Donald Trump Syria Remarks: 'Let Someone Else Fight Over This Long Bloodstained Sand'

President Donald Trump offered public remarks along with Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday morning, addressing what he described as a "big success" on the Turkey-Syria border.

In a highly controversial move earlier this month, Trump hastily withdrew U.S. troops from northern Syria. The decision, which came after a phone call with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, allowed Turkish forces to advance quickly into Syria, where they targeted the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Turkey has long been in conflict with the Kurds.

The U.S. had been fighting alongside the SDF against the Islamic State (or ISIS) for years, a fact that led both Republican and Democratic lawmakers to blast Trump's decision, accusing him of abandoning a key U.S. ally. They also argued that the move would embolden ISIS and allow for American foes Russia and Iran to gain a stronger foothold in the region.

Trump dispatched Mike Pence to the region on October 16 to quell tensions as he faced significant bipartisan backlash. The Trump administration also announced sanctions against Turkey, which is technically allied to the U.S. through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), in response to the country's aggression against the Kurds. Meanwhile, the Kurds have now allied themselves defensively with Syria's government, which the U.S. considers an adversary.

Big success on the Turkey/Syria Border. Safe Zone created! Ceasefire has held and combat missions have ended. Kurds are safe and have worked very nicely with us. Captured ISIS prisoners secured. I will be making a statement at 11:00 A.M. from the White House. Thank you!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2019

On Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted: "Big success on the Turkey/Syria Border. Safe Zone created! Ceasefire has held and combat missions have ended. Kurds are safe and have worked very nicely with us. Captured ISIS prisoners secured."

Here's a brief summary of what was said during the Wednesday press conference:

  • Trump hailed a "major breakthrough" towards peace between Turkey and the Kurds. He said a "permanent" ceasefire had been agreed to by all sides, but cautioned that "permanent" is hard to count on in the Middle East.
  • The president said that sanctions against Turkey would be lifted, unless the country fails to live up to its commitments under the ceasefire. He said that Turkey must ensure religious and ethnic minorities are protected, and ISIS must not be allowed to resurge.
  • "Let someone else fight over this long bloodstained sand," the president said. He thanked Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for negotiating the ceasefire between the Kurdish fighters and Turkey.
  • A "small" number of U.S. troops will remain in the region to guard oil. Trump said the U.S. will decide what will be done with the oil at a later time.
  • According to Trump, he was told by Kurdish General Mazloum Kobani Abdi that all ISIS prisoners are have been secured. Some escaped but have since been recaptured, the president said he was told by the military commander.
  • Trump criticized U.S. involvement in Middle Eastern conflicts, citing $8 trillion in spending. He argued that the region is "less safe" and "less secure" than before the U.S. got involved.
  • "Countless lives are now being saved as the result of our negotiation with Turkey," the president said. He asserted that no American lives were lost and no American blood was spilled as a result of the troop withdrawal.
  • The president took aim at Europe, once again accusing American allies of not doing enough to contain the threat from the region.
  • Trump insisted that the U.S. had defeated "100 percent" of ISIS. He thanked the Kurds for their support in that fight.
  • Hitting back at his critics, Trump said that they wanted him to launch another war in the region that would have required "tens of thousands" of U.S. troops. "Today's announcement validates our course of action with Turkey that only a couple of weeks ago was scorned and now people are saying, 'Wow, what a great outcome. Congratulations,'" he said.

Read a full transcript of Trump's remarks here.

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US President Donald Trump speaks about Syria, next to US Vice President Mike Pence(L) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo(R) in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, DC, October 23, 2019. SAUL LOEB/AFP