TUR­KEY’S SYRIA PLAN IS THE ONLY VI­ABLE PLAN

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page - BURHANETTiN DU­RAN

FOR the next cou­ple of months, ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Ankara on Syria could be bumpy due to the ob­sti­nacy of all of Pres­i­dent Trump’s men

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s de­ci­sion to with­draw from Syria un­leashed chaos within his ad­min­is­tra­tion. Trump’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser John Bolton ru­ined his Tur­key trip’s chance of suc­cess by mak­ing a con­tro­ver­sial state­ment in Tel Aviv. He left the Turk­ish cap­i­tal with noth­ing to show for it – ex­cept proof of the Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units (YPG) mili­tia’s links to the PKK ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion. By turn­ing down Bolton’s re­quest for a meet­ing, Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan re­it­er­ated that his sole point of ref­er­ence was his agree­ment with his U.S. coun­ter­part. Trump ex­pected Bolton, Gen. Joseph Dun­ford and spe­cial en­voy James Jef­frey to ne­go­ti­ate the United States with­drawal’s terms with the Turks. The three men didn’t have a plan, so all they did was hear Tur­key’s de­mands and com­mit­ment to launch a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion against the PKK’s Syr­ian af­fil­i­ate.

By con­trast, the Turk­ish pres­i­dent pre­sented his plan to re­solve the Syr­ian con­flict af­ter the U.S. with­drawal in an op-ed es­say for The New York Times and called for the cre­ation of a “sta­bi­liza­tion force” in­clu­sive of non-PKK Kurds fight­ing among the YPG’s ranks. Er­doğan said that pop­u­larly elected coun­cils will gov­ern Syr­ian ter­ri­to­ries cur­rently un­der YPG or Daesh con­trol and noted that lo­cal coun­cils in pre­dom­i­nantly Kur­dish parts of the coun­try will con­sist of a Kur­dish ma­jor­ity. He added that ex­pe­ri­enced Turk­ish of­fi­cials would ad­vise lo­cal coun­cils on mu­nic­i­pal af­fairs, ed­u­ca­tion, health care and emer­gency ser­vices. Fi­nally, Er­doğan re­it­er­ated Tur­key’s com­mit­ment to fight­ing Daesh as well as work­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously with Rus­sia and the United States.

That pro­posal was the strong­est sign of Tur­key’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to do the nec­es­sary thing to end the civil war next door. In­ter­est­ingly enough, Trump’s men have sim­ply ig­nored the Turk­ish pro­posal, which is akin to the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s 2013 re­quest from the Turks. Since the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch op­er­a­tions, Tur­key es­tab­lished that it is able and will­ing to sta­bi­lize north­east­ern Syria af­ter the YPG’s erad­i­ca­tion. By ex­ten­sion, the United States could fa­cil­i­tate a last­ing so­lu­tion to the Syr­ian cri­sis by co­or­di­nat­ing its ac­tions with the Turks. In a nut­shell, the only way to coun­ter­bal­ance the Rus­sian, Ira­nian and regime in­flu­ences over Syria is for Trump and Er­doğan to work to­gether.

It was Obama left­overs that blocked a Turk­ish pro­posal to lib­er­ate Raqqa, the so-called caliphate’s cap­i­tal, in co­op­er­a­tion with the United States. This time around, Trump’s own team is un­der­min­ing their boss in an at­tempt to pro­tect the YPG mil­i­tants and ad­dress the Is­raeli and Gulf con­cern over Tur­key’s grow­ing power. It would ap­pear that they have more tricks up their sleeves.

The op­po­nents of co­or­di­nat­ing the U.S. with­drawal with Tur­key present two al­ter­na­tives: First, they say that Wash­ing­ton could hand over ar­eas that it seeks to va­cate to Arab forces, backed by Egypt and the Gulf states. That plan is flawed be­cause there is no one to im­ple­ment it. Weak­ened by the dis­as­trous war in Yemen and the mur­der of jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi, Saudi Ara­bia has noth­ing to of­fer but money. If the U.S. walks down this path, Ira­nian mili­tias and regime forces will fill the power vac­uum.

Oth­ers main­tain that the ad­min­is­tra­tion must ne­go­ti­ate the terms of the U.S. with­drawal with the Rus­sians. Al­though Moscow would cer­tainly wel­come that move, Ira­nian mili­tias and regime forces would end up fill­ing the power vac­uum again. In other words, the Amer­i­cans would give the YPG, which it armed as part of a self-de­scribed “tem­po­rary” en­gage­ment, to the Krem­lin and Bashar As­sad. Con­trary to con­ven­tional wis­dom, Tur­key and Rus­sia could reach an agree­ment on the YPG’s fate. Here’s what Bolton, Pom­peo and Jef­frey need to un­der­stand: Un­less co­or­di­nated with Tur­key, the U.S. with­drawal will cre­ate new op­por­tu­ni­ties for Iran, leav­ing the Mid­dle East un­der Rus­sian in­flu­ence. In the end, all re­gional pow­ers, in­clud­ing Is­rael, would turn to Moscow for di­rec­tion.

It re­mains un­clear how the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion would ex­plain to the Amer­i­can peo­ple its de­ci­sion to hand over Syria and the rest of the re­gion to Rus­sia. At this point, Tur­key’s plan for Syria is the only work­able plan. For the next cou­ple of months, ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Ankara could be bumpy due to the ob­sti­nacy of all the pres­i­dent’s men. Re­gard­less, Er­doğan and Trump could make the Turk­ish plan work against all odds.

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