On December 19, 2018, US President Donald Trump ordered the start of a “full” and “rapid” withdrawal of US troops from Syria. The decision, which came from a tweet in Twitter, caused a great shock in Washington and among the allies of the United States, especially as it coincided with the announcement by White House officials of the president’s intention to reduce US forces operating in Afghanistan by half .The political and military leaders in Washington fear that the decision to withdraw from Syria will leave a vacuum to be filled by opponents of the United States, specifically Russia and Iran, and here we wonder about the implications of the US withdrawal from Syria on Turkey?
In the opinion of the political analyzes specialized in the Turkish issue, the decision of US President Donald Trump to withdraw from Syria, which had a major impact in the region as an earthquake , reveals a deep disagreement between him and his officials in the administration, and he faces opposition from lobbies and pressure groups of Israel. They point out that the hawks of liberals and Republicans in the United States see US coordination with Turkey during the withdrawal from Syria as a defeat for their country, while some critics see the withdrawal as a gain for Turkey. Some of Turkey’s extremist enemies forget that Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria is not for the sake of Turkey but because Washington has become stuck in Syria and can no longer afford it. In addition, the United States and its domination of the world as a single pole are at stake, and it is now in need of a full-time position to strengthen its position.
They point out that President Trump believes that the US withdrawal from Syria is not an option he wants, but a reality imposed by the current situation in Syria, adding that Trump is working to stand up to face the Russian and Chinese tide in the world and that he wants Turkey to be in the Western camp in this context. They added that Trump wanted to cooperate with Turkey during his campaign, which made Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pay special attention to the new US strategy in Syria. They say that US General James Matisse made a presentation to US President Trump on US strategies, according to the New York Times, Trump said after the detailed presentation, in which Matisse saw Turkey as a new competitor, “these are the things I do not want to do.” They note that many of the opinions that support Trump are enthusiastic about the US withdrawal from Syria, and believe that America has thus stopped taking over the dirty work for Israel and some of the Gulf States.
They see Trump’s decision as a defeat for Israel and a victory for Turkey, so the Israeli-backed parties are crying out, considering the decision a political defeat. They add that Turkey has to be careless to the irrational talk of the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, who are trying to give legitimacy to the terrorist organizations, justifying this in order to protect the Kurds. And they conclude by saying that the attempts by Mossad chief Yoshi Cohen to conclude an agreement involving Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are doomed to fail.
While other political analyzes see the US withdrawal from Syria as boosting the influence of Russia and Iran. With the gains made by the Syrian regime in recent months on the ground, with their support, a US withdrawal now means that the United States will lose its place at the table of future political compromises and will upset the balance on the ground. It will also weaken Turkey’s negotiating position. The decision to withdraw will enable Iran to strengthen and expand its influence in the region, although Trump’s administration has made to contain Iran a top priority for its strategy in the region, including Syria. In September 2018, Bolton said that the United States would not withdraw from Syria unless the Iranian forces and their associated militias withdrew. Perhaps this is one of the main reasons in which Bolton and Pompeo objected to Trump’s decision, both hawks of the administration, when it comes to Iran. A White House official has said Washington will continue to use other elements of power with Iran, including economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure, but it is doubtful whether these elements alone will succeed in curbing Iran’s growing influence in the region.
Kurdish militants, and their supporters in Washington, like McGowork, fear an American withdrawal would mean crushing them by Turkey. According to a Trump administration official, McGurk tried to persuade Trump’s top officials to allow Kurdish fighters to communicate with the Assad regime in an attempt to reach an agreement that would protect them from a Turkish military operation. However, his efforts appeared to have little success, and this forced him to submit his retirement date to the end of December. The Kurds considered Trump’s decision “a stab in the back.” John Bolton, the US national security adviser, had conditioned Ankara on giving assurances on the safety of Kurdish allies before US troops were withdrawn from Syria.
It was a “meeting without unanimity” that ended US National Security Advisor John Bolton meeting with Turkish officials, who discussed the issue of the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria. Observers described Bolton’s visit to the capital Ankara as a tactic aimed at winning time and dodging Turkey, while ruling out an American withdrawal from the East Euphrates region, with Ankara losing confidence in US President Donald Trump’s vague, uncertain and hesitant decisions. US national security adviser John Bolton left Turkey “angry” after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to meet him at the presidential compound in Ankara. The Turkish president has strongly criticized the US administration, describing Bolton’s remarks during his visit to Israel on Syria as “a grave mistake and can not be accepted by Turkey. Also Erdogan criticized , who spoke before members of his Justice and Development Party in parliament, “plurality of voices ” in US administration pointing out “Although we have reached a clear agreement with US President Donald Trump on the east of the Euphrates, there are different voices coming out of his administration that say things are different,” .
He said that “the fighting of the units of protection of the Syrian Kurdish people to the organization ” ISIS ” is “nothing but a big lie,” adding that “the allegations of targeting the Kurds (by Turkey) is a bad allegation .” He stressed that “the units of protection of the Kurdish people and the PKK are two sides of one coin” , And that “Turkey can not give up in the issue of People’s Protection Units ,” noting that “the PKK rebels can not be representatives of the Kurds.” He explained that “thanks to the efforts of our heroic soldiers to eliminate the” ISIS “, Syria entered the phase of the elimination of the scourge of this organization quickly, but we can not accept the message sent by Bolton from Israel. “The Turkish president declared that his country ” will start very soon to move against the terrorist organizations in the Syrian territory, “noting that” Turkey is the one that bore the biggest burden of the humanitarian crisis in Syria. A state that is truly fighting terrorism, “and that the United States, in contrast,” is still procrastinating in the case of the Syrian Manbij. ”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that planning for the US withdrawal from Syria must be done carefully and with the right partners. Turkey is the only country that has “the strength and commitment to carry out this mission.” Erdogan said in an article in The New York Times, the day before his meeting with the security adviser US President John Bolton, that Turkey is committed to defeating the organization ISIS “and other terrorist groups” in Syria. He noted that the “President Trump made the right decision to withdraw from Syria,” specifying the “comprehensive strategy” of Turkey to eliminate the causes of extremism in Syria. Erdogan wrote that Trump’s call to withdraw from Syria was right . However, the withdrawal of the United States must be carefully planned and implemented in cooperation with the appropriate partners to protect the interests of the United States, the international community and the Syrian people. ”
The Turkish president warned that the international community must avoid making the same mistakes it made in Iraq. Erdogan added “The lesson of Iraq, where this terrorist group (the Islamic state) was established, is that the declarations of early victory and reckless actions tend to stimulate create problems more than to solve them. He added “The first step is to establish a stabilization force that includes fighters from all parts of Syrian society. Only a diverse body can serve all Syrian citizens and enforce law and order in various parts of the country. ”
Turkish Defense Minister Khulosi Akar said on Friday that his country had prepared plans for the upcoming military operation east of the Euphrates in Syria. During his inspection of Turkish military units stationed on the border with Syria, Akar stressed that “terrorists will be buried east of the Euphrates in the pits they dug in at the proper time and place similar to what was done in the previous operations stressing the strong determination of Ankara to end the terrorism whether inside or outside its borders . “The Turkish minister stressed that” the terrorists are our only target, “he said:” We have a Manbij and east of the Euphrates, We have prepared the necessary plans in this regard and preparations are going on intensely. ”
The Turkish Foreign Minister, Mouloud Gaooshoglu, announced Thursday that his country will launch a military operation against the Kurdish insurgents in eastern Euphrates in Syria, pointing out that the operation does not depend on the US withdrawal from Syria. He said in an interview with ” NTV ” channel , It is unrealistic to expect the United States to withdraw all the weapons it gave to its ally, the Kurdish People Protection Units, which Ankara regards as a terrorist group,”. Zawashoglu added . “The United States has been told that Turkey will provide all logistical support during the withdrawal of US forces from Syria, which was announced by the US president Donald Trump last month. He went on saying “The terrorists should not be allowed to take advantage of the vacuum that will be occurred during the withdrawal of US forces,” pointing out that “The PKK has tried to exploit everyone to this day.” He stressed that “if the road map was applied in Manbaj as agreed, the management of the area would have been in the hands of its inhabitants.”
Turkish Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies