to still have to convince his own party leaders at the Senate as he lost the majority in the House. 

As the Republican Party lost the majority in the House, there is a gathering momentum to start an impeachment process following the release of the Mueller report on the relations between the Trump's 2016 campaign and the Russian state. The report is expected to be finished by March. Having a majority at the Senate is a big assurance for the U.S. president, therefore every single Senate's Republican lawmaker, especially those who have big sways over various committees, including powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, becomes a powerful actor in Washington even when it comes to foreign affairs issue such as Syria. In addition to this new dynamic following the midterm elections, Risch is the head of Senate Foreign Relations Committee to steer many discussions over the issue. 

Trump's December 19 withdrawal announcement and recent tweets on Sunday and Monday, led to expectations of a rapid attack for an invasion of Northeast Syria by the Turkish forces.  

Erdoğan is facing significant obstacles the prospect of an large-scale entry of Turkish forces into northeast Syria, according Israel's Jerusalem Post.

The U.S. withdrawal currently looks less immediately imminent, the newspaper said, with Trump's chaotic approach policy-making causing presidential statements to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Another issue facing Ankara is Russia's emergence as the key power broker between all countries in Syria, it said, adding that Russian officials this week appear to indicate that Russia prefers lands currently administered by Syrian Kurds to return to the control of the Assad regime.

Furthermore, it is unclear how Turkey, along with its Sunni Arab rebel allies, could tackle the policing the territories it would conquer from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the event of a major military operation into northern Syria.