The G20 and the US’s Syria policy

Published 19.11.2014 02:21

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu attended the G20 summit held in Brisbane, Australia, and this important event was observed by the editors-in-chief of Turkey's most well-known newspapers. They reported on Davutoğlu's contacts with various leaders and his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama. The summit hosted world leaders and critical subjects such as global warming and the Ukrainian crisis were discussed during the summit. But among these subjects, the most critical ones for Turkey were the crisis in Syria and the U.S.'s strategy fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and Syrian President Bashar Assad. Davutoğlu has revealed some of the details of that meeting to the media. The details show that the U.S. is getting close to Turkey's line of thought regarding the Syrian crisis. However, this should be held with caution because from the beginning of the crisis the Obama administration was inconsistent, and this makes it hard for Ankara to rely on momentary handshakes. It should not be forgotten that the U.S. resembles a big vessel and big vessels make slow maneuvers. But all in all, considering Obama's speech that he delivered on the summit's last day, it seems that the U.S. is changing its policy toward Assad.

The New York Times has reflected Obama's thoughts on Syria and the Assad regime as follows: "Mr. Obama denied reports that he had ordered a formal review of the strategy against the militants in Syria. He said that while the White House was constantly reviewing its tactics in both Syria and Iraq, the basic elements of the strategy remained in place. Rebuffing a growing chorus of skeptics of his strategy, the president said the United States would never make 'common cause' with President Bashar al-Assad in the campaign against [ISIS] because that would alienate the country's Sunni Muslim population. 'We have communicated to the Syrian regime that when we operate, going after [ISIS] their airspace that they would be well advised not to take us on,' Mr. Obama said. 'Beyond that there is no expectation that we are going to enter an alliance with Assad. He is not credible in that country.' At the same time, he said, the United States was not exploring ways to remove Mr. Assad from office – a recognition that the campaign against the [ISIS] fighters had given Mr. Assad breathing room. Any lasting political settlement in Syria, he said, would have to involve Iran and Turkey, as well as the Assad government's primary patron, Russia."

As can be understood from these remarks, Obama appears to be denying a U.S. policy change regarding Syria for the sake of remaining consistent. Any other comment indicating otherwise would be a sign of weakness. But he clearly indicates that there will be no cooperation with the Assad regime and identifies the regime as "unreliable." On the other hand, by indicating that there will be no specific action to topple the Assad regime, Obama is trying to minimize the growing opposition against U.S.-led airstrikes. All things considered, things will be not easy for the Assad regime. And the arguments indicating that Assad is getting stronger thanks to ISIS have lost their validity. It seems that the U.S. is embarking on a path where it will be more cooperative with Turkey.

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