The discussions that started with U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration that the U.S. will withdraw from Syria also determined the agenda for 2019. According to some, Trump violated the tradition of decision-making mechanisms, and he is damaging the U.S. image with the decisions he has been independently. Thus, a similar situation occurred with respect to the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, and Trump’s opponents made the same evaluations. His statement following his phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that the withdrawal date will be determined according to a timetable, yet later backtracking and denying this, saying it will be spread out through time, justifies the criticisms targeting him. The statements made by his Security Adviser John Bolton from Israel, while on the way to Turkey, added insult to injury.
The U.S.’s tactic changed, not its policy
Yet after more careful analysis, it is clearly seen that there is no change in U.S. Middle East policies other than Trump's personal attitude. There is no change in the regional policy of the U.S., which built its foreign policy upon dictations and interventions for almost two-and-a-half centuries. What is reflected in its image today is nothing other than a difference in presentation. Trump, who aims to satisfy his own public and show them that they have a heroic president, first declares the problem, then ensures it is discussed outside the U.S., especially by parties of the crisis. After satisfying his own public through the resulting anti-U.S. discourse, he applies traditional U.S. policies. Bolton's nerve-touching statements ahead of his visit to Ankara, and his foolish image in Ankara are part of this policy.
We had mentioned before that it is not easy for the U.S. to withdraw from the region, and that such an outcome is due for serious negotiations. Bolton's lame visit reveals this once more. There is benefit in repeating what everybody knows. The U.S.'s Middle East policies are based on two fundamental arguments. The first is Israel's security, and the second is to ensure the continuity of oil supply from the Gulf.
As in Bolton's visit, when an official is sent to the region, it is the U.S.'s age-old policy to first give guarantee to Israel. Bolton visiting Israel before Turkey shows that this policy remains the same. However, the existence of illegal allies operating in the region on behalf of the U.S. has necessitated a message not only to Israel, but also a message to them from Tel Aviv. In this sense, there is nothing new in Bolton's statements. Was it not the U.S. that formed the People's Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdistan Workers' Party's (PKK) extension, armed them, and is enabling it to continue the proxy war in Syria on its own behalf?
So, what is new in the message now given by Bolton, who angered Ankara and invited the U.S. to be serious?
The U.S. wants to settle in Kirkuk
Let me first remind you of another matter that has been overlooked. As the security adviser visited Israel and Turkey, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is more effective in the U.S.'s regional policies, took a trip that covered Jordan, Egypt, and Gulf countries. It is going to be the results of Pompeo's trip that will reveal the U.S.'s real intentions, not Bolton's already known statements.
If we dive deeper into the matter, it is possible to see that there are two serious negotiations behind the statements. We do not know whether Bolton made the negotiation he was aiming for, or whether he was able to at least offer it. However, the statements of Turkish presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın's and the presidency’s statements after the meeting show that the discussions made may have been based on a negotiation.
I will cut to the chase. On the condition that Israel's security is not affected, while giving up the YPG and its other illegal allies, the U.S. hopes to achieve a greater gain. And that is to settle into Kirkuk in exchange for the PKK/YPG terror group. Possibly a short period ago, this topic was discussed in detail in the meeting held in Ankara with Iraqi President Barham Saleh and the delegation accompanying him. Trump spilling the beans after causing chaos and saying that the troops to withdraw from Syria are going to settle in Kirkuk shows his real aim. Hence, due to this, they will go back to their 2003 policies and control Iran from here. It is a fact that this attempt, which is against the Iraqi central administration, does not fit in with Turkey's expectations in anyway. However, there is no doubt that the statement Bolton made from Israel aims to pave the way to this negotiation. If there is any withdrawal from Syria, there will first be settlement in the U.S. base in Erbil, then the pressures for Kirkuk will start.
Where in this subject does Pompeo's visit fit in? That too aims to achieve Arab-Israel peace within the context of Trump's project of the century. To achieve this, an extremely convenient atmosphere has been formed through anti-Iran sentiment. In exchange for averting the Iran threat, eight Arab countries are going to be asked to reveal the backyard diplomacy they have been long carrying on with Israel, and normalize relations. Of course, Jerusalem lies at the center of this matter. Hence, in exchange for stopping Iran, forgoing Jerusalem is imposed on them. It seems this topic is going to remain on the agenda a lot more in the upcoming days. One other purpose of these visits is to reorganize Arab countries' relations with Syria, and reduce Turkey's impact in Syria, and eliminate the rapport between Russia and Bashar Assad to continue the U.S.'s ancient policies.
The problems between Turkey and the countries Pompeo started visiting, and the state it fell to in the eyes of the world public, especially with the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, will render Pompeo's offers easily negotiable. Therefore, we need to discuss the negotiations started with these countries rather than the statements we hear. In brief, Bolton is just bait. The real issue is hidden in the results Pompeo will achieve.