Trump critics fail to grasp Turkish dissatisfaction with U.S. policies

Those criticising U.S. President Donald Trump for his decision to pave the way for a Turkish military incursion into northern Syria disregard the dissatisfaction among Turks against U.S. policies, said analysts Michael Doran and Michael A. Reynolds in the Wall Street Journal. 

Trump announced the United States would withdraw U.S. troops from the border in northeast Syria after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday. Turkey says it is ready to launch a military operation against territory controlled by the predominantly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its affiliate the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey sees as offshoots of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The U.S. president has been criticised in Washington for betraying the SDF and the YPG, which lost some 10,000 fighters against Islamic State in Syria, and for backing Erdoğan who has autocratic tendencies and has damaged U.S.-Turkish relations by purchasing Russian S-400 missiles.

“Most members of America’s foreign-policy establishment see Turkey as an ungrateful ally, perhaps even a Trojan horse inside the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s walls,” Doran and Reynolds said.

But seeing Erdoğan’s personality as the root of problems between the two allies is an oversimplification as some 70 to 80 percent of the Turks see the United States as a hostile power.

“This is a remarkable development in a country that had been a stalwart U.S. ally and partner for decades. The levels of hostility to America cannot be laid on Mr. Erdoğan’s doorstep, for he commands the support of only around 40 percent of Turks,” Doran and Reynolds said.

The United States’ Syria policy and Washington’s refusal to extradite Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-based cleric Turkey accuses of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016, are among the reasons why more and more Turks have become hostile to the United States in recent years, the analysts said.