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Intel: How Trump’s choice as envoy to Turkey could complicate US Syria policy

Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, David Satterfield, speaks during the 11th Annual International Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) Conference in Tel Aviv, Israel January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen - RC1EBEED50F0

The Donald Trump administration’s announcement that it plans to nominate veteran diplomat David Satterfield as ambassador to Turkey could shake up US policy in Syria. The post has sat vacant for more than a year as relations between Washington and Ankara have deteriorated over the Pentagon’s backing of a Syrian Kurdish group in the fight against the Islamic State.

Why it matters: Satterfield’s confirmation could pit two influential diplomats against each other as the Trump administration tries to hammer out a deal — with or without Turkey — to establish a safe zone to protect the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria’s northeast. That effort is led by Jim Jeffrey, who serves as both US representative on Syria engagement and envoy to the global coalition against the Islamic State. Jeffrey, who served as ambassador to Turkey from 2008 to 2010, is seeking support from US allies to provide troops for that effort. At the Munich Security Conference this weekend, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan urged US allies to stay in the fight in Syria even as the United States targets an April withdrawal.

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