Trump Backs Away From Syria Safe Zone Order
Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, Jan 28 2017
Reports throughout the week that Pres Trump intended to order the State Dept and Pentagon to create plans for the establishment of safe zones inside Syria appear to have fallen through at the last minute, as the final version of the executive order said to contain the clause no longer makes any reference to it. The safe zone order, which was said to still be “pre-decisional,” had fueled considerable concern among Pentagon officials who said the idea was “ambiguous.” It was in draft versions reported on of the executive order restricting immigration and visas for visitors from Muslim countries. Trump was reportedly to have said he intended to “do” safe zones in Syria on humanitarian grounds, but the administration offered no real details on what they intended to do. Moreover, the Pentagon discussed the matter with the expectation the order would come, with a spokesman urging people to give Trump a chance to articulate the plan. Officials have not, however, discussed the fact that the language was absent from the executive order Trump ultimately signed, leaving open the question of whether this represents simply a temporary back-down from the idea, or a complete abandonment of the plan.
Putin and Trump agree to try to rebuild Pindo-Russian ties, cooperate in Syria
Andrew Osborn, Alexander Winning, Reuters, Jan 28 2017
MOSCOW – Pres Putin and Pres Trump agreed to try to rebuild Pindo-Russian ties and to cooperate in Syria when they spoke for the first time since Trump’s inauguration, the Kremlin said on Saturday. Pindo-Russian relations hit a post-Cold War low under Obama, and Trump has made clear he wants a rapprochement with Moscow if he can get along with Putin, who says he is also keen to mend ties. The Kremlin said in a statement:
Both sides demonstrated a mood for active, joint work on stabilizing and developing Russian-American cooperation. They agreed to work on setting up their first meeting. The chat took place in a positive and business-like tone.
For Putin, who faces possible re-election next year, an easing of sanctions would be a major coup. But the Kremlin made no mention of the subject being discussed, referring only to the two underlining the importance of restoring mutually beneficial trade and economic ties. Trump said on Friday he was only in the early stages of considering whether to lift the sanctions, as British PM May, other foreign officials and Congressa critturs cautioned that such a move would be premature. The most tangible outcome of the phone call, as the Kremlin described it, appeared to be what it said was an understanding that jointly fighting international terrorism was a priority and that the two nations should cooperate in Syria. The Kremlin said:
The presidents spoke in favor of setting up genuine coordination between Russian and Pindosi actions with the aim of destroying Islamic State and other terrorist groups in Syria.
That could signal a major policy change as, for now, cooperation is largely limited to coordinating to ensure that the two countries’ air forces operate safely and that the risk of accidental confrontation or collision is minimized. The Kremlin said that Trump and Putin had agreed to establish “partner-like cooperation” when it came to other global issues such as Ukraine, Iran’s nuclear program, tensions on the Korean peninsula and the Israeli-Arab conflict. They had also agreed to stay in regular contact and had both said they wanted each other’s nation to flourish. The Kremlin said:
He reminded him that our country has supported Pindostan for more than two centuries, was its ally in two world wars and now views Pindostan as its most important partner in the fight against international terrorism.