Ankara’s po­si­tion af­ter Trump with­draws US troops

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Opinion - ENES YALMAN*

It is now ev­i­dent that U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has de­cided to with­draw U.S. ground troops from Syria and it is ex­pected that all the 2,000 troops will cease the mil­i­tary ser­vices they had played in the war. Ac­cord­ing to Trump, Daesh has been “de­feated,” and thus there is no point for the army to re­main in Syria. Crit­ics have ar­gued that Trump's de­ci­sion was ill-in­formed since it was his own de­ci­sion and it sur­prised even his ad­vis­ers in the Pen­tagon and other U.S. State Depart­ment of­fi­cials.

Sev­eral news­pa­pers im­me­di­ately pub­lished his tweet af­ter he de­cided on the Syria pullout. "We have de­feated [Daesh] in Syria, my only rea­son for be­ing there dur­ing the Trump Pres­i­dency," Trump tweeted.

Many crit­ics have claimed that Trump’s move is pre­ma­ture since there are still Daesh ter­ror­ists in Syria and thus the with­drawal could lead to the resur­gence of Daesh and to some it could even lead to an­other war that will be caused by Turkey.

This crit­i­cism, how­ever, is un­true since the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment is fully in con­trol and has fur­ther ap­plauded the move by Trump to with­draw his troops. More­over, in the process of ap­plaud­ing the U.S, the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment has taken a very pos­i­tive stand by en­cour­ag­ing other par­ties like France to with­draw their troops.

Turkey is look­ing to have freer rein to take aim at the fight­ers of the Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units (YPG), who are strongly sup­ported by the United States. For­eign Min­is­ter Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has given cau­tion to France in a state­ment when he said, "If France is staying to con­trib­ute to Syria's fu­ture, great, but if they are do­ing this to pro­tect the (mili­tia), this will bring no ben­e­fit to any­one."

In other words, the pres­ence of France is not wel­come if they are still in the war play­ing the part that they are cur­rently play­ing (pro­tect­ing the YPG mili­tia), which will de­ter progress in­tended for Syria by the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment. France and Bri­tain, on the other hand, seem not to be will­ing to with­draw their troops. France has stated that their forces will re­main in Syria and con­tinue fight­ing. How­ever, this may be dif­fi­cult be­cause France and Bri­tain de­pend on op­er­a­tional sup­port by the United States and so, it is ev­i­dent that they are less likely to con­tinue hav­ing their troops in Syria.

THE LINK BE­TWEEN THE YPG AND PKK

Turkey’s con­vic­tion is that the YPG is a mili­tia that works along­side other ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions cre­ated by the PKK. It must also be noted that the PKK is a ter­ror­ist group that has been out­lawed as early as 1984. More­over, this same group was placed on the ter­ror­ist black­list by the likes of the the U.S., EU and Turkey.

Tak­ing over to en­sure the de­vel­op­ment of Syria, Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan has de­clared that Turkey will be in the fore­front of fight­ing against Daesh and the YPG. Con­se­quently, Pres­i­dent Er­doğan also de­cided to con­front France be­cause there is in­creas­ing ev­i­dence that France has been work­ing with the YPG. More­over, they were found to be sym­pa­thiz­ers of these il­le­gal groups.

While all these in­ci­dences are tak­ing place, the lo­cal elec­tions in Turkey that are to be held in March are ex­pected to have an im­pact on the in­ci­dent at hand since the polls may lead to ei­ther the fail­ure or the suc­cess of Er­doğan.

How­ever, as things stand cur­rently, there are in­di­ca­tors that he is likely to win the elec­tions as op­posed to what crit­ics have claimed. Ac­cord­ing to the crit­ics, the Syr­ian is­sue will lead Er­doğan to lose power in the elec­tions; but this is not true.

Er­doğan’s suc­cess in the polls is likely to be wel­comed by many in Syria as well as the Turk­mens of Syria who cur­rently have be­come very cru­cial play­ers in the coun­try. The Turk­mens have been re­ported to be more en­gaged in po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue, they are also op­posed to sep­a­ratist ide­olo­gies or sys­tems in the coun­try, and they, among oth­ers, are cur­rently cel­e­brat­ing the progress that has been made by Turkey in declar­ing the coun­try free from ter­ror­ists. To them, this is a pos­i­tive move that is cre­at­ing room for de­vel­op­ment.

Re­cent ob­ser­va­tions are con­firm­ing that the Syr­ian war is sub­sid­ing and nor­malcy is re­turn­ing. Most of the peo­ple are happy with the var­i­ous play­ers who have done their best to rid the state of ter­ror­ists. As such, there has been a lot of sup­port for Turkey. These are key point­ers to the suc­cess that will be ac­counted to the de­ci­sions made by the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment. As such it is clear that the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment's po­si­tion on re­gional pol­i­tics in­volv­ing Syria is that, the ter­ror­ist groups have been de­feated and European coun­tries are ex­pected to with­draw es­pe­cially those that have been aid­ing groups con­sid­ered as ter­ror­ists.

Still, on is­sues of the elec­tion, there are in­di­ca­tors that in the next poll, there is a like­li­hood of a strong op­po­si­tion for the Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party (AK Party) and Er­doğan. How­ever, al­ready as things are, there are a lot of in­di­ca­tors that the AK Party is likely to win due to in­creased sup­port on the role that Turkey has played in the Syr­ian war. The me­dia it­self can be used as a mea­sur­ing tool. As re­ported on the ground, the dom­i­nant party and fa­vorite can­di­dates are the AK Party and Er­doğan re­spec­tively. As such, the crit­ics’ opin­ion that the party is likely to lose and that the war in Syria may be a rea­son for the fail­ure of Er­doğan are mis­lead­ing.

When it comes to ex­pert opin­ions, peo­ple such as Jef­frey D. Sachs have ex­plained that, even though the move by the U.S. is be­ing con­sid­ered as the be­gin­ning of an­other war in Syria, it is, in fact, a be­gin­ning to last­ing peace if proper ne­go­ti­a­tions are held.

Fur­ther­more, most of the con­flicts that have been aris­ing in the Mus­lim states have been a re­sult of the Amer­i­can pres­ence in these states. Such ob­ser­va­tions have fur­ther ap­plauded the po­si­tion that Turkey has taken along with the U.S. with­drawal. Some ex­perts have ar­gued that Amer­ica was not gen­uinely look­ing to cre­ate peace in Syria.

Fi­nally, Turkey will have to take on the two other na­tions – Rus­sia and Iran – that are in­volved in shap­ing up the fu­ture of Syria. These two self-ap­pointed guar­an­tors to Syria also have a role to play, and most po­lit­i­cal ex­perts have claimed that the po­si­tions that they have to place in Syria should not be taken for granted. It must be noted that Rus­sia's in­volve­ment in Syria has been due to the long­time al­liance that they have had.

Iran, on the other hand, got in­volved in this bat­tle from as early as 2011 when they chose to give sup­port to the Syr­ian regime. Iran has thus been the de­ter­rent to Is­rael and Saudi Ara­bian pres­ence in Syria. There­fore the only ap­proach that Turkey can take, which it has al­ready de­cided, is to agree with the other guar­an­tors to con­trib­ute to the fu­ture of Syria.

Cur­rently, there is a com­mit­tee al­ready be­ing set that is rep­re­sented by mem­bers from all the three guar­an­tor na­tions. Their role is to en­sure that the peace process is suc­cess­ful.

* Di­rec­tor of the In­ter­na­tional Of­fice Depart­ment, Ibn Hal­dun Univer­sity

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