One hundred and twenty hours isn't a lot, but U.S. officials are hoping it's at least enough to get more Syrians and Kurds out of harm's way. Hunkered down on the front lines, the families who haven't fled got word of the five-day cease-fire like the rest of the world. For some, it was too late. The shelling from Turkish forces on the border town of Qamishli had already taken innocent lives, including a young teenage boy. Others had already fled, piled on motorcycles and other in cars to shelters several towns away.
While reports on the ground suggest that some shelling continued, deputy assistant to the president Adam Kennedy joined me on "Washington Watch" to talk about the breaking news and what the pause on the invasion really means. For now, he explained, the priority for America is "working with our Kurdish allies to make sure that they are no longer in harm's way and it make sure that all humanitarian concerns get addressed over this period. We want to make sure that the Turkish government and their incursion in Syria are not exacerbating or worsening the situation."
With Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both at the U.S. embassy in Turkey, the administration "secured a commitment from Turkey," Adam explains, "that no military action is taken against the town of Kobane, which is a primary center for many of the religious minorities in that region." As he says, Turkey has already invaded. They told the president they were going to move in "no matter what." "The goal now is to get our soldiers and allies out of the crossfire," Adam said, and "stop some of that collateral damage from spreading."
"We do want the pressure kept on Turkey," Adam insisted. President Erdogan went in over U.S. protests. "We want to make sure they understood the severity of that. At the same time, we are seeing, I think, very good progress today. We want to build on that." One way the U.S. can ratchet up the heat on Turkey is by passing Senator Lindsey Graham's (R-S.C.) bill. If America cares about protecting this small haven for religious diversity, we cannot trust Turkey to oversee that -- or any sort of humanitarian treatment for minorities. Under Graham's proposal, even stronger sanctions than the president imposed would take effect -- putting a real squeeze on the Turkish economy until Erdogan reconsiders.
For now, Christians everywhere need to fervently pray for religious freedom and safety in Syria, especially as the uncertainty hovers like a cloud over the region. Even with the cease-fire, no one knows how the new balance of power will shake out, which will be a major factor moving forward. In the meantime, God's providence and protection is desperately needed along the miles and miles of border towns in the crosshairs.
Join us in standing with the faithful in the Middle East. If you haven't already, make sure you sign our petition to President Trump in support of Senator Graham's bill, the Countering Turkish Aggression Act.