TEHRAN, Apr. 09 (Press Shia) – The erratic and unending changes in the administration by President Trump reflect first and foremost his unique conception of the Presidency.
He views the Presidency as being the CEO of USA, Inc. He prefers to work with individuals who will not challenge or disagree with him. The choice of Bolton and Pompeo as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State respectively has also a lot to do with the more aggressive hard-power driven foreign policy Trump wants to pursue. Both men are known not only for their hawkish positions but also for their willingness to implement their radical views and to use American military power. The changes have been dubbed as the “war cabinet”, a fitting description indeed.
How these changes will affect Turkish-American relations remains yet to be seen. Both Bolton and Pompeo had, in their previous lives, made highly disparaging comments about Turkey, criticizing the Turkish government for its policies at home and abroad. Since then, they have not said anything to amend those most negative views. So the prospects for Turkish-American relations are not necessarily encouraging with these two men in office.
The key question now is how the two sides will handle the question of Menbij in Syria. Turkey threatens military action there to clean the area of Kurdish YPG listed by Turkey as a terrorist organization. The area is currently under the joint control of American forces and SDF, the core of which is the YPG. The initial bilateral talks at the level of high officials in Washington have not produced an agreement. Now it is reported that talks would be resumed after Pompeo is sworn in as the new Secretary of State in May.
Trump has recently signaled early withdrawal from Syria, citing “high financial costs” of American engagement. But Pentagon and other administration sources have downplayed the Trump announcement, indicating that the US is there to stay. I believe Trump will not withdraw from Syria. First, his number one mission of defeating ISIL is not yet accomplished. Second, he will not abandon Syria to the Russians. Third, he will want to maintain American presence in Syria for Israel’s sake. Fourth, Trump’s ultimate agenda is confronting Iran in the region and for this reason he may feel he would need logistical facilities in Syria. And finally, for all the inter-connected reasons above, he will continue to support and feed PYD/YPG. In a fundamental sense, what Trump does in Syria would be best understood in terms of what he intends to do regarding Iran.
This is a critical question. Trump will by 12 May have made his decision on the nuclear agreement with Iran. He said he will leave the agreement if his demands for changes in it have not been met by that time and recommend to the Congress the imposition of new sanctions. With the likes of Bolton and Pompeo in the line-up, Trump is likely to pursue an increasingly more aggressive approach to Iran. And he will want to see Turkey on his side as a NATO ally and expect access to Turkish facilities in case of a military operation. So Turkey has to make a choice to side or not to side with America in Trump’s Iranian offensive.
The choice for Turkey should be clear. Let’s remember that Ankara pursued a policy of proactive neutrality during the 1980-1988 Iranian-Iraqi war. Turkey not only did not take sides in the conflict, but worked actively with both sides to end it. US is a friend and an ally, but Iran is a friend and a neighbor. Furthermore, Turkey supports the Iranian nuclear agreement. Hence, Turkey must work other signatory countries that still support the agreement to dissuade the US unilaterally from abandoning it. However, at the end of the day Turkey must make clear that it will not be a part of or accessory to any hostile action by the US against Iran. The US will one day leave, but Iran will continue to be our valued neighbor.”
Osman Faruk Logoglu is Turkish veteran politician and member of Turkey’s Repuplican People’s Party.