Jun 03 2018

Turkish-US alliance is breaking up - expert

Even if Turkey and the United States agree on a road map for Manbij in northern Syria, the alliance between two countries is in tatters, Dr. Simon Waldman, an expert on Turkey, told Deutsche Well Turkish on Sunday.

The Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu will meet his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo on June 4 in Washington to discuss a roadmap for Manbij, a Syrian town under the control of U.S. backed Kurdish forces. 

Turkey has long threatened to take action against Kurdish groups in Syria that it considers terrorist organisations due to their links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody insurgency in Turkey for decades. On Jan. 20, Turkish armed forces, along with Free Syrian Army, launched a military campaign against Kurdish forces and seized the control of the Afrin city in northwest Syria after a two-month military operation. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly stressed that the operation would expand to the east to include cities such as Manbij, where there is U.S. military presence alongside with the Kurdish forces.

Turkey and the United States have been trying to resolve the dispute over Manbij through working groups established in February, after Pompeo's predecessor, Rex Tillerson visited Turkey.

On May 25, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy told reporters that the working group met in Ankara to review a drafted road map for the withdrawal of the Kurdish forces from Manbij and for joint control of the city by Turkish and American forces.

According to Waldman, the alliance between to countries have been tattering, as there are huge differences between two countries in terms of their strategic interests and threat perceptions.

“The most likely agreement Turkey will hope for is the establishment of some mechanism for the future of Manbij,” Walman said, adding that this mechanism will probably include the withdrawal of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the area. “This is the only possible scenario the two sides can agree on, which the United States can accept and which Turkey would like to present as a victory. However, given the deep crises of trust between the two countries, it is obvious that talking about such an agreement is easy, but putting it into practice is difficult,” Waldman added. 

Waldman noted that YPG is a critical ally for the United States in its struggle against the Islamist State and Washington will obviously take into account creating uneasiness among Kurds as a result of an agreement with Turkey.

According to Waldman, Turkey sees the establishment of a Kurdish administration in northern Syria as a national security threat, however, in his view, a new Kurdish state would prioritise providing its citizens basic services, rather than fighting with Turkey.

“Only a few years ago, there was the peace process, but Turkey and PKK and its extensions in Syria are now the greatest enemies. Things change so rapidly in Turkey, and this rapid change makes it difficult to work on Turkey’s security policies. The Europeans and the United States would like to know where Turkey stands, sudden shifts in security policies severely strains the dialogue on security issues,” he said.

“According to me the alliance is breaking up. This relationship was based on a security logic in which Turkey, which has an important geographical location and a strong army, defined a common enemy with the United States”, Waldman added, noting that Turkey now tries to diversify its alliances in the region. In his view, even though Turkey and the United States continue diplomatic negotiations,  the two countries will fail in re-establishing the previous partnership based on trust.