Turkish Gambit Shuffles All the Cards in Washington

There is some confusion in Washington regarding the Turkish Armed Forces operation against the Syrian Kurds. The incoming information about the victims among Kurdish militias and civilians, the destruction of the region’s infrastructure, and a new wave of refugees – all this has forced the US administration to manoeuvre and try to “save face in a bad game,” says Stanislav Ivanov, Leading researcher at the Centre for International Security at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of World Economy and International Relations.

Trump’s decision to partially withdraw US troops from north-eastern Syria has been criticized by a number of US government organs and public organisations. Many object to the cessation of support for Kurdish militias and other US allies in the National Democratic Alliance (Arab tribes, Syrian Christians, etc.). It is unlikely that all of the branches of power in Washington and Democratic lawmakers can reach a consolidated stance on Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring. Even Trump himself can no longer ignore the public opinion of the United States, the statements of the UN, EU, Arab League and other authoritative international organisations and individual countries. The incoming information about the victims among Kurdish militias, civilians, the destruction of infrastructure, and a new wave of refugees – all this has forced the US administration to manoeuvre and try to “save face in a bad game.”

Consequences of sanctions against Turkey

The restrictive new sanctions the US has launched against Turkey resemble an attempt to blackmail and put pressure on Ankara in order to limit the scale of the Turkish military invasion of northern Syria.

Washington, like its NATO allies, may temporarily freeze military and weapons development cooperation with Ankara, refrain from the supply of weapons and military equipment, and introduce financial and economic restrictions. Since these measures will be temporary, i.e. only last until the end of the Turkish military operation, there will be no serious consequences for Turkey. Moreover, in Israel and most of the Arab countries, as well as among many in the United States and other Western countries, the strengthening of Turkey’s position in Syria is considered a counterweight to the Iranian military presence in the country.

It is unlikely that Erdogan will want to further aggravate his relations with the world power and NATO leader; he will not go beyond the creation of a “buffer zone” in Syria.

Aggravation of US-Turkey relations and Russia's interests

If we look beyond any momentary, tactical benefits Russia may incur from the aggravation of US-Turkish relations, strategically the Russian leadership will sooner or later have to establish better bilateral relations with Washington. Turkey should not be an obstacle to this process, but, on the contrary, serve as a bridge in restoring confidence between Russia and the United States and its Western allies. It is already obvious that the Syrian crisis cannot be resolved without the consensus between Moscow and Washington on this issue. Unfortunately, we must acknowledge that Ankara and Tehran were not Russia’s best partners in reaching a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict. The Iranian and Turkish leaders continue their fierce struggle for Syria and want to see their own puppet governments in Damascus. The agreements between Russia and the United States on Syria and the involvement of the UN Security Council in this problem could create the conditions for the withdrawal of all foreign military contingents and mercenaries from the country. If necessary, peacekeeping forces under the auspices of the UN could be sent to Syria.

Given that the situation in the north of Syria is developing rapidly, the anti-Turkish sanctions declared by Washington are unlikely to affect the plans and actions of the Turkish armed forces. The Turkish military command will be able create the so-called “security zone” in north-eastern Syria within a short amount of time, and, having achieved the objectives of Operation Peace Spring, complete this phase of hostilities. Thus, the reason for imposing sanctions will be eliminated.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.