US pressure on Turkey is set to increase as Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prepare to depart for Turkey today. The high-profile US delegation will arrive in Ankara to hold discussions on the Turkish military operation currently underway in northeastern Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared the Turkish offensive will continue. He has also ruled out the possibility of a ceasefire even as US and international criticism continues to deepen. Erdogan had initially refused to meet with Pence but now has reversed course and agreed to meet with the vice president.
Meanwhile, on the ground in Syria US troops continue their withdrawal from the northeast. Russian troops are moving into the area in an effort to fill the void, and limit Turkish territorial gains. This new Russian presence in the former US protectorate area will open the door for Syrian government forces to make further territorial gains and bring even more parts of Syria under the control of Damascus.
The US withdrawal is raising questions among America’s allies across the Middle East, especially concerning the United States’ commitments to their security. Russia’s leadership is already moving to take advantage of the situation. Vladimir Putin was in Saudi Arabia Monday, and the United Arab Emirates yesterday, ostensibly on state visits. Timing is everything in international relations, and Putin’s visits came as US troops were leaving their bases near Manbij, and Russian forces were moving in.