Now, the whole rationale Trump put forward for the retreat — to get American troops out of the Mideast and “endless wars” — is in doubt.
Rather than leaving the region, the withdrawing troops will deploy in neighboring Iraq to fight the Islamic State group, which could get new life from the Syrian turmoil. Some U.S. forces are still in eastern Syria, helping Kurdish fighters protect oilfields. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday he was discussing keeping them there.
Trump surprised even his own military on the ground when he agreed to remove U.S. soldiers working with Kurdish-led forces near the border in an Oct. 6 phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Three days later, Turkey launched its offensive with heavy bombardment along the border.
Erdoğan says his demand for a safe zone in Syria is rooted in Turkey’s war against terrorism. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Erdoğan says, is as much a threat as the Islamic State. That is of course nonsense . . . .
While those both enamored and fearful of power have always played “both sides of the street”, Turkey’s drift from a freely speaking, open, and vibrant democracy to one far from NATO ethics, interests, and values should be clear to the free world. Through the power of President Erdogan’s feudal imagination and thuggery, Turkey has been transformed into a politically absolute polity driven by the narcissism of its leader
Worse for the Turks and even his fans: President Erdogan’s toadying before Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Erdogan may appear strong standing up to the west, which today cannot levy enough sanctions on his project (probably hurting the Turks more than the Turkish President), but how may he appear doing Putin’s bidding while his equally enamored — or captive to Moscow — neighbor, Bashar al-Assad AKA “Bashar the Butcher”, continues destroying and strangling Syria — in Turkey’s direction too — under cover of destroying Sunni Islamists?
When Turkish air power rightly downed two Russian MIGs overflying Turkey’s airspace while refusing communications with Turkish air defense, Erdogan refused apology. And what for? He and his military had done everything right for the purposes of Turkish Defense.
The Su-24 shootdown took place on November 24, 2015.
Eight months later, widely reported on June 27, 2016, Erdogan apologized to Putin.
That has turned out a fair demonstration of Russian “realpolitik” and maddening absolute power.
For those watching — and those who knew the facts — “Sultan Erdogan” may just as well have knelt before “Emperor Putin”.
Perhaps President Erdogan has had some household bills yet to pay, and, beside, has needed a certain supply of energy to heat the house.
I hope the excerpts and videos that follow prove helpful as windows into the love fest developed between Ankara and Moscow.
The first direct gas pipeline between Russia and Turkey was the Blue Stream, commissioned in 2005. In 2009, Putin proposed a Blue Stream II line parallel to Blue Stream under the Black Sea. The Blue Stream II project did not carry through and the South Stream project took the lead, until it was abandoned in 2014. The TurkStream (then named Turkish Stream) project was announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 1 December 2014, during his state visit to Turkey.
The Russia Defence Ministry denied the aircraft ever left Syrian airspace, counter-claiming that their satellite data showed that the Sukhoi was about 1,000 metres (1,100 yd) inside Syrian airspace when it was shot down. The U.S. State Department said that the U.S. independently confirmed that the aircraft’s flight path violated Turkish territory, and that the Turks gave multiple warnings to the pilot, to which they received no response and released audio recordings of the warnings they had broadcast.
MOSCOW — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologized Monday for the downing of a Russian warplane in November and called for Russia and Turkey to mend a bilateral relationship that has become openly hostile over the incident.
Gazprom has started to fill the first branch of the offshore section of the Turkish Stream pipeline with natural gas. This is the final stage of testing the pipeline before putting it into operation later this year . . . .
. . . The first line is intended for the supply of Russian gas to Turkish consumers, the second – for gas supply to the countries of southern and southeast Europe.
Erdoğan says his demand for a safe zone in Syria is rooted in Turkey’s war against terrorism. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Erdoğan says, is as much a threat as the Islamic State. That is of course nonsense: The SDF formed to fight Al Qaeda affiliates and the Islamic State at a time when Turkey was passively if not actively supporting them. Nor can Turkish officials credibly point to terrorist attacks from Kurdish-governed portions of Syria. Groups that evolved from the PKK are not monoliths: The SDF is progressive and moderate; any visit to the region makes clear that the group does not embrace the PKK’s Cold War-era Marxism. The PKK itself has long sought peace and does not attack civilians. The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) splinter group continues to engage in terrorism, but they are based nowhere near Syria nor do they have any links to the SDF.
In a recent article in Foreign Policy, my colleague Steven A. Cook argued that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was playing Washington like a fiddle. With a combination of bluffs, threats, and bluster, Erdogan managed to convince the United States to come up with an arrangement in northeastern Syria to prevent a Turkish invasion—an arrangement that comes at the expense of the Kurds, who have carried the brunt of the fighting against the Islamic State. Whatever one thinks of the Kurds, their determination and sacrifice should be treated as an international public good; they have stopped and destroyed one of the most dangerous and homicidal groups the modern world has known. The Turks by contrast have contributed nothing to this endeavor.
If Erdogan has succeeded in manipulating Washington, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin, in turn, has played him to the hilt.