Saturday, February 24, 2024

Trump sanctions fail to slow Turkey assault, Syrian troops move on Manbij

Trump sanctions fail to slow Turkey assault, Syrian troops move on Manbij
October 15, 2019
MANBIJ, Syria (Reuters) - Turkey ignored US sanctions and pressed on with its assault on northern Syria on Tuesday, while the Russia-backed Syrian army roared into one of the most hotly contested cities abandoned by US forces in Donald Trump’s retreat. Reuters journalists accompanied Syrian government forces who entered the centre of the city of Manbij, a flashpoint where US troops had previously conducted joint patrols with Turkey. Russian and Syrian flags were flying from a building on the city outskirts, and from a convoy of military vehicles. US forces announced they had pulled out of the city. A week after reversing US policy and moving troops out of the way to allow Turkey to attack Washington’s Syrian allies, Trump announced a package of sanctions to punish Ankara. But the measures - mainly a hike in steel tariffs and a pause in trade talks - were less robust than financial markets had expected, and Trump’s critics derided them as too feeble to have an impact. The Turkish lira, which had fallen on the expectation of tougher U.S. measures, recovered after the sanctions were announced, as did its bond and stock markets, with traders noting that Trump had spared Turkish banks. Trump’s unexpected decision to withhold protection from Syria’s Kurds after a phone call with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan a week ago swiftly upended five years of US policy in the Middle East. The withdrawal gives a free hand to Washington’s adversaries in the world’s deadliest ongoing war, namely Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies. The United States announced on Sunday it was withdrawing its entire force of 1,000 troops from northern Syria. Its former Kurdish allies immediately forged a new alliance with Assad’s Russia-backed government, inviting the army into towns across the breadth of their territory.
TROOPS ENTER MANBIJ
Russian-backed Syrian forces moved swiftly to fill the void left by departing Americans from Manbij west of the Euphrates river, which Turkey has vowed to capture. “We are out of Manbij,” said Colonel Myles B Caggins, spokesman for the US-led coalition in Syria. Troops “are executing a deliberate withdrawal from northeast Syria.” A group of journalists accompanied by Syrian army personnel journeyed into Manbij city where upon their arrival a group of people gathered, waving the Syrian flag and pictures of Assad. However the reporters left when gunfire was heard and a group of some 10 young men in Kurdish YPG uniforms began breaking cameras and yelling. Syrian state media said SDF fighters had opened fire on a march organised by the people of Manbij to welcome the army. Trump’s pullout ends joint US-Turkish patrols of the Manbij area under a deal aimed to persuade Turkey not to invade. Syrian state television broadcast footage of what it said was government troops entering Manbij on Tuesday, under their new deal with the Kurds. A resident inside the city told Reuters the Syrian troops were on its outskirts. Turkey-backed Syrian fighters said they would continue their advance towards Manbij. A Reuters cameraman on the Turkish frontier reported heavy bombardment on Tuesday morning of the Syrian border town of Ras al Ain, where a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces reported a fierce battle was taking place.