Donald Trump’s first war with an ally

American-Turkish relations historically have been an alliance of benefits and a tactical alignment

Erdogan and trumpDonald Trump’s first war with an ally

Turkey, NATO’s second largest force, is currently engaged in an invasion of Syrian territory, in a northern enclave occupied by Kurdish forces, which are backed by the United States. If this sounds confusing, it’s because it is. Significantly, Turkey started what is its first foreign invasion following the failed coup against President Erdogan. In what is said to be an open-ended conflict, the Turkish foreign ministry stated that it will continue until there is a safe zone in Syria and 3.5 million Syrian refugees can return to their country.

The U.S. and Russia both have forces in Syria, but Russia apparently moved its forces out of the Kurdish controlled city of Afrin in tacit consent to Turkey to begin bombing. A clash between U.S. backed forces and a U.S. ally is the cause of evident glee in Moscow. Both the U.S. and Russia have urged Turkey to show restraint to avoid escalation, and Turkey has said they have no intention of entering into a shooting match with either country.

The battle is ongoing, and on its fourth day there are reports of casualties and losses by the Turkish army. Approximately 50 civilians have been killed so far in Turkish bombardment and shelling, according to Britain’s Syrian observatory think tank. U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said that Turkish efforts were a distraction in the larger effort to vanquish Islamic militants.

This is a curious situation that lays bare the folly of U.S. foreign policy in Syria. Syrian Kurds have been the strongest American allies in Syria against the Islamic State. With the U.S. focus single-mindedly on defeating Islamic State, the strong secular Kurdish forces were a natural ally. After the defeat of ISIS, the United States identified the Kurds as a long-term stability factor in Syria, which led to plans to form a 30,000-soldier strong border force, mostly of Kurds, along the Syria-Turkey border. Unfortunately, that’s where the Turks and the Americans differed.

Turkey considers a Kurdish armed forces corps of any size in Syria to be detrimental to Turkish interests. The Kurds in Syria have similar alignments with Kurdish rebels across transnational boundaries within Turkey, Iraq and Iran. They are also a competent fighting force, which makes them a potential threat as an enemy. The question now is whether Turkey and the U.S. will come to blows over this. What if the Kurds retaliate within Turkey? What if Kurdish forces from Iraq and Iran plan attacks in Turkey? Will the Turkish invasion then fall prey to mission creep, and will Turkey come into direct conflict with U.S. forces stationed in Iraq?

Finally, the most important revelation in this situation is just how botched the U.S. policy in Syria has become. The United States, with questionable motives for being there in the first place, could have left matters to powers whose Middle East interests are far deeper. Instead, they betted on a wrong horse, and are not willing now to go all the way.

Now two logical paths lie ahead: First, the U.S. leaves the Kurds to their fate, which would be another case of deserting allies, like Egypt’s Mubarak, and would further damage the American reputation as an honest broker in the region. Second would be to support the Kurds and provide them with arms, thereby risking a clash with a NATO ally.

The scenario also provides further evidence that the U.S. stands powerless to stop its allies from their wars. The Saudi intervention in Yemen, and now the Turkish invasion of Syria highlight the loss of American power and willingness to go to war in a region that does not appreciate political impotence. American-Turkish relations historically have been an alliance of benefits and a tactical alignment, but interests may now differ beyond repair. The Turks want to muscle American presence out of the Middle East, and the American response will be observed closely by all major powers across the world.

Sumantra Maitra is a columnist with China.org.cn.
Source: China.org.cn, January 26, 2018

© Copyright 2018. China Internet Information Center

US Imperialistic Leadership Is World’s Primary Problem – Turkish Analyst

The number of countries in which a majority disapprove of US leadership more than tripled: from 15 countries in 2016 to a record 53 countries in 2017. The highest disapproval rating — 83 percent — was documented in Norway.

In Turkey, the level of approval of US policy has also declined, reaching 27 percent in 2017, compared to 29 percent the previous year, although there has been no significant change in opinion in the country since Trump’s inauguration. According to a poll conducted by BBC in 2005, 82 percent of Turkish citizens shared anti-American sentiment. Another survey by Gallup in 2007 showed that just 16 percent of Turkish citizens supported the US.

Ender Helvacıoğlu, a political observer from Turkey and chief editor of “Science and Future” magazine (Bilim ve Gelecek) told Sputnik that the substantial decline in Washington’s global approval rating and increasing anti-American sentiment in Turkey are not surprising. Helvacıoğlu’s statements reveal that he is more surprised by that the level of approval for US foreign policy is not lower than what is currently polling.

“In developing countries that are constantly being oppressed, there has long been a very low support for the policies of the US administration. The situation wasn’t that different when former presidents [George W] Bush and [Barack] Obama were in power. The tendency was just boosted by Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, but the reason is the US hostile policy in the Middle East and Latin America. The tendency is particularly tangible in Turkey,” the expert noted.

He added that the number of allies sympathizing with the US is dropping even in the West, and particularly in Europe. In that regard, Trump’s personality has played a role. Although the policy of the Obama administration was seen by some as hostile toward other nations, it however cultivated a public image as supporting progress, democracy, western values and advancements in science and technology. But with his reckless moves, Trump has now completed the destruction of the image of America in the western world.

“For the international community, the new US administration is not anymore a source of hope for solving fundamental problems of humanity. In fact, the US is being viewed as the main source of these problems,” Helvacıoğlu said.

“I believe that it has always been that way,” he observed, adding, “it’s just that with Trump it is now on full display. The cat is out of the bag. Trump is very open and bold, he either doesn’t see the need or simply can’t hide his true nature.”

Pointing out that even in the US the level of trust for a president can be excessively low, Helvacıoğlu suggested that “the US imperialistic administration is the world’s primary problem and this idea is gradually dawning upon more and more people.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

Source: Sputnik News Service, January 27, 2018
© 2018. Sputnik. All Rights Reserved.

Turkey ‘Has Come a Long Way’ in Developing Its Own Weapons – Generals

Germany’s possible decision to freeze the supply of modernized Leopard tanks requested by Turkey will by no means slow down the pace of the military operation against Kurds in Afrin, two retired Turkish generals have told Sputnik.

“Turkey is using a whole range of arms, including US tanks and modernized German Leopards as part of its successful military operation which became possible after Russia agreed to open its airspace to the Turkish Air Force,” retired Major General Armagan Kuloglu said in an interview with Sputnik Turkey.

He dismissed a possible German embargo as a symbolic gesture aimed at domestic consumption.

“Berlin did not openly criticize the operation in Afrin, but shortly after, said it was suspending the leopard modernization plan. I see this as a nod to the country’s sizable Kurdish community and also to the Greens. Therefore, I think that the Merkel government made this decision to dampen the opposition voices and boost her political positions. I believe that it won’t be long before talks on the modernization program are resumed,” the general noted.

Retired Brigadier-General Ali Er, who has spent many years working within NATO’s command structures, agreed with his colleague that Turkey’s military operation in Afrin will not be hampered by the suspension of the Leopard modernization program.

He said that Turkey has everything it needs for the effective use and maintenance of its imported tanks.

“Besides, we have enough spare parts to keep us going for at least another 10 years. […] The infrastructure that we have today is ideal for both short-term combat operations and long-term ones,” he emphasized.

“I don’t think that our military modernization programs will depend on German [assistance] any time soon, because we have come a long way in developing our own weapons,” he added.

When asked how possible disagreements between Turkey and its NATO partners might impact the combat readiness of its armed forces, General Er said that since the Turkish military never takes time-serving decisions, especially when it comes to weapons systems, the defense strategy is outlined as part of a general system of national priorities, which is a decades-long process.

“Therefore, it will take 10 or 15 years before the tensions currently existing between Turkey and NATO start being reflected on our security strategy,” the general concluded.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday denied a Spiegel report that Germany had frozen the supply of Leopard main battle tanks to Ankara in light of the ongoing Turkish military operation in northern Syria.

He called Germany Turkey’s ally and said that Ankara expects “support and solidarity” from Berlin.

Source: Sputnik News Service, January 27, 2018
© 2018. Sputnik. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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