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Outgoing Syria envoy reflects on Turkey, the Kurds and what everyone got wrong

In a long-ranging interview with Al-Monitor, James Jeffrey looks back on his efforts to incorporate fragments of Obama-era initiatives into a cohesive Middle East policy.

In August 2016, former US Ambassador to Iraq and Turkey James Jeffrey signed a public letter with more than 50 other veteran national security officials warning against the election of then-candidate Donald Trump.

“We are convinced that in the Oval Office, he would be the most reckless President in American history,” read the letter.

Nonetheless, two years later the career diplomat had come out of retirement to help the Trump administration incorporate the fragments of Obama-era initiatives in Syria into a cohesive Middle East policy.

Under the authority of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, administration officials had devised a plan under which the US military’s counter-Islamic State (IS, or ISIS) force would remain in Syria at least until the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad went through with UN-backed elections. On top of their Congressionally-mandated mission of fighting IS, US forces would continue to deny Assad access to Syrian oilfields, which were located in areas controlled by Syrian Kurdish fighters backed by the United States, and to obstruct the Iranian military’s access to the Levant.

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