U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw American troops from Syria was consistent with his own policy, which he announced from the very beginning. Ever since his election campaign, Trump has been asking what the U.S. is doing in Syria, or in the Middle East in general, and this question was considered reasonable by his voters. However, it is very clear that Turkey was the one to make him take this step, as it is proven with the timing. He personally stated this too.
Turkey has long been insistently pointing to the aspects of U.S. presence or activities in Manbij, threatening Turkey as a NATO partner. The relation between the reasons the U.S. put forward when coming to Syria and its activities were completely broken off a short time after its arrival. It came because there is a human tragedy in Syria, but upon its arrival, and as a matter of fact, with its direct contribution, the severity of the tragedy further increased.
The aim was to protect people against Bashar Assad, the ruthless murderer of his own people. Yet, after U.S. troops arrived, fighting an organization called Daesh, which clearly has significant direct contribution to Assad's formation, gained priority.
In all likelihood, the U.S. started to waste time with Daesh, which it released on Assad, whom it came to topple. Surely, this scenario requires us to assume that the U.S. is a very innocent actor, but it is not that simple. The U.S. being quick to announce that regime troops started entering Manbij as soon as its own troops pulled out, shows us again the covert dimensions of the relations between them. As a matter of fact, it is clear that the sole possible mission of the elements of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed militia, the People's Protection Units (YPG), which the U.S. trained, armed, equipped and put on our border in Manbij - whose entire population consists of Arabs - in the name of fighting Daesh, is nothing other than handing over the region to the regime following the U.S.'s withdrawal.
It appears the PYD-YPG does not need to seek a safe harbor as the U.S. leaves. They never had any problems with the regime since the beginning. Instead of standing alongside the people of Syria against the massacres of the regime, instead of showing solidarity with the people of Syria, it took quite strategic positions for the perpetuity of the regime.
Of course, the YPG-PYD's existence alone would not have been enough to protect the regime in the areas it occupies. The support the U.S. gave to the PYD with the excuse of fighting Daesh is actually support given to the regime. Now, with the U.S. out of the way, we can expect the regime-PYD alliance to demonstrate their special dances in Manbij or in other parts of Syria. For now, we are watching the flag planting-retreating part of this dance.
The clear truth is that Turkey with its tanks, which have reached the Syria border, convincingly showed how serious it is - something it could not achieve to date through neither diplomatic discourse, nor with the S400 deals with Russia or the Sochi and Astana processes. Turkey explained well that it will not stand audience to a fait accompli in Syria by reminding everyone of its performance in the previous Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations.
Now, everybody is making their plans accordingly, everyone is trying to take up a new position accordingly. Of course, nobody can be expected to submit to the new vision brought forth by Turkey. Even though Turkey is the one making the determining move, during this period, everybody will try to protect their own gains or negate Turkey's move.
In this context, Syria's haste to enter Manbij and plant its flag is understandable. Yet it is also clear that it has no realism or reality. Assad had not entered Manbij because it was no longer able to control it, not because the PYD or U.S. troops are there. It is now clear that both the U.S. and PYD's presence there was a proxy for itself. But this can no longer be continued. In its current state, it won’t be able to control this area with its own means, just as it cannot control many regions in the country, because the people of Manbij reject Assad. Leaving Assad alone with the people of Manbij is also too dangerous to risk, because everybody has sufficiently witnessed what Assad can do to his own people in eight years.
Turkey's position has been obvious from the very start. It does not have an eye on Syrian territory, and it has no aim other than to create an atmosphere that will allow the 4 million refugees in Turkey, as well as the 4 million Syrian refugees in other countries to return to their own country. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan does not refrain from declaring this aim at even a moment like this.
The most important matter of alliance in both the Sochi and Astana processes is that Syria belongs to the Syrians, and insisting on this theory gives Turkey greater power of righteousness than anyone else. Turkey's claim is to have all foreign elements withdraw from Syria, and ensure Syria's integrity, and to ensure the establishment of a constitutional formula in which the rights of all elements in Syria, whether it be Arab, Kurd, Turkmen, Armenian, Alawite, Sunni or Christian, are taken into full consideration.
Nobody other than Turkey has the power or position to realize this formula, which nobody can reject. Because in comparison to the other actors, Turkey has been the only country that is able to maintain its objectivity among the elements in Syria, whose fundamental priority is human rights and humanitarian politics. This position allows it to be the key of the solution in Syria. Hence, it has no choice but to be at the center of all the developments in the country in the upcoming days.
The fact that the Arab Union, which has contributed nothing to the solution of the humanitarian crisis that emerged since the beginning of the war, as a matter of fact, which is working to further deepen the crisis, started taking steps to legitimize the Syrian regime at a time when progress has been made in terms of finding a solution, is also drawing attention.
The United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain's decision to reopen their embassies in Damascus after seven years are the steps of a new game they are trying to play. They are moves that will upset the apple-cart. It is so sad that these steps do not sound well, and those that sound well cannot be interpreted to be good.