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Pompeo: 'If we have to, we will strike Syria'

Pompeo: 'If we have to, we will strike Syria'

Another sign of his outsider status - he was caught by surprise when Trump announced he was withdrawing USA troops from Syria and - after a critical worldwide response - pushed the president to delay the process for as long as possible.

The comments raised eyebrows in the United States and overseas not the least because Trump himself is being criticized for his ambiguous plan announced last month to pull USA troops out of Syria.

The top USA diplomat was in Egypt on the latest leg of a whistle-stop regional tour aimed at shoring up Washington's Middle East policy following President Donald Trump's shock decision to withdraw 2,000 United States troops from Syria. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis quit over it. Any rollback of Trump's message of a precipitous withdrawal from Syria will be well-received if believed by Jordan's astute leader, King Abdullah II, for whom Islamic State, the Syrian civil war and especially the 666,000 Syrian refugees who have poured across his border pose an existential threat to his country.

Regional leaders have been clear about their fear of Iran, which has launched scores of attacks against USA allied forces in Syria and elsewhere in the years since the Obama administration freed up billions of cash windfalls for the Islamic Republic as part of the now-defunct nuclear deal.

Washington has repeatedly said its Kurdish allies will remain safe despite the withdrawal. Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which has been fighting for independence from Turkey, particularly in the eastern part of the country, for decades.

The trip also follows National Security Adviser John Bolton's visit to Turkey this week, where he was snubbed and then publicly criticized by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the shifting USA conditions for a withdrawal from Syria.

Asked in Erbil if Erdogan's pushback on the protection of the Kurds puts the withdrawal at risk, Pompeo told reporters: "No".

"We're having conversations with them even as we speak about how we will effectuate this in a way that protects our forces, makes sure that the Americans, as we withdraw, are safe, and we will complete the mission of taking down the last elements of the caliphate before we depart", he said.

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Cavusoglu said Ankara would fight the YPG whether or not the United States withdraws from Syria.

Why did Pompeo mention Iran?

Some 2,000 USA military personnel are reported to be in Syria, and have been involved in fighting Islamic State militants.

But the muddled pronouncements from the Trump administration, which swiftly walked back the planned withdrawal of troops from Syria, has triggered regional concern.

In Baghdad, Pompeo met Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Hakim, Speaker of Parliament Mohammed al-Halbousi and President Barham Salih.

The U.S. "will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot" from Syria and will bolster efforts "to bring peace and stability to the long-suffering Syrian people", he said. The senior administration official said the US will defeat remaining IS fighters on the way out to prevent a resurgence and that the USA will oppose any mistreatment of opposition forces, such as the SDF, that fought with the United States against IS. The demand, which Bolton said came from Trump, immediately drew criticism from Turkish officials.Bolton concluded his visit to Turkey with more than two hours of discussions with officials Tuesday, but without meeting Erdogan.National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said Erdogan called Bolton's Turkish counterpart, Ibrahim Kalın, during their meeting and told him to send his regards to Bolton.

"We will need the support of the United States", he said, adding that one of the purposes of his meeting with Pompeo was, "to express gratitude to the USA for support over the years, certainly".

"By most accounts, Trump´s Middle East policy has made a messy Middle East even messier", said Aaron David Miller on Twitter, a former United States diplomat and now an analyst at Woodrow Wilson Center. "We will raise those issues, and how to deal with regional issues altogether and deepen our economic and educational relations with the United States".


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