Last week, Turkey confirmed that Donald Trump gave Recep Tayyip Erdogan his assurances that the delivery of US arms to Kurdish militants in Syria would cease. This had been a longstanding demand from Ankara and with Turkey-US relations plummeting to new lows, it was widely thought that the US granted Turkey this concession to avoid a possible rift within the NATO bloc. While the US government confirmed Turkey’s version of the phone call, the reports from the US were far more vague in terms of the content.
By contrast, Turkey reported that the US offered a direct commitment to ending arms going to the Kurdish militant/terrorist group YPG and their political wing PYD.
Today however, Sputnik Turkiye spoke to the so-called foreign affairs spokesman of the SDF, a YPG dominated US proxy militia operating in Syria with known links to the terrorist group PKK.
Abdulaziz Yunus has told Sputnik Turkiye,
“The US and its coalition continue providing their military aid. Any reports that the US has halted its arms’ supplies are wrong and do not reflect the situation on the ground.
At the moment, the US has not made any announcement that they intend to stop sending arms. On the contrary, they have voiced their intention to facilitate the cooperation with us and increase the volume of their aid to the SDF. This is their current strategy. We, in turn, also hope this support will continue”.
According to Yunus, not only are US supplies continuing but, just this week the US delivered, “hundreds of trucks loaded with weaponry”.
There are several logical possibilities which can be derived from this statement:
1. Yunus is lying
Kurdish media and by extrapolation, their spokesmen are notoriously unreliable. Since the recent Erdogan-Trump phone call, Kurdish media has been rife with statements ranging from those indicating that Kurdish militants will cooperate with the Syrian Arab Army to statements denying any desire to cooperate with Syria. Furthermore, while previous Kurdish statements have alluded to the fact that the US is curtailing arms shipments, the statement from Yunus contradicts these reports.
Until independently confirmed information from the group becomes known, it will not be possible to use Yunus’s claims as an authentic source of information. Instead, one can only derive a sense of Kurdish wishful thinking that may be a reality.
2. The US is lying to Turkey
Alternatively, the US may well have lied to Turkey. This could be because Donald Trump has less control over US policy than he would like to think or it could be due to the US drawing a false distinction between the YPG and SDF. As the YPG makes up almost all of the SDF’s manpower, ceasing arms shipments to one is, by any reasonable stretch of cognition, the same as ceasing arms shipments to the other. This is certainly how Turkey would have interpreted Trump’s remarks.
The Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who was present during the Erdogan-Trump phone call stated the following to the press shortly after the conversation between the two leaders concluded,
“According to his (Trump’s) words, it would have been better to put an end to this foolishness (arming Kurds). We welcome this decision and will monitor its implementation”.
Thus, Turkey expressed a clear sense of scepticism about Washington’s willingness to implement Donald Trump’s promise.
A final straw to break the camel’s back in Turkey-US relations
While Trump’s promise to Erdogan has indeed stemmed the tide of anti-American and anti-NATO statements from Turkish officials, this brief post phone call honeymoon could be short lived. If the US has made a false promise and continues to arm militants that Turkey views, quite correctly, as a threat to its national security, any thaw in the frosty relations between Ankara and Washington will be over.
As a result, the rapprochement between Ankara and Damascus which Erdogan hinted at prior to the phone-call, could manifest itself sooner rather than later. If Turkey and Syria do agree (however privately) to formally renounce Kurdish terrorism jointly (at the moment Syria is renouncing both Kurdish terrorism and the presence Turkish troops in Syria), Russia will have very few strong arguments left to restrain Turkey from going after Kurdish forces in Syria, something which has already partly begun, though something that is widely under-reported.
Alternatively, if the US does eventually withdraw its support for Kurds in Syria, it will mean that the US will have no fig-leaf to cover the gross illegality of its continued occupation of the Syrian Arab Republic. The Astana Group could then easily redouble calls for the US to withdraw from Syria, something that Russia has stated in fairly bold terms a great deal recently.
In either instance, Russia remains the key player in the internationally lead Syrian peace process, as I indicated shortly after the Erdogan-Trump phone call:
“If the United States means what it apparently said, this essentially means that the Astana group, of which Turkey is a member along with Russia and Iran, has essentially checkmated the US in Syria once and for all.
With ISIS defeated except for a few small rural pockets that Russian aerospace forces and the Syrian Arab Army are on the verge of fully obliterating and pockets of al-Qaeda/al-Nusra in the the Golan Heights, Hama and Idlib, the Takfiri terrorists are already all but defeated in Syria and everyone from Syria itself to Hezbollah, Russian and Iran have admitted this in public to much fanfare.
In respect of Kurdish militants/terrorists, since the United States is the only power arming and abetting them, if the US actually does withdraw arms from Kurdish groups, they will not fare well against Turkish troops in Syria who stand ready to fight them and almost certainly beat them in short order. Put succinctly, if the US withdraws aims to the Kurds and there is no one else left to fight in Syria, the US will have no mission goal and therefore no no justification for remaining in Syria. Of course the US could always make up a new, even flimsier excuse for remaining, but with all major regional powers (except for Israel) dead-set against a long-time US occupation, such a position would be highly untenable in the medium and long term.
A recent Washington Post article, allegedly based on inside sources in the US government, stated that the US plans to remain in Syria for “years” in order to effectively help Syrian Kurds in carving out a statelet along the Turkish border.
Based on the statements following on from the phone call between Erdogan and Trump, either the Washington Post piece was inaccurate or the US has suddenly had a change of heart–perhaps as a last ditch effort to prevent Turkey from leaving NATO as Ankara threatened to do, days ago.
Earlier, Donald Trump Tweeted the following, indicating that he is not prepared for an indefinite occupation of Syria.
Will be speaking to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey this morning about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East. I will get it all done, but what a mistake, in lives and dollars (6 trillion), to be there in the first place!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2017
It may be that either be design or mistake, Donald Trump just killed off the last excuse the US could possibly have for a perpetual occupation of Syria. Because of the notorious unreliability of statements from US officials and the US media, it is anyone’s guess as to whether the Washington Post lied to the world or if Trump deceived the Turkish President.
However, the world may soon find out who is telling the truth as Kurdish militants in Syria just announced that they are ready to attack Turkish Army positions in Syria’s Aleppo Governorate.
In a straight battle between Kurdish militants and the Turkish Army, the Turkish Army will win. There is little doubt about that. The only power that might have been willing and militarily able to prevent such a move is of course, the American armed forces.
If Turkey goes on to do to Syrian Kurds, what the Iraqi armed forces did to Iraqi Kurds, the Kurdish question in Syria may be solved in short order.
After such an impasse, arguments between Russia and Turkey over whether Kurdish factions belonging to the YPG-PYD should be at the Syrian National Dialogue Congress or not, will be effectively moot. If Syrian Kurds are shown that Turkey has effectively been unleashed on them, in so far as no other power will stop Turkey from going after the Kurds, it will effectively be ‘game over’ for any longer term ethno-nationalists ambitions for the Kurds. All that will be left is to either wage the kind of long-term terrorist war against Syria that the PKK has waged against Turkey, or otherwise engage in the eventual internal political process for Syria which the Astana group organises.
Of course, if the US continues to covertly aid the Kurds, or attempt to draw an artificial distinction between the YPG and SDF, Turkey will only be further alienated by an obvious US false promise. If the US does go through with its plans, while some friction between Turkey and the US will be curtailed, Turkey’s overall economic reliance/enthusiasm on its Eurasian partners will not be dented. Only in a foolish zero-sum mentality does a minor US rapprochement with Turkey negate that progress Turkey has made and intends to further with its Eurasian partners, including Russia and Iran.
The US may not be an exponent of the “win-win” mentality which defines modern Eursasian multi-lateral relations, but if someone in the US, even perhaps a Trump who today sounded as reasonable as he did while a candidate, realises that in provoking Turkey, the US will totally lose a former ally while accomplishing little in terms of retarding Syria’s progress in the long-term, someone in Washington may have realised that by going in knee-deep for Kurdish ethno-nationalists, the US would be facing a “lose-lose” situation that a member of the Turkish Parliament Metin Kulunk said would be a “another Vietnam” for the United States.
As Donald Trump successfully ‘dodged’ time in America’s first Vietnam, perhaps he has just dodged the second. Time will shortly tell, just who is being honest and who is being duplicitous.
Either way, if Trump has told the truth in respect of US policy, the war is over as the US will have no one left to support nor to fight. If he is lying to President Erdogan, then NATO may be over”.
In this sense, the Kurdish problem can either be ended through the US withdrawing its support for the YPG/SDF or alternatively, it can be solved through a combination of Turkish military strength combined with tactful Russian diplomacy which will essentially tell the Kurds to negotiate with Syria or else face the consequences that the Turkish Army will be all too happy to deliver.