Ankara's position after Trump withdraws US troops

ENES YALMAN
Published 13.01.2019 23:54
Updated 14.01.2019 16:49

It is now evident that U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to withdraw U.S. ground troops from Syria and it is expected that all the 2,000 troops will cease the military services they had played in the war.

According to Trump, Daesh has been "defeated," and thus there is no point for the army to remain in Syria. Critics have argued that Trump's decision was ill-informed since it was his own decision and it surprised even his advisers in the Pentagon and other U.S. State Department officials.

Several newspapers immediately published his tweet after he decided on the Syria pullout. "We have defeated [Daesh] in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency," Trump tweeted.

Many critics have claimed that Trump's move is premature since there are still Daesh terrorists in Syria and thus the withdrawal could lead to the resurgence of Daesh and to some it could even lead to another war that will be caused by Turkey.

This criticism, however, is untrue since the Turkish government is fully in control and has further applauded the move by Trump to withdraw his troops. Moreover, in the process of applauding the U.S, the Turkish government has taken a very positive stand by encouraging other parties like France to withdraw their troops.

Turkey is looking to have freer rein to take aim at the fighters of the People's Protection Units (YPG), who are strongly supported by the United States. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has given caution to France in a statement when he said, "If France is staying to contribute to Syria's future, great, but if they are doing this to protect the (militia), this will bring no benefit to anyone."

In other words, the presence of France is not welcome if they are still in the war playing the part that they are currently playing (protecting the YPG militia), which will deter progress intended for Syria by the Turkish government. France and Britain, on the other hand, seem not to be willing to withdraw their troops. France has stated that their forces will remain in Syria and continue fighting. However, this may be difficult because France and Britain depend on operational support by the United States and so, it is evident that they are less likely to continue having their troops in Syria.

The link between the YPG and PKK

Turkey's conviction is that the YPG is a militia that works alongside other terrorist organizations created by the PKK. It must also be noted that the PKK is a terrorist group that has been outlawed as early as 1984. Moreover, this same group was placed on the terrorist blacklist by the likes of the the U.S., EU and Turkey.

Taking over to ensure the development of Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has declared that Turkey will be in the forefront of fighting against Daesh and the YPG. Consequently, President Erdoğan also decided to confront France because there is increasing evidence that France has been working with the YPG. Moreover, they were found to be sympathizers of these illegal groups.

While all these incidences are taking place, the local elections in Turkey that are to be held in March are expected to have an impact on the incident at hand since the polls may lead to either the failure or the success of Erdoğan.

However, as things stand currently, there are indicators that he is likely to win the elections as opposed to what critics have claimed. According to the critics, the Syrian issue will lead Erdoğan to lose power in the elections; but this is not true.

Erdoğan's success in the polls is likely to be welcomed by many in Syria as well as the Turkmens of Syria who currently have become very crucial players in the country. The Turkmens have been reported to be more engaged in political dialogue, they are also opposed to separatist ideologies or systems in the country, and they, among others, are currently celebrating the progress that has been made by Turkey in declaring the country free from terrorists. To them, this is a positive move that is creating room for development.

Recent observations are confirming that the Syrian war is subsiding and normalcy is returning. Most of the people are happy with the various players who have done their best to rid the state of terrorists. As such, there has been a lot of support for Turkey. These are key pointers to the success that will be accounted to the decisions made by the Turkish government. As such it is clear that the Turkish government's position on regional politics involving Syria is that, the terrorist groups have been defeated and European countries are expected to withdraw especially those that have been aiding groups considered as terrorists.

Still, on issues of the election, there are indicators that in the next poll, there is a likelihood of a strong opposition for the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and Erdoğan. However, already as things are, there are a lot of indicators that the AK Party is likely to win due to increased support on the role that Turkey has played in the Syrian war. The media itself can be used as a measuring tool. As reported on the ground, the dominant party and favorite candidates are the AK Party and Erdoğan respectively. As such, the critics' opinion that the party is likely to lose and that the war in Syria may be a reason for the failure of Erdoğan are misleading.

When it comes to expert opinions, people such as Jeffrey D. Sachs have explained that, even though the move by the U.S. is being considered as the beginning of another war in Syria, it is, in fact, a beginning to lasting peace if proper negotiations are held.

Furthermore, most of the conflicts that have been arising in the Muslim states have been a result of the American presence in these states. Such observations have further applauded the position that Turkey has taken along with the U.S. withdrawal. Some experts have argued that America was not genuinely looking to create peace in Syria.

Finally, Turkey will have to take on the two other nations – Russia and Iran – that are involved in shaping up the future of Syria. These two self-appointed guarantors to Syria also have a role to play, and most political experts have claimed that the positions that they have to place in Syria should not be taken for granted. It must be noted that Russia's involvement in Syria has been due to the longtime alliance that they have had.

Iran, on the other hand, got involved in this battle from as early as 2011 when they chose to give support to the Syrian regime. Iran has thus been the deterrent to Israel and Saudi Arabian presence in Syria. Therefore the only approach that Turkey can take, which it has already decided, is to agree with the other guarantors to contribute to the future of Syria.

Currently, there is a committee already being set that is represented by members from all the three guarantor nations. Their role is to ensure that the peace process is successful.

* Director of the International Office, Ibn Haldun University

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