Axios reporter Jonathan Swan was not having any of Fox’s efforts to claim there must be a Turkey-ceasefire pony somewhere based on the piles of you-know-what that are the result of Donald Trump’s cutting and running in Syria.
The surprisingly critical panel discussion on yesterday’s Special Report began with a clip of Trump boasting about the “cease fire” Mike Pence brokered in Turkey. That clip was followed by the Turkish foreign minister calling the agreement “a pause” and “not a ceasefire.”
Anchor Bret Baier tried to put the best face on it:
BAIER: OK, well, both sides are calling it different things, but the fighting has stopped in northeastern Syria, and that's the key. … This agreement, whatever you call it, the Turkish side will pause their operation called Peace Spring for 120 hours, five days, in order to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw from that safe zone that you see there. In return the U.S. will not pursue any additional sanctions during the ceasefire, and once the ceasefire becomes permanent, all sanctions will be lifted.
The problem is there are some in the U.S. military, senior sources, telling us on this, quote, "There is no way the Kurds can leave that security zone. There are thousands of Kurds who live in what the Turks want as a buffer zone. That's where these fighters' families live. That is where they are from."
Even Washington Free Beacon’s Mathew Continetti sounded rather pessimistic. He said the “ceasefire” is “preferable to the chaos” but added that “the record of ceasefires, specifically in Syria, is not very reassuring about what the future might hold.” However, he excused Trump by saying the U.S. “didn't really have much leverage” to prevent Turkey from invading Syria.
When Swan was asked about “the fallout at the White House,” he didn’t pull any punches. Trump’s withdrawal gave Russia, Syria's Bashar al-Assad and Turkey what they wanted. Swan didn't mention anything the U.S. got out of it.
SWAN: It's not so much fallout as it's becoming apparent to everyone in the administration that the U.S. -- I don't think it's a fear. I just think it's a reality that the U.S. is not going to have much leverage in this region because they are pulling out. And that just makes common sense. The Russians are moving in, Assad is moving in, Turkey now has this area as its own in Syria. Why wouldn't they like that? That's what they wanted.
The real question is, are the Kurds going to vacate the area or are they going to keep fighting? And the big point is the U.S. is pulling out, and the point at which the U.S. can actually have real leverage over Turkey has probably passed, because Donald Trump said yesterday, I don't really care. Let them fight in the sand, let them fight. Let the Russians come in. It's great. I don't want to take care of it. So the idea that the U.S. is going to be a key player in manipulating the situation, I think that that ship has already sailed.
While he was at it, Swan swatted down “fear” that ISIS might reconstitute itself because “that's already happened.”
There wasn’t much good news for Trump as the discussion moved on to talk about Congressional Republicans.
Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley pointed out that a recent resolution in the House of Representatives condemning Trump’s Syria withdrawal shows that “a large group of Republicans are willing to buck the president on foreign policy. They don't trust his judgment.”
Riley added that such criticism could “spill over” and damage Trump’s fight against impeachment as well as his re-election effort (assuming there is one). “He wants a united caucus on foreign policy, at least. He does not have one,” Riley said.
So Baier tried to get the panel to call the “cease fire” a “win” for Trump.
BAIER: Can you say that today is a win for President Trump, sending Pence and Pompeo there, getting something, whether it's going to hold or not, isn't today a win for him?
SWAN: Again, it depends how you define a win. This situation happened, Turkey has moved in. They have not got -- the ceasefire is based on Turkey getting exactly what they want, which is the Kurds clearing out or they die. And I think to call it a win is sort of juvenile in some ways to say it's a win, because let's just see what happens in five days. There's a lot that could happen here.
Baier backed off. “A lot could happen, definitely.”
Continetti threw Trump a lifeline by blaming the Democrats.
CONTINETTI: There's a lot of opportunism going on here, especially from the former Obama officials and some of the Congressional Democratic Caucus condemning Trump for actions that they have been calling for, for some time. The fact is we decided our fate in Syria a long time ago during the Obama administration when America, because of our bad experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, we decided we did not want to take a forward-leaning posture in Syria.
“That’s a fair point and one that gets overlooked here,” Baier said.
The criticism of Trump continued in the second part of the discussion, especially with regard to the choice of his own resort for the G7.
Watch an entire panel discussion in which nobody endorses Trump’s Syria withdrawal below, from the October 17, 2019 Special Report.