Feb 05 2018

Elections may mean Erdoğan seeks no Afrin solution

Turkish elections, due next year, may mean President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won’t be interested in cooperating with the United States in Syria and an armed confrontation could be inevitable, Thomas Seibert wrote for the Arab Weekly, citing a former U.S. envoy to Turkey.

Should one soldier die on either side, then a genuine crisis could ensure, W. Robert Pearson, ambassador to Turkey between 2000 and 2003, said, according to Seibert.

“There is room for pulling back from confrontation, even for cooperating,” Pearson said. “But if Erdoğan is more interested in building domestic support than in finding a solution, both the U.S. and Turkey can live with the risk if a clash arises.”

The longstanding alliance between the United States and Turkey could collapse under the strain of events in Syria, especially if the Turks push on to Manbij, where U.S. troops are stationed, Seibert said.

“A serious rift between Turkey and the United States could plunge NATO into crisis and push Ankara further away from the West. It also allows for increased Russian influence in the region,” he said.

Some observers said the row over Washington's support for Kurdish militants and the resultant Turkish invasion demonstrates a more fundamental shift in relations, Seibert said.

“It is hard to imagine a scenario in which Erdogan’s Turkey continues in its current trajectory and bilateral relations between Washington and Ankara remain unchanged,” he said, citing Tally Helfont, director of the Programme on the Middle East at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.

U.S. alliances, “despite all the hyperbole about friendship,” were based on such factors as shared objectives and threat perceptions, Helfont said.

“When a key ally like Turkey not only takes such a steep autocratic turn but has also an increasing number of objectives that are at cross purposes with the United States, it should cause Washington to rethink its relationship with Ankara or at least explore how it may facilitate bringing Ankara back into the fold,” Helfont added.