Published: Sun, January 13, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Iranian Foreign Ministry Summons Polish Diplomat Over 'Anti-Iran' Summit

Iranian Foreign Ministry Summons Polish Diplomat Over 'Anti-Iran' Summit

The threats have intensified in recent days as the US begins the withdrawal process from Syria on President Donald Trump's orders.

The U.S. announcement that Mr. Trump's ordered withdrawal is underway might be enough to convince Turkey to hold fire against America's Kurdish battleground allies, for a while, but Erdogan still wants to go after them, and he could make good on his threats - even on a small scale - at any time.

Mr Bolton later laid out several conditions for the withdrawal, which suggested that the four-month schedule agreed by Mr Trump could slip.

The withdrawal began with shipments of military equipment, US defence officials said.

After media reports suggesting the departure of U.S. forces had begun, the Pentagon later said no troops had yet withdrawn and stressed that the battle against ISIS was continuing as US-backed forces try to capture the group's last remaining pockets of territory in Syria. Other U.S. officials later made clear that the pullout did not yet include troops.

A second U.S. defence official told AFP the military had conducted a number of preparations for a deliberate withdrawal.

They will "focus on Middle East stability and peace and freedom and security here in this region, and that includes an important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence", the top U.S. diplomat said.

Either Turkey gave us some guarantees without a meeting, or the Kurds in Syria just found out how mercurial American support can be.

Senior US officials were shocked too, among them Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who quit in protest. It said a convoy of about 10 armoured vehicles, in addition to some trucks, pulled out from Syria's northeastern town of Rmeilan into Iraq.


The Syrian Observatory also reported that the SDF is bolstering its forces on the border with Turkey "in anticipation of any surprise attack".

The battle against die-hard jihadists in remote areas along the Iraqi-Syrian border and the hunt for IS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the world's most wanted man, could last indefinitely.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday the summit - to be held in Warsaw on February 13-14 - would focus on stability and security in the Middle East, including on the "important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence". But in a speech on the same day, he ironically added: "When America retreats, chaos often follows".

In response, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rebuffed the comments, calling them a "serious mistake".

Relations between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies have been strained over US backing for the Kurdish YPG, which Turkey views as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) waging a decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil.

Turkey considers the YPG to be part of the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers Party, a separatist group in eastern Turkey which has been labeled a terrorist organization by Turkey, the USA and the European Union.

The group has already started reaching out to Damascus and its Russian sponsor.

A senior Kurdish politician said the Kurds are aware of the USA beginning the withdrawal, describing it as "America's decision".

Since his surprise announcement last month, Trump has stressed any withdrawal would be coordinated, gradual and "prudent".

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