Last week, Turkey launched its third offensive to northern Syria, motivated by national security concerns and the need to secure its southern border. Although the move triggered various opinions and reactions all over the world, one among them stands out for being the most consistently imbalanced: the policies of the U.S. Sharing a series of conflicting remarks each day since the launch of the operation, the U.S. has left everyone questioning the country's policy in Syria while causing damage to the country’s ties in the region. In the end, with an aim to find a way out from this complexity, Turkish and U.S. officials came together yesterday in Ankara.
“All the equations in Syria have collapsed. I believe we are going through the most critical, sensitive period of Turkey-U.S. ties in the last 60 years,” said Ali Çınar, the president of the U.S.-based Turkish Heritage Organization, underlining the significance of the circumstances.
“It is really sad to see that these two NATO allies are now in such a tense crisis,” he added.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan yesterday received U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the Presidential Complex in the capital Ankara. The meeting started at 3:40 p.m. They were expected to discuss Turkey's ongoing anti-terror operation in northern Syria.
Pence arrived in Ankara earlier today leading a delegation, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
According to Çınar, it is crucial for Pence and Pompeo to meet with President Erdoğan.
“In fact, both sides continued to have talks through phone calls and bilateral meetings since the operation launched despite the disagreements. Still, the U.S. is in Ankara for a solution way and to stop the operation,” Çınar said.
While Erdoğan was meeting with Pence, other Turkish officials such as Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar also came together with the visitors from the U.S.
Çavuşoğlu yesterday met at the Foreign Ministry with the delegation, including National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien and James Jeffrey, the U.S. special envoy for the anti-Daesh coalition.
O'Brien and Jeffrey are members of the U.S. delegation led by Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visiting to discuss Turkey's anti-terror operation in northern Syria, according to Trump.
Çavuşoğlu's closed-door meeting with O'Brien and Jeffrey lasted for 45 minutes, and no further details were given.
Akar also met with O'Brien on Wednesday in Turkey's capital. According to the Turkish Defense Ministry, they discussed the latest developments in northern Syria and the planned safe zone there; they also exchanged views on defense and security issues.
"Information emerged that terror groups are intending to use chemical weapons and blame it on the Turkish military," Akar said after the meeting. "The Turkish military does not have any chemical weapons in its inventory, everybody knows this," the minister said.
Akar noted that Turkey gives "great importance" not only to the security of the country and nation but also to the security of other religious and ethnic groups such as Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Christians, Arameans, Yazidis and Chaldeans living in the region.U.S. aims to end the operation
In Çınar’s opinion, what the U.S. aims via this visit is to end Turkey’s operation with an attempt to recover its ties with the PKK’s Syrian affiliate, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a terrorist group that Turkey is determined to clear from its borders.
“The U.S. wants Turkey to have a cease-fire with the YPG and for the operation to end immediately,” Çınar expressed. When it comes to the U.S.’ aim in the region in general, Çınar said it wants to “pursue its military and politic existence through YPG support.”
According to Çınar, Turkey is also very clear. “Until the YPG is wiped out from the region, the operation continues,” Çınar said regarding the country’s stance.
Çınar explained that in the U.S., the YPG is being seen as the best ally of the country by many segments of the society. That’s why they claim that the U.S. has betrayed this terrorist group. They especially claim that Iran and Russia will gain power in the region due to “Trump’s wrong policies.” “Turkey’s operation damaged the U.S.-YPG alliance, which caused several reactions,” he said.
Since the beginning of the operation, U.S. has been portraying an imbalanced stance that has caused many to question what is the country's real aim in the region. While the country's domestic audience in the U.S. sees its actions as the “wrong policies,” in Turkey, they is regarded as imbalanced since the remarks lack consistency.
According to Obaida Hitto, the Syria correspondent for TRT World, this “absurd” stance by the U.S. toward Turkey started during Obama administration.
“The people who were recommending Obama to act in this way are still in there. Trump receives advice from Pence for instance. He has the same strategy as the Obama administration. Once this policy had been made, Trump had no influence over it. There was no turning back once these policies were committed,” he said.Trump's letter criticized as absurd
Meanwhile, a letter penned by the U.S. President Donald Trump, thought by many to be a prank, received harsh criticism for bizarre language and was disregarded for diplomatic conventions recently. The letter was sent to Erdoğan ahead of Operation Peace Spring, warning the country to avoid carrying it out.
“Let’s work out a good deal!” Trump says in the letter, allegedly distributed by the president during a heated White House meeting while the House of Representatives voted to condemn the U.S. withdrawal of troops from northeastern Syria amid the Turkish operation.
Many people took to Twitter, questioning the authenticity of the letter, as they slammed Trump’s use of words and language. In the letter, Trump threatens to destroy Turkey’s economy as he tells Erdoğan to negotiate with a YPG “general,” who he says is “willing to make concessions” he has never made in the past.
“Don’t be a tough guy, don’t be a fool. I will call you later,” Trump says at the end of the letter.
Meanwhile, many Turkish users on Twitter said Turkey’s response to the letter has already been given by launching the operation in Syria. They noted that Erdoğan disregarded Trump’s warning and gave the go-ahead to Turkish troops.The White House also confirmed that the letter was truly sent to Erdoğan on Oct. 9.
Erdoğan had also said many times that he will never sit at the negotiating table with terrorists and expressed determination that Turkey will continue to carry out the operation until all goals have been achieved.
A parody letter written on behalf of Erdoğan was shared by hundreds of Twitter users, who mocked the U.S. president’s language.
Even the Kremlin found the move absurd, saying that the letter “contained highly unusual language, not usually used by heads of state in correspondence.”
Amid mounting bipartisan criticism in Washington over the pullout of U.S. troops from Syria, Trump denied he had given Turkey a "green light" to launch Operation Peace Spring against the YPG.
Trump told reporters at the White House that he was not surprised by Erdoğan’s decision to launch the operation as he’s wanted to do that for a long time and has been building up military presence near the Syrian border.
He reportedly showed the letter in response to criticism, saying that he did not give Ankara the green light to launch the operation.
"I view the situation on the Turkish border with Syria to be, for the United States, strategically brilliant," Trump said. "Our soldiers are out of there, our soldiers are totally safe. They've got to work it out.”
Also on Wednesday, Trump said the PKK — considered by Turkey to be affiliated with the YPG — is “much worse than Daesh,” as he noted the U.S. was making them "look like angels," which became yet another example of his unpredictable and indecisive policy in the region.
“Currently, it is not clear what the U.S. policy is,” Hitto said.
“One group comes and see some policies as the advantages and disadvantages and the other groups also come and do the same thing for other policies. So I don’t believe that the U.S. have any certain policy in Syria. There is the long-term strategy of being in the region somehow, for different reasons. But right now they seem to forget about that,” he added.U.S. replaced by Russia in region
“Previously, the U.S. said that the partnership with the YPG was temporary. However, despite saying that, it continued its alliance, which is why Turkey had to make an operation,” Çınar explained Turkey’s reasons behind the offensive.
“To be honest,” Çınar added, “In my opinion, for the U.S. to cooperate with Turkey, a NATO ally, in the region instead of the YPG would have been quite right. Now, Russia is the one that benefits from Turkey-U.S. failure to come to terms over Manbij for over a year. Now, is it good to see that Russia is in Manbij instead of U.S. bases?” He also added that YPG, which is actively contacting the regime, Iran and Russia, has already shifted sides and started to criticize the YPG.
Assad regime forces have taken full control of Manbij and its neighboring settlements, Russian Defense Ministry Said Tuesday.
"The Syrian government army has full control over the city of Manbij and nearby settlements," the Russian defense ministry said in a statement and added that Russian soldiers were also deployed to the district and were in contact with the Turkish army.
Meanwhile, while other officials were meeting with the visitors from the U.S., Turkey's presidential aide received yesterday a Russian delegation led by the country's special envoy for Syria in the capital Ankara.
Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın and Russian Special Envoy Alexander Lavrentiev , accompanied with other members of the delegation, discussed the latest developments in Syria, including Manbij and Idlib, and Turkey's ongoing counterterrorism operation in the country.
Both countries agreed to prevent the threat posed by all terror groups, including the YPG, the PKK, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Daesh, against Syria's territorial integrity and to maintain the existing cooperation between Turkey and Russia on this subject during the meeting.