October 16, 2019
In Syria, Turkey and the US may be paying the price of a failed alliance.
Here is a fact: PYD is the Syrian wing of PKK, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, while YPG is the military branch of PYD. This is by no means a secret; and all US officials were obviously aware of it. Nonetheless, they cooperated with them for the sake of defeating ISIS in Syria.
When Turkey protested and pointed to the potential complications of this partnership, the Americans promised that this was a ‘temporary’, ‘tactical’, and ‘transactional’ co-operation with the Syrian Kurds. When Turkey offered military assistance in defeating ISIS, the Americans rejected it. They were apparently in search of a local group inside Syria to partner with. In the end, the US picked PYD/YPG to face the ISIS threat.
Neither temporary nor transactional
Here is another fact: Time proved that the US – PYD partnership was neither ‘temporary’ nor ‘transactional’.
I remember several panel discussions in Washington in the last few years where experts argued how bad of an idea it was to support a terror linked group without giving proper security assurances to Turkey, America’s NATO ally. In other words, the US policy was to dismiss Turkey’s concerns, while pursuing an agenda that was not transparent, working in close co-operation with an armed group inimical to Turkey, operating right across the Syria-Turkey border.
In times like this, when friends become foes, life has an ironic way of reminding you why you were friends in the first place.
Turkey’s operation into Northeast Syria and the US pulling its forces from the area triggered a set of events that resulted in the Syrian Government and Russia to step in and take control of a number of critical towns located near the Syrian border.
Here is a summary of what is unfolding in Syria and its impact on the US and Turkey:
As the Turkish operation unfolds, the Syrian government and Russia are reclaiming territory in North Eastern Syria that would be otherwise difficult to reclaim without the failure of the US-Turkey alliance.
Refocusing on the fundamentals
From this point on, Turks and Americans should seriously focus on rebuilding trust and explore ways to work together again as allies. Because what is at stake here is much more than a deal about Syria. It is about a longstanding alliance that spans decades which also defined the reach of western syle democracy in the Middle East.
|Cenk Karatas is a Washington based senior analyst on Turkish political affairs with a background in Turkish and international media, and a Fellow at the Global Policy Institute. He has been advising on Turkish politics for the leading Japanese daily The Asahi Shimbun for over a decade. As a journalist, he covered Turkish politics and regional affairs, reporting from conflict zones including Syrian and Iraqi borders, as well as Kurdish areas.