Turkey has a right to defend itself against DAESH, PYD: US can like it or lump it

THE EDITORIAL BOARD
ISTANBUL
Published 30.08.2016 20:01
Updated 30.08.2016 21:28

Since 2008, U.S. President Barack Obama has risked his country's reputation as "the indispensable nation" for the sake of reducing the U.S.'s footprint in the Middle East. Having prematurely withdrawn from Iraq to breathe new life into extremists, Obama further destabilized the region by changing his mind about Syria time and again. His administration's Syria policy has been so messed up that at one point the Pentagon-backed People's Protection Units (YPG) attacked the CIA-backed moderate rebels. Having refused to put boots on the ground to stop the bloodshed for years, the Obama administration now wants to prevent Turkey's decisive move to end the war next door just to save their favorite terrorist organization in the Middle East.

First things first: Turks are sick and tired of being told by the same people who didn't have the guts to enforce their own red lines in Syria what they can and cannot do. Having accomplished more in six days than many coalition allies did in six years to defeat DAESH, the government has no reason to care whether our fight against DAESH breaks the hearts of the terrorists beloved by a handful of people across the pond.

Turkey isn't interested in a long-term military engagement in northern Syria. Troops will and should remain in the area until Turkish authorities are convinced that neither DAESH nor the YPG have the power to place Turkish lives at risk. Turkey has no problem with the fellow Kurdish people in northern Syria and Iraq, as evidenced by the close trade and diplomatic ties with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). When the YPG no longer acts as a terrorist group and no longer poses a threat to border security and for the region's people, it will not be considered a legitimate target by Turkey.

Now for the time being Turkey has skin in the game and boots on the ground and how our allies deal with the YPG and other terrorist groups is their own business. Keeping in mind that Obama won't be around to see how the story ends, it would be wiser for him to focus on more important things such as decorating his new apartment or delivering stump speeches at Hillary Clinton's campaign events.

In recent days, the Obama administration has placed additional strains on Washington's relations with Turkey by issuing thinly veiled threats against a NATO ally at a time when Russia and Iran silently monitor developments. After a YPG spokesman publicly defied U.S. Vice President Joe Biden by refusing to move to the eastern side of the Euphrates, Brett McGurk, Ben Rhodes and other mid-level officials stepped in to make concessions to a terrorist group that condemned Turkey's campaign against DAESH before DAESH itself. At this point, many Turks find it difficult to not only understand who exactly speaks for the U.S. government but also how the White House expects to be taken seriously.

Moving forward, U.S. officials need to take a deep breath before trying to score political points by criticizing Turkey, the only NATO ally that officially committed ground troops to the anti-DAESH campaign. Keeping in mind that Washington doesn't have a lot of friends around here, it would be unwise to alienate the Turks, who are trying to stay focused on removing DAESH from their border as America's errand boys issue threats and strike at their troops.

Unless the United States is willing to make a meaningful contribution to ongoing efforts, it should stop acting as a state in disarray.

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