Background Briefing: October 14, 2019


The Kurds’ Desperate Deal with Assad and Russia

We begin with the Syrian army backed by Russia moving in to occupy the Kurdish territory in Northern Iraq to blunt Turkey’s advance from the north following a desperate deal the Kurds struck with the Assad regime which the Russians brokered. Joining us is a leading expert on Syria, Joshua Landis, the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma who writes “Syria Comment”, a daily newsletter and blog on Syrian politics. We will look into the fate of the ISIS prisoners who Trump erroneously claimed the Kurds were deliberately setting free as well as assess what the Kurds had to give up to the regime in Damascus to be protected from being massacred by the Turks after the U.S. Special Forces abandoned them on orders from Trump.  With Nancy Pelosi now working with Senator Lindsey Graham on a bi-partisan and bi-cameral targeted sanctions package against Turkey’s President Erdogan, his family and his cronies, we  discuss the seriousness of Trump’s claim he would sign a sanctions bill and speculate on why Trump sold out the Kurds to reward Assad and Russia which now appears to hold all the cards in the region along with Iran.


Since Trump Does Not Act in America’s Interest but for Personal Gain, Is He Being Blackmailed by Putin and/or Erdogan?

Then with Putin visiting Saudi Arabia today receiving a lavish reception, we look further into Russia’s growing influence in the Middle East as Trump gives away the store to Putin. Juan Cole, a professor of Modern Middle Eastern and South Asian History at the University of Michigan and the author of the blog, Informed Comment at, joins us to discuss how, after being abandoned by Trump just as the Kurds were, the Saudis have turned to Putin to broker a deal with Iran after Iran rained down missiles on their big oil facility and the U.S. did not come to their rescue after buying untold billions of U.S. weapons. While past mistakes like the invasion of Iraq were bad enough, the current reckless and treacherous nature of Trump’s unfettered actions find many wondering whether we have a president who does not act in America’s interest but rather for personal gain, electoral advantage and possibly under the duress of blackmail from Putin and/or Erdogan.


Damaging Testimony from Trump’s Former Russia Expert on the National Security Council

Then finally we discuss what we know about the testimony today from Fiona Hill who was the Trump Administration’s Russia expert on the National Security Council until resigning recently. William Pomeranz, the Deputy Director of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Woodrow Wilson Center who also teaches at the Center for European, Russian, and East European Studies at Georgetown University, joins us to discuss the potential damage Trump faces as his shadow foreign policy run by Rudy Giuliani is exposed.