The last we heard of the President’s proposed plan to withdraw American troops from Syria was that the White House was in a “pause” on the subject while details were worked out with Turkey. John Bolton, seemingly contradicting what Donald Trump had announced, said that they were working with Turkey to assure the safety of the Kurdish YPG forces which have been fighting alongside our troops against ISIS in Syria. Once those assurances were locked in and ISIS was driven out, the withdrawal could move forward.
That sounded like a pretty good compromise, assuming one is willing to trust anything that the Tyrant of Turkey says. But the process appeared to break down last night. Bolton was in Turkey to meet with senior officials (including Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself) and hammer out the details, but Erdogan released a statement saying that no such agreement was even on the table and he wasn’t about to offer any sort of protection to “terrorist groups,” a category that he includes the YPG in. (Haaretz)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday the U.S. administration has made “a serious mistake” by demanding that Turkey agree to protect the United States’ Kurdish ally, the YPG militia, which Ankara views as a terrorist group. YPG’s fight against the Islamic State “is nothing but a huge lie,” he added.
Referring to comments made by U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton in Israel on Sunday, Erdogan said Turkey would not accept them, claiming they contradict a “clear agreement” he had with U.S. President Donald Trump.
“Elements of the U.S. administration are saying different things,” he said.
It’s not hard to see just how badly those meetings went. Erdogan went one step further and snubbed Bolton by refusing to take a meeting with him.
While I hate to say it, there’s an old axiom about lying down with dogs and getting up with fleas that applies here. Erdogan is not an honest broker in these matters and has proven himself to be a fickle ally at best. His persecution of the Kurds dates back many years (he blames them for everything, including the failed coup a couple of years ago) and he shows no signs of changing his stripes now.
The idea that Turkey was going to offer protection to the YPG after we pull out of Syria was always far-fetched at best. In some ways, we might consider ourselves lucky that Erdogan is being upfront about it now and not making promises he has no intention of keeping just to get the United States out of his back yard.
But where does that leave us now? The President has announced that we’re pulling out of Syria but one of his top advisers has stated that we’ll wait until the safety of our Kurdish allies has been assured. That assurance is not forthcoming and the entire world knows that Erdogan will likely attack them as soon as we’re out of the country. So is the withdrawl now delayed to some undefined time in the future which may never come as long as Erdogan is in control of Turkey? If that’s the case, President Trump will be forced to back down on his promise of withdrawal, and you know how much he hates to do that.
The alternative is to make good on the promise anyway and leave the Kurds to be destroyed. It’s one of those Devil and the Deep Blue Sea scenarioss, and I don’t envy the White House here. But to be honest, the President brought this on on himself. He’s placed far too much faith in Erdogan all through his term in office and the Tyrant of Turkey can simply not be trusted to do the right thing.