Trump administration’s Turkey appeasing coming to an end - analyst

The U.S. State Department under President Donald Trump gave Turkey “everything it wanted,” but now, on Trump’s way out of office, is “hinting that it has had enough,” analyst Seth J. Frantzman wrote for the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

Trump allowed Turkey to invade northern Syria’s formerly Kurdish-controlled Afrin in 2018, the analyst said, and then to target U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in 2019 in northeast Syria.

The recent change in attitude may be a bid to sabotage President-elect Joe Biden’s future efforts for stability in the region, Frantzman said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s failure to meet with any Turkish officials in his Tuesday visit to the country has also humiliated Washington, according to the analyst.

Pompeo met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul during his stop in Turkey in the seven-country tour of the region, but not any government officials. Turkish media reported that the secretary had asked for appointments, but was refused by Ankara.

In any case, Pompeo’s “decision to get tough on Turkey comes a year after his own administration opened the border in northern Syria so Turkey could attack America’s partners,” Frantzman said. U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) suffered heavy losses in Turkey’s incursions, and civilians including Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf were “hunted down and murdered by Turkish-backed Syrian extremists,” he added.

The analyst said Turkey had sent Syrian mercenaries to fight on the side of Azerbaijan in Baku’s conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory in the southern Caucasus, which Ankara and Baku both deny.

After Syria’s Afrin and Tel Abyad, Nagorno Karabakh was the third region where Turkey used Syrian extremists for ethnic cleansing, Frantzman said.

If the United States wants to deal with Turkey, it needs to create trade-off deals, and “not just give Ankara everything it wants while Ankara works to sabotage US policy and work with terrorists,” he said. Washington’s unwillingness to take Turkey seriously has encouraged the country to turn further away from U.S. interests, he added.

The United States also treated the SDF as temporary and transactional partners, pushing them into working with Damascus and Moscow as well, he said, in an attempt to appease Turkey. U.S. diplomats were also involved in the process that led to the Kurds’ exclusion from talks on Syria’s future.

In turn, Frantzman said, Turkey showed in several instances that it would prefer Russia-Iran over the United States no matter how much it was given in Syria.

Ankara also activated and tested the Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems, and did so on a jet that belonged to NATO ally Greece in the summer of 2020. Still, as late as March 2020, Ankara had “gotten the US to offer Patriot missiles to Turkey if the S-400 wasn’t switched on.”

Turkey was removed from the U.S.-led F-35 stealth fighter jet programme over its purchase of the Russian weapons system, which the United States said was incompatible with NATO systems and caused a security risk.

There was bipartisan support from Washington to impose sanctions on Turkey as well.

What ended up being too much for Washington was Turkey suggesting that the United States pay Ankara to send the S-400s back to Russia, Frantzman said.