What does Er­do­gan have that Trump wants?

The Saline Courier - - OPINION -

So let me get this straight: Pres­i­dent Trump or­dered the re­moval of U.S. troops from north­ern Syria, know­ing that turkey would in­vade, seize and oc­cupy Kurd-oc­cu­pied land.

But now, af­ter Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan did just that, killing Kurds who had been U.S. al­lies in the fight against the Islamic State, Trump is throw­ing a tar­iff tantrum and sic­c­ing sanctions on Turkey.

On Mon­day, Trump signed an ex­ec­u­tive order that raised tar­iffs on Turk­ish steel im­ports to 50 per­cent and halted ne­go­ti­a­tions on a $100 bil­lion trade deal with the coun­try.

If this weird lit­tle do-si-do with Er­do­gan was the re­sult of sober con­sid­er­a­tion, then the pres­i­dent of the United States isn’t only a morally cor­rupt syco­phant to mur­der­ous dic­ta­tors, he’s bat-guano crazy. But you knew that.

There’s no point pre­tend­ing that Trump didn’t know what Er­do­gan in­tended to­ward Syria. The two lead­ers spoke on the phone on Oct. 6, and Trump soon af­ter or­dered the with­drawal of U.S. troops from north­ern Syria and, what do you know, Turkey in­vaded.

The State Depart­ment said Trump doesn’t sup­port the in­cur­sion, which may or may not be true. In any case, say­ing you don’t sup­port it doesn’t mean you didn’t de­lib­er­ately cre­ate cir­cum­stances that made such an in­cur­sion pos­si­ble.

How cred­u­lous must one be to ac­cept that these events were co­in­ci­den­tal?

But Trump is a wheeler-dealer. He wouldn’t cut such a deal with­out some­thing in re­turn. He al­ready has two tow­ers in Is­tan­bul, so that’s prob­a­bly not on his to-do list. What does Er­do­gan have that Trump wants?

It’s any­one’s guess at this point. But Trump has blood on his hands, which means Amer­ica has blood on hers. What­ever mo­ti­vated our moody pres­i­dent, the con­se­quences were ob­vi­ous. The im­me­di­ate ef­fects are well­known, but the longer-term rip­ple ef­fects could plague the re­gion, not to men­tion the United States’ stand­ing in the world, for years to come.

Thanks to Trump and Er­do­gan, it is now more likely the Islamic State will be­gin re­or­ga­niz­ing. The U.S. pull­out also strength­ens the regime of Syrian Pres­i­dent Bashar al-as­sad and, by ex­ten­sion, Rus­sia and Iran.

Nat­u­rally, the will­fully ig­no­rant and im­pul­sive Trump is­sued his order to with­draw troops de­spite re­peated warn­ings from his mil­i­tary and for­eign pol­icy ad­vis­ers. It seems plain enough that he didn’t heed their ad­vice be­cause he didn’t want to hear it.

Bot­tom line: Trump ap­pears to have wanted to please Er­do­gan. The sanctions and tar­iff hike may be merely part of the setup. Thus, while ten­sions rise in the Mid­dle East — and the United States’ foes jockey for po­si­tion to ben­e­fit from the af­ter­math — Trump has cre­ated cause for plau­si­ble de­ni­a­bil­ity. Hey, I thought it was the right thing to do. We can’t be in­volved in end­less wars.

As we’ve learned over the past three years, Trump does what Trump wants. He’s the CEO of Amer­ica, af­ter all. Then, once he un­leashes havoc, he del­e­gates to oth­ers the bur­den of his con­se­quences: “Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Rus­sia and the Kurds will now have to fig­ure the sit­u­a­tion out,” he tweeted.

For starters, on Sun­day, around 785 peo­ple con­nected to the Islamic State es­caped from a de­ten­tion camp.

The im­pe­tus be­hind all this chaos and car­nage ap­par­ently was Er­do­gan’s wish to rid him­self of some of the 3.6 mil­lion Syrian refugees lan­guish­ing in Turkey. He and Trump surely could find com­mon cause in that sen­ti­ment. Un­der Er­do­gan’s plan, Turkey would re­set­tle and over­see about 1 mil­lion refugees along the newly con­fis­cated bor­der area. From his per­spec­tive, the Kurds liv­ing there are ter­ror­ists, though they fought along­side U.S. and Euro­pean troops against the Islamic State. Thus, Er­do­gan is solv­ing two prob­lems, thanks, it seems, to Trump’s gen­er­ous ac­qui­es­cence.

From Trump’s point of view, what’s the big deal? U.S. troops leave the bad­lands and let the oth­ers fight among them­selves. The big­ger pic­ture re­veals that the pres­i­dent has fur­ther alien­ated our al­lies, made the United States less trust­wor­thy, sur­ren­dered U.S. lever­age in the area, and en­abled what is es­sen­tially a cam­paign of eth­nic cleans­ing.

Trump, ap­par­ently, feels em­pow­ered while di­rect­ing geopol­i­tics by the seat of his pants, feed­ing his ra­pa­cious ego with the ad­mi­ra­tion of to­tal­i­tar­i­ans such as Kim Jong Un of North Korea, Ro­drigo Duterte of the Philip­pines and the Saudi royals. But, Er­do­gan, what’s he got?

One shud­ders to think: Ei­ther Trump is wag­ging the dog to cre­ate a dis­trac­tion. Or, not to state the ob­vi­ous, he isn’t the “ex­tremely sta­ble ge­nius” he claims to be.

KATH­LEEN PARKER

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