Unknown aspects of the Manbij deal - MEHMET ACET

Unknown aspects of the Manbij deal

Turkey made a deal with the U.S.: Manbij is being cleared of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) Syrian affiliate, the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Both countries confirmed the deal, and as a matter of fact, there are reports that the organization has already started to withdraw some of its men from the ground.

I will explain the details, but allow me to give one more brief and clear fact about the deal: Three months later, the YPG will be out in full, and Turkey and the U.S. are going to jointly ensure security in Manbij.

Manbij’s story is like that of the water drops trickling from the tap melting the marble. The road leading to the conclusion has finally opened by saying, for more than two years with patience and determination, “You had promised us that the YPG would be removed from Manbij. Come on, keep your promise.” So, it seems that there was no need to say, “What use is raising our voice, it’s not like the U.S. is lifting a finger.”

According to information we received from a source who knows all the details of the deal, agreement depends on a timetable and this timetable is not very long-term. The removal of the YPG from Manbij is going to happen in three stages:

1-The first 10 days is the preliminary preparation period and this period has started. In this timetable, the General Staff and National Intelligence Organization are going to get in contact with their own interlocutors and start working.

2-Days 11-30: the finalization of preparations. During this period, a final decision is going to be made on matters such as how many U.S. and Turkish troops will remain on duty in the city after the YPG withdraws.

3-Days 30-90 is the application stage. If we consider that the agreement took effect on June 4, we can accept that the Manbij deal will physically come into effect on July 4, the U.S.’s Independence Day. At the end of the 90 days, the YPG will have completely withdrawn from the city with all its elements and they will be replaced by Turkish and U.S. soldiers.

There is interesting information about the background of the Manbij deal. For example, while negotiations were ongoing, the U.S. wanted to extend the timetable regarding the YPG’s withdrawal to six months. However, when the Turkish Foreign Affairs committee stated that this was a long time and pushed, the time period was reduced to half.

The U.S. side tried to include a statement in brackets in the agreement text meaning: “Compliance with institutions and internal law.” This statement was refused as Ankara perceived it to be Congress approval and was hence removed from the text.

Why did the US yield to Ankara's demands on the Manbij issue?

This is all fine, but we have other important questions awaiting answers. One of these questions is: How is it that the U.S., which did not move an inch for more than two years came to the point Turkey wanted regarding Manbij? Let’s answer the question through the information we received from the source I mentioned, who has complete command of all the details of the process, and the impressions we got from that information. There are two fundamental reasons:

1-The risk of losing Turkey. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu speaks very clearly in the meetings with interlocutors; he makes statements such as, “Our people are very angry. They think, if necessary, shut down both Kürecik and İncirlik bases.” Expressions about completely severing ties are used openly. Eventually, the U.S. side saw that the likelihood of losing Turkey was a serious possibility.

2-The likelihood of a clash breaking out in northern Syria between the members of the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and U.S. troops deployed in the region. This possibility led to serious concerns in Washington. As a matter of fact, in meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, U.S. President Donald Trump said, “Don’t let anything happen to our troops there,” a few times.

One of the factors that paved the way for the Manbij agreement is the significance Trump attaches to relations with Turkey. Everybody knows that there is a group in Washington that does not hesitate to use all kinds of instruments to punish the Erdoğan administration, let alone making a deal with Ankara. Hence, if an agreement was reached in the current situation, someone who has power there is expected to have used initiative against this group.

Last week, on the way back from Germany, I had asked Minister Çavuşoğlu how President Erdoğan’s relations with Trump is, and he had said:

“Trump does not want to ruin ties with Turkey. We know there are times he raises his voice saying why are relations like this. This is seen in telephone conversations too, he has great respect for our president.”

Based on this statement, we could say there is no problem in thinking that Trump is the one who paved the way for the Manbij deal on behalf of the U.S., or that his complaints that relations with Turkey are bad has made a serious contribution to this process.

But we need to add here that the U.S. had made the PKK/YPG cross into Manbij, to the west of the Euphrates, as a step of the project to close off Turkey’s entire southern border with a “PKK state.”

Evacuating Manbij may mean that there is no likelihood of making this dream come true in the west of the Euphrates.

However, the threat in the east of the Euphrates remains as is, and even if the Manbij matter is solved, as long as the threats coming from this region remain, it does not seem possible to expect normalization in Turkey-U.S. relations.

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