How not to fight against an ally's enemy

MARKAR ESAYAN
Published

It seems necessary to tell the U.S., EU and NATO that all three supposedly allied and friendly powers left Turkey alone during hard times and at a time when it is engaged in a struggle for survival. Although Turkey is facing the worst effects of the destructive civil war in Syria, with its southern border ablaze, NATO has not even raised a finger for this valuable ally. Apparently, Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty does not apply to Turkey. Furthermore, rumors about possible exclusion of Turkey from NATO were circulated. Veiled threats were hurled at a most difficult time.

Perhaps the most inaccurate way to describe the state of Turkish-U.S relations during the past five years is an alliance and strategic partnership with trust and friendship. We are passing through a destructive process in which none of these hold true. And I must say it once again that relations have not collapsed and the channels of negotiation are still open because Ankara governs Turkey better than Washington governs the U.S.

Currently, the U.S. openly supports a terrorist organization, namely the People's Protection Units (YPG), which is waging a war against Turkey both within the country and along its borders. The Pentagon's 2019 budget allocates $550 million for support for the YPG. Around 5,000 truckloads of weapons have already been delivered to the YPG and these weapons are being used against Turkey.

Intelligence reports submitted to U.S. Congress have confirmed once again that the YPG is the fool. This is what the U.S. also wants. That is why it has tried to present the YPG as a friendly and legitimate group under various generic names like the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Almost the whole Western media has mobilized to portray terrorists in a sympathetic light.

And then there is the July 15 coup attempt and its perpetrator, the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). Coup trials in Turkey are concluded one after another. There are an enormous number of documents and information at hand. But that group's headquarters is still in Pennsylvania. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım made a very apt analogy in a speech, saying: "When the U.S. was attacked on Sept. 11, did we ask the White House for evidence that al-Qaida was behind it? We gave unequivocal support from the start and sent troops to Afghanistan."

It would be suitable to make similar remarks about the EU, as well. Turkey is trying to prove its rightfulness while Afrin has become the PKK's new base and Turkish and Kurdish children are killed in their beds in rocket attacks from across the border. Ankara is trying to get this well-known fact accepted. What we see is an attitude that virtually disregards a country's right to protect its border security and the lives of its citizens as enshrined in international treaties. Obviously, that stance is shamefully unprincipled, an example of double standards.

Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield first, then the Idlib operation and most recently Operation Olive Branch in Afrin on Jan. 20. It took action after the U.S. failed to keep a lot of promises it has made since former President Barack Obama's term and as the new president, Donald Trump, seemed unlikely to make meaningful changes to U.S. policies on Syria and Turkey.

What strikes us most here is that although Turkey shoulders the whole burden alone and although its allies are expected to be apologetic at the least, there are complaints about Operation Olive Branch. It is very clear that there is a plan to create a PKK statelet in northern Syria. This project is pushed despite Turkey's opposition while Ankara's legitimate moves to fight terrorism and ensure border security are questioned.

Hence, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's criticism of the U.S. that dates back to Obama's presidency give an idea about the past. For instance, while it was possible to stop a dictator who kills his own people and to prevent a civil war in Syria through the U.N. well before Daesh emerged, this option was insistently shunned. Bashar Assad crossed Obama's red line when he viciously killed thousands of people with chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta. It was fairly possible to intervene against the Damascus regime via the U.N. through a coalition force and facilitate political transition there. It was high time to implement the U.N.'s Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine. In other words, first the bloodshed should have been stopped and then responsibility should have been taken to enable political transition and development. Indeed, that is what Turkey had argued from the started.

Instead, Russia's way was cleared in the region. It was given the initiative over the issue of chemical weapons. The crime has gone unpunished and Daesh and the YPG were given free rein across the region by denying support to the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The reason was either political shortsightedness or an intention to ensure the disintegration of Syria. Maybe two or more factors were at work simultaneously.

Ankara's Syria concerns

Turkey has followed a consistent policy from the start regarding its stance on Syria. Its priority is to secure Syria's territorial integrity. Through a new constitution and political transition in Syria, all refugees must be allowed to return to their homes first and then a new political system must be established with the consent of the peoples of the country. Of course, Turkey cannot tolerate terrorist groups' control over territories along its 951-kilometer border with Syria. No sovereign country can accept this.

All these arguments and Ankara's perception of an existential threat regarding the issue were explained to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his latest visit to Ankara. It is clear that this is not related to the Kurdish issue. Turkey was the only country to struggle for the democratic rights of Syrian Kurds before the civil war in its contacts with the Damascus regime. It had presented various reform proposals to Damascus for introducing a multiparty, secular-democratic constitutional system and offered help. Turkey had established a peaceful and cooperative relationship with former Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani in northern Iraq at the same time. It had also implemented many substantial reforms within Turkey for the democratic demands of its Kurdish citizens.

Certainly, relations with the U.S. and NATO are critical and valuable for Turkey. Ankara has always acted responsibly regarding its allies' problems, such as in the refugee crisis and cooperation in the fight against Daesh, but has not seen the same from them. In return, promises that were given by Western states were not kept, and instead, Turkey faced hostility. If they wanted, they could eliminate terrorist groups in a short time. Moreover, they have given supported to some terrorist groups, such as the U.S. backing the YPG.

As Turkey is not going to retreat from its rightful stance, it is clear who should re-evaluate the situation and restore confidence. We have to redefine a lot of concepts and international organizations, with the definition of terrorism and terrorist groups coming first. That seems necessary for a more optimistic world.

There is an expression in Turkish: Those who grasp an obvious fact very belatedly are said to discover America again. Does that saying not apply well to Syria?

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter