President Donald Trump radiated optimism on Wednesday as he announced that he expected the cease fire between Turkish and Kurdish forces in northeast Syria to become permanent.
“However, you would also define the word 'permanent' in that part of the world as somewhat questionable,” the president said during a speech at the White House. “We all understand that. But I do believe it will be permanent.”
Accordingly, Trump has ordered the treasury secretary to lift all sanctions imposed against Turkey after the start of its invasion of Kurdish-held Syria earlier this month.
“Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries,” the president said. “We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out.”
A “small number of U.S. troops” will remain in Syria to protect oilfields, he said, adding the United States would decide what to do with the oil in the future.
The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds “without spilling one drop of American blood.”
Trump also claimed that the agreement could not have been made without Turkey's invasion, which he described as a “short-term outburst” of violence.
During his 15-minute speech, the president touched on several themes that are the core of his foreign policy philosophy: The United States cannot police the world; the post 9/11 wars have been a waste of lives and money; the Middle East has become less stable because of U.S. military interventions over the past two decades; and it's time for other countries to ensure that ISIS does not regain any of its former territory.
“Let someone else fight over this long, blood-stained sand,” Trump said.
The president also took aim at critics, whom he said have argued the U.S. military should have protected its Kurdish partners from the Turks and their proxies.
Such a move would have required the U.S. military to deploy tens of thousands of troops to fight Turkey, a NATO ally, he said.
“The same people that I watched and read giving me and the United States advice were the people that I have been watching and reading for many years,” Trump said. “They are the ones that got us into the Middle East mess but never had the vision or the courage to get us out. They just talk. How many Americans must die in the Middle East in the midst of these ancient, sectarian, and tribal conflicts?”
“When we commit American troops to battle, we must do so only when a vital national interest is at stake and when we have a clear objective and plan for victory and a path out of conflict,” the president continued. “That's what we have to have. We need a plan of victory. We will only win.”