Mike Pompeo: Trump ready to use force against Turkey ‘if needed’

Pompeo: Trump ready to use force against Turkey ‘if needed’

Secretary Mike Pompeo in Jerusalem  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Secretary Mike Pompeo in Jerusalem
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the Trump administration's decision to withdraw US troops from northern Syria but added that if needed, they would be prepared to use military force against Turkey, even though "we prefer peace."
In an interview that aired on CNBC on Monday, Pompeo was asked how the recent move by the administration was consistent with his previous criticism of former US President Barack Obama. In the past, the secretary attacked Obama for failing to act over the violation of the red-line the president himself had drawn against Syrian leader Bashar Assad's use of chemical weapons.
The interviewer Wilfred Frost also quoted to Pompeo a speech he gave saying that "West Point taught me a basic code of integrity: if we commit American prestige to an action our allies depend on us to follow through."
Pompeo claimed that the case was "fundamentally different."
"Turkey didn't — the country that Turkey invaded, they conducted an incursion into, is Syria, a sovereign nation. We worked with Kurdish friends, the SDF up and down the Euphrates River," he responded.
"We jointly took down the threat of the Caliphate of ISIS," Pompeo added. "It was to the benefit of the SDF, it was to the benefit of the United States of America, and indeed, to the benefit of the world. The commitment that we made to work alongside them we completely fulfilled."
He further stated that the US continues to fulfill its commitment to counter ISIS all over the world.
Turkey launched its cross-border offensive on Oct. 9, saying it aimed to set up a roughly 30 km (20 miles) "safe zone" along 440 km of border, driving back Kurdish-led forces and preparing to settle up to 2 million Syrian refugees it currently hosts.
The Turkish offensive, currently halted for a 120-hour pause which expires late on Tuesday, has focused on two Syrian border towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al Ain, which lie roughly in the middle of the border strip Turkey is targeting.
According to the Kurdish authorities, the operation has killed over 215 civilians, including several children.
Pompeo said that Turkey's incursion happened against Trump's wishes and that the US entered into a conversation with Ankara to "reduce the risk to the very people you suggested we somehow abandoned."
When asked whether the Kurds are not a sovereign nation meant that their land and their lives could be sacrificed, Pompeo said that the work that they did aimed precisely at the opposite result, and that he was "fully convinced that that work saved lives."
"Not only the lives of the [Syrian Democratic Forces] fighters, but the ethnic minorities in the region," Pompeo added.
The secretary did not enter into details of what it would take for Washington to use military force against Turkey, a NATO member. He said that their preference goes to economic and diplomatic powers, but they would nonetheless e ready also to resume to force. 
"We prefer peace to war," Pompeo told CNBC. "But in the event that kinetic action or military action is needed, you should know that President Trump is fully prepared to undertake that action."
Pompeo said that being partners in NATO did not mean to be consistent with what America wishes. He brought the position on Iran and the nuclear deal as an example.
"You have seen NATO partners taking a very different approach to the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal. We think it's terrible. Three of our closest friends chose a different path. It doesn't mean that you break off a relationship."
 
Reuters contributed to this report.