What does Erdogan bring to Washington?

What does Erdogan bring to Washington?

On May 9, it became known that the administration of the US President Donald Trump has authorized the provision of heavy weapons to Syrian Kurdish militias to drive ISIS terrorists from the city of Raqqa. In late March, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the backbone of which is the Syrian Kurds, managed to capture the Tabqa airport, which has been under ISIS control since 2013. The airport is close Syria's largest dam on the Euphrates River, which is currently controlled by the ISIS militants.

The statement about the capture of the military airfield Tabqa was made by the SDF spokesmen, the leader of the Kurdish self-defense units - the paramilitary wing of the Kurdish party - the Democratic Union Party (PYD) Talal Sello. The seizure of this important strategic facility has practically opened the way to the capital of ISIS, Raqqa. The Syrian Kurds expressed their readiness to go further and drive ISIS terrorists from Raqqa with the support of Western coalition forces, which should be not only in air cover by the aviation, but also in the supply of heavy weapons. Both the Obama administration and the administration of Donald Trump regard the Syrian Kurds as the most effective and appropriate combat partner for the US in the fight against ISIS.

On Tuesday, May 9, the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman Dana White said that yesterday, US President Donald Trump had authorized the Pentagon to equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS in Raqqa. At the same time, she stressed that the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future.

The announcement of the US President Donald Trump's decision a week before the visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Washington is not a stab in the back of its NATO partner, a member of the coalition against ISIS in Syria and Iraq - Turkey, but rather a spit in the face of its charismatic leader. The fact is that Turkey considers both the Kurdish 'Democratic Union Party' and its wings the Kurdish forces of People's Protection Units (YPG) and the Women's Protection Units (YPJ), the members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as terrorist organizations, which in turn feed the Kurdistan Workers' Party (RKK) operating in Turkey. The US, Canada and the leading countries of Europe recognized the Kurdistan Workers' Party as a terrorist organization that has been fighting the central authorities of Turkey for more than 40 years by carrying out terrorist acts aimed at military and police forces in the eastern provinces of the country populated mainly by Kurds, for the establishment of the Kurdistan state. Therefore, the US president's decision to supply heavy weapons to the Syrian Kurds was a cold shower for the leadership of Turkey. Although the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman Dana White stressed that the Turkish leadership should not worry about security in the region, since "the US is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally," but these words could not console the already troubled and perplexed Turkish President Erdogan. "Every development in Syria and Iraq is a matter of national security for us. We want to believe that our allies will prefer to side with us, not with a terrorist organisation," the Turkish president reacted to Trump's decision to supply heavy weapons to the Syrian Kurds with restraint, but cold-bloodedly at the same time immediately after it was announced.

The agenda of Erdogan's meeting with Trump, which will be held on May 16 at the White House, includes two important issues in terms of Turkey's national security, which would determine the further course of development of relations between the two countries - the extradition of religious preacher Fetullah Gulen to Turkey, accused by the Turkish authorities of orchestrating the attempted military coup on July 15, 2016 and the supply of heavy weapons to the Syrian Kurds.

The Turkish authorities sent an official request to the US Department of Justice for extradition of Gulen, who lives in Philadelphia. However, the US authorities did not find in the multi-volume cases submitted by Ankara any confirmation of the famous preacher's participation in Turkey's attempted military coup last summer. Considering the presence of a strong independent judicial system in the US that even suspended one of the first decrees of newly-elected US President Donald Trump about migrants from seven Muslim countries, a positive solution on Gulen's extradition purely for political reasons looks absolutely futile. The zeal and obstinacy of Turkey's official authorities, Recep Tayyip Erdogan's harsh remarks towards the US leadership on this issue only fuel the already strained relations between the two countries and NATO partners.

As for the second issue - the cancellation of Trump's decision to supply heavy weapons to the Syrian Kurds, I think Erdogan can take the initiative and make a ‘knight’s move’ of inviting Trump to capture the capital of ISIS as a result of a large-scale operation by the Turkish army. The capture of Raqqa, in addition to practical significance, which will deprive the ISIS its center, has great political and psychological significance. If this operation is successfully carried out by the Syrian Kurds with the support of Western coalition forces, it will be their triumph. This event will become a heroic page of the history of not only the entire Kurdish people, but also their political organizations, including DYP and its wings - YPG and YPJ, as well as the PKK, which are considered by Turkey as terrorist groups. In the eyes of the West, they will look like the winner of the black plague - ISIS. The alleged capture of Raqqa by the Syrian Kurds can inspire and induce the Kurdistan Workers' Party to new, more massive terrorist attacks, both in the eastern provinces of Turkey and in its central cities - Ankara and Istanbul.

If Erdogan fails to solve at least one of these two vital for Turkey's national security issues at the meeting with Trump, it will become another round of strengthening anti-Americanism in Turkish society. Europe's double standards in relation to Turkey over its accession to the European Union some time ago pushed Erdogan to turn toward Russia and China. If Trump does not find solutions to the sensitive issues for Turkey, he can play the role of Stalin, who threw the once friendly USSR into the embrace of the United States after the Second World War by territorial claims to Turkey and his requirement to create military bases of the USSR in the straits. Departing to China on a visit on May 12, before officially meeting with Trump in Washington, Turkish President Erdogan pointed out that the upcoming visit to Washington will be a turning point in the relations between the two countries: "The meeting with Trump will not be at a comma distance, but at a point distance".

The possible worsening of relations between Turkey and the US following the countries of the European Union can strengthen patriotism and nationalist sentiments not only among Erdogan's supporters, but also among the leftist political forces, the anti-American sentiment  among whom sometimes is off the charts, and will bring it closer to Russia. Erdogan's visit to the capital of India on May 1, his meeting with Putin in Sochi on May 3 and his visit to China before the official meeting in Washington can be regarded as a signal to the whole West.


Vestnik Kavkaza

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