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FOR THE WEEK OF OCT. 21, 2019

President Trump defends policy reversal in northern Syria that brings chaos and criticism

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Summarize highlights of the current situation in Syria.
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Pick a quote about this issue and tell why it's worth sharing.
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Talk about what emotions this distant conflict bring to your mind.

Part of northeastern Syria has plunged back into chaos. The area had been relatively stable since March, when U.S.-backed local fighters known as Kurds overcame a takeover by the Islamic State terror group (also called ISIS). Now roughly 1,000 U.S. troops have left suddenly and two enemies -- Turkey and the Syrian government -- pushed in. Amid the upheaval, ISIS followers escaped from unguarded prisons, more than 70 Syrian civilians reportedly died and more than 160,000 people fled from their homes.

These developments follow a green light from President Trump on Oct. 6 for neighboring Turkey to cross the border and attack the Kurds. Three days later, Turkey’s Air Force launched airstrikes on border towns. Trump calls his move "strategically brilliant," adding: "Our soldiers are not in harm's way, as they shouldn't be, as two countries fight over land that has nothing to do with us."

Most reactions in this country are harsh, however. His abrupt withdrawal undercuts Kurdish allies and contradicts decades of U.S. policy in the Middle East, a region presidents of both parties have considered vital to national interests. "The president in my view has created a crisis in the Middle East, a crisis that undermines the world's competence in America," says House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. A New York Times headline says: "Trump Followed His Gut on Syria. Calamity Came Fast."

Even Republicans break with their party's president. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., had been a Trump ally but now denounces the pullout as "short-sighted and irresponsible," an "impulsive decision by the president" and a "stain on America's honor." In the House, 129 Republicans last week helped pass a resolution condemning Trump’s troop withdrawal from northern Syria. It was approved 354-60 and is the most significant bipartisan rebuke of Trump since he took office in 2017. The symbolic measure was introduced by Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, to show that House members "want nothing to do with this disastrous policy."

Scholar says: "His confidence . . . leads [Trump] to make reckless decisions, such as his abandonment of America’s trust with its Kurdish partners, with no evidence of regret or remorse other than disliking the criticism for doing it." – Nancy Gibbs, specialist in politics and public policy at Harvard University

Former U.S. diplomat says: "It began with us helping the Kurds, but by the end, it was them helping us. They are the ones who recovered the territory that ISIS had taken." – Peter Galbraith, author and policy adviser

Retired American general says: "When they [Kurds] mourn, we mourn with them." – Gen. Joseph L. Votel, former head of the U.S. Central Command, speaking at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C.

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2020
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