“If US President Donald Trump drove the way he conducts foreign policy, he would be pulled over on suspicion of DUI”
In a speech in Ohio recently, President Trump said that the US is about to pull out of Syria “very soon”. The statement has, yet again, put the finger on the confusion coming out of Washington when it comes to Foreign Policy. He was immediately contradicted by the State Department who said they didn’t know anything about that.
For the troops in the field in Syria, fighting with and supporting the Kurdish-Arab forces in the SDF (the backbone of which is the Kurdish YPG), utterances like this make their job a lot harder.
At the same time, this reflects well the situation on the ground in Syria, where the situation is getting worse from a security-position and where Turkey feels it has a free hand in pursuing attacks against the Kurds. That is a goal Turkey has pursued all along of course, even to the detriment of fighting the Islamic State.
For the Turkish government with President Erdogan at the helm, the long-term goal is to secure the Turkish-Syrian border all the way to Iraq, thus crushing the Kurdish Rojava area along the way. Ever since 2017, when Turkey got the green light from Russia to create buffer-zones further west, cutting off Kurdish areas in western Syria from its eastern heartland, Turkey has relentlessly pushed the Kurds. The latest operation in Afrin (with the cynical moniker “Olive Branch”) is but the latest military push against the Kurds.
But if Erdogan really are going to expand the offensive eastwards, there is a real risk of clashing with US forces, despite the fact that Turkey is a NATO-country and that the US-Turkey relationship is strategic. In an offensive by Turkish-supported Islamist militias, and with Russian mercenaries taking part, a push towards Deir al-zour (which is controlled by Kurdish forces) was beaten back with severe losses due to a powerful US response. This was a warning-sign not to pick a fight with US forces, but with the chaotic policy-statements coming out of the Trump-administration and with Turkish officials openly voicing a preference for Russia instead of the US, it’s a very clear risk that the violence in Syria will not abate anytime soon.
And if the western allies can’t seem to act in a coherent fashion (which seems to be the case right now) to meet Turkish, Russian and Iranian offensive strategic aims in Syria and elsewhere in the MENA-region, peace in Syria seems a very long way off.