Let’s start with the following question:
If Turkey had not initiated the Afrin/Olive Branch Operation upon agreeing with Russia, would U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have come to Turkey?
He would certainly have but it would have been very difficult to obtain results like those we gained from last week’s visit.
My point is that there can be two possible explanations of this new situation which brought Tillerson to Ankara and forced him to say “Whatever we do from now on, we will do it with Turkey.”
1- Turkey showing its presence in the field again, in Afrin.
2- Turkey showing that this is not only limited to Afrin and even Manbij but the entire border line, including the east of Euphrates, is within the scope of “targets to be purged.”
This is the right time to recall the words of Henry Kissinger:
“Unless the shadow of your power falls on the diplomacy table, what you talk about at that table will not go beyond verbiage.”
When Turkey showed its power in the field, the shadow of its power fell on the diplomacy table and Washington had to make a new move in accordance with the new situation. That is the interpretation of last week.
In this context, we can present the following statements that President Erdogan said during his party’s Afyonkarahisar Congress in the context of the “benefits of dialogue and diplomacy.”
“We have had some disagreements and different opinions regarding some issues with Iran, Iraq, Russia, Greece, the U.S. and European countries in the past. Whenever we tried to solve these with dialogue and reason, which is God’s greatest gifts to humans, we all won.”
The U.S. is taking tactical steps not strategical ones
In the upcoming short period, we can think that Ankara will open a credit for the Erdoğan/Tillerson agreement.
The U.S. Secretary of State tied himself badly saying that “Whatever we do from now on, we will do it with Turkey.”
From now on, when northern Syria is of concern, any kind of “flawed move” of the U.S. will immediately evoke this sentence.
However, when we evaluate today by looking at the past, we see so many flawed moves that even such a binding sentence is approached with caution.
Even though a glimmer of hope spreads out with Tillerson’s visit, it is still very difficult or even impossible to say things such as “The U.S. has come around; it decided to cooperate with Turkey; it started to drastically change its Syria policy.”
If you ask why, it seems like there is a tactical stalling rather than a change of strategic policy behind this move.
Does the US aim to break the Turkey/Russia cooperation in Syria?
Let us point out this clearly.
The US has double-crossed Turkey over and over again since the Syrian war started, especially after 2012.
It offered to change the Assad regime together and then sidestepped. After offering to equip the moderate Syrian opposition, it supported Turkey’s deadly enemy, the PKK.
Then, it has never been able to stomach the cross-border operations of Turkey that it carried out on its own or in cooperation with Russia.
In fact, it even hit below the belt to sabotage the Turkish-Russian cooperation which was put into action with Operation Euphrates Shield launched on Aug. 24, 2016.
Out of those below the belt strikes, only two examples remain fresh in my memory.
1- On Nov. 24, 2016 which was the anniversary of the date that the Russian jet was shot down for violating Turkey’s borders, components of the Turkish Armed Forces located in al-Bab, whose coordinates were given by the U.S., were exposed to a bloody attack,. (That there was such an evaluation in Ankara was a previous topic.)
2- Russian bases in Syria which were the starting point of Turkey’s Afrin Operation were hit by an “unidentified” drone.
It will be beneficial to remind the words that Russian President Putin said a few day after that attack: “The Turkish government and Turkish army are not behind this attack; we know those who are behind it. We know that it was carried out by powers which try to drive a wedge between us and countries that we cooperate with.”
Isn’t it obvious who Putin was addressing?
It should be kept in mind that one of the U.S.’s primary objectives in Syria is to destroy cooperation between Ankara and Moscow which became concrete with the Euphrates Shield, Idlib and Afrin Operations.
I am not asserting that the Russians are a very trustworthy partner, either. However, we must remember that whatever Turkey has done in Syria since Aug. 24, 2016, it has done so by clashing with fierce oppositions of the U.S. by somehow reaching an agreement with Russia.