Turkey’s Syria Problem–Washington chides allies and rewards foes–17h.,b5
The arrest of two Turkish journalists who published information, almost certainly false, claiming that Ankara sends at arms across the Syrian border to the a Islamic State. He was also referring to the detention of 15 academics for signing a petition denouncing Erdogan’s counterinsurgency against the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK).
The Obama White House has been putting regional allies like Israel, Saudi Arabia, and now Turkey in the deep freeze. At the same time, it has excused Iran for setting fire to Saudi diplomatic missions and taking American sailors hostage. The Turks understood Biden’s remarks—and were likely correct in doing so—as being aimed less at free speech than at bullying them into following the administration’s lead on regional policies, especially on Syria.
Instead of a transitional governing body that would ease the Syrian dictator out, Kerry explained, there will be a national unity government—in other words. unity government. The Syrian conflict has created a domestic crisis, leaving Turkey to care for, by some estimates, nearly two million Syrian refugees. Many of them are here in Istanbul, where they have better chances of finding work but are competing for jobs and services with Turks in a difficult economy. If Assad stays in power, few of the refugees will return to be ruled by a man who has waged war against them. Turkey will be saddled with millions of refugees for the foreseeable future, maybe permanently, as much of Europe is starting to shut its doors.
Administration officials say they want Turkey to close its border with Syria to stop ISIS, but that’s code which the Turks have no problem understanding. It’s meant to implicate the Turks as supporters of ISIS will and embarrass them into doing what the White House really wants, which is to stop providing logistical support to anti-Assad fighters. Without Turkey, the rebels would no longer be able to mount a fight against Assad and his Iranian and Russian allies.
But the plan is anathema to Turkey. The PYD is the Syrian affiliate of the PKK—the U.S.-designated | foreign terrorist organization that broke a ceasefire in June to resume its three decades-long war against Turkey. In short, Biden was in Turkey to strong arm a longstanding ally into letting a deadly enemy control its long border with Syria. Biden insisted that the White House is not partnered with the PKK. The PKK is internationally accepted as a terror organization and will remain to be so,” he said here last week. He also recited the administration’s familiar talking points—that there’s a big difference between the PKK and the PYD. But that’s not how Turkey sees it.
PYD is part of the fight against ISIS, but from Ankara’s perspective that hardly makes them I benign. “Fighting against lSIS does not make PYD a legitimate organization.” In this case, the PKK agrees with Turkey—they and the PYD are the same thing. As one PKK fighter, PKK but different branches.” Indeed, just last week, it was the PYD, ostensibly distinct from the PKK, that called for attacks on “the institutions of the Turkish state all over the world.
The ostensible reason is that the United States will work with anyone to crush ISIS, even another terrorist group like the PKK. But that’s not the whole story. The fundamental requirement of any successful anti-ISIS campaign would be to get the region’s Sunni Arab on majority on board. But that won’t happen so long as Washington is indulging the Iranian axis, including Assad.
The path to defeating ISIS is hardly in the region. It would require empowering the Sunnis of Syria and Iraq. But there is no way to do this without a U.S. turn against Iran, the opposite of Obama’s policy. He gives every sign of sticking by Iran, even if it means undoing the alliance system in the Middle East built by Washington over more than half a century. The Obama pattern is more than clear: To secure his deal with Iran, he has been more than willing to downgrade allies and upgrade adversaries.
There are no allies or enemies, as Obama sees it, just forces that he will bring into balance with each other. Bring some in closer, like Iran or the PKK, and push some a little further away, like Israel and Turkey. Obama couldn’t be clearer: It’s time for everyone in the Middle East to learn how to live with each other, or at least find ways to deter each other, without having to call in America all the time to solve their problems.
Iran is a revolutionary regime, a destabilizing force that seeks to overturn the status quo. Then there’s the fact of the increasingly large and calamitous war in the middle of the region, which continues to pull all its neighbors into its gravitational field. There’s no way around it: For the sake of theory, Obama is endangering U.S. allies and interests and putting millions of lives at risk.
source-weekly standard (2/8/16), lee smith, joe biden, segei lavrov, ahmet davutoglu, wsj,