Obama’s men influencing Trump on Syria: Erdoğan
Fikret Bila - BEIJING
Allegations that Turkey has not done enough against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is “slander” by former U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, accusing some officials appointed by Obama of trying to influence President Donald Trump’s decisions on Syria and Iraq.
“Turkey realized the danger of Daesh [ISIL] long before the United States did, and stood against it,” Erdoğan told a group of journalists in Beijing on May 14, two days before a scheduled meeting with Trump in Washington.
“Saying that Turkey has not fought Daesh is a betrayal to Turkey, a slander by the Obama administration,” the president said, adding that Trump was presented by such a wrong perception when he took office.
“There are Obama’s men in lower positions [in the current administration]. He [Trump] is looking at the situation in Iraq and Syria through the information fed by them. And I say there is no need for the YPG [Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units] or PYD [Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party]. These are terrorist organizations. Considering cooperation with the YPG as a condition to fight Daesh is in fact destroying the reputation of the U.S. and the [U.S.-led anti-ISIL] coalition,” the president added.
Erdoğan will fly from China to the U.S. to meet Trump on May 16 in Washington. The Pentagon last week announced that Trump had given his authorization to provide the YPG with heavy weaponry, drawing Ankara’s ire.
The subject is likely to top the agenda during Erdoğan’s meeting.
A high-level preparatory delegation, including Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, National Intelligence Agency (MİT) chief Hakan Fidan and presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın was in Washington last week for talks with their counterparts.
“They presented lot of documents to help clear the U.S. stance on YPG,” Erdoğan told reporters.
“Now we will have the final meeting, and then we will make our final decision. If we are strategic partners, we should make decisions in an alliance. If the alliance will be overshadowed, then we will have to take care of ourselves. Let me clearly state that we will not let anti-Turkey approaches strangle this alliance,” he said.
Erdoğan said the fight against ISIL could be carried out by NATO allies and countries in the region.
“We can very well conduct this fight together with the powers we are together with in NATO, as well as other countries in the region: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon and Jordan. We don’t need these terrorist organizations. We proved this in Jarablus, Dabiq, al-Rai and al-Bab, and we will prove it in Manbij and Raqqa. But unfortunately, Obama was not interested in what we said. Mr. Trump made statements, which were actually our offers to Obama. We said we could do train-and-equip work, and we called for no-fly zones. We asked for de-terrorized zones, and Trump made similar remarks,” he said.
Erdoğan said Turkey was training Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters, who, with the support of the Turkish military, pushed ISIL away from the Turkish-Syrian border in the Euphrates Shield Operation.
“If we increase these numbers, we don’t need anyone. We can give additional support if necessary and put an end to this issue. We have been saying this from the beginning, but unfortunately they did not recognize this. With the games of some presumptuous people in the U.S., with the games of the print and visual media, they spread the slander that ‘Turkey has not done enough against Daesh.’ Turkey is in fact the biggest fighter against that group,” the president said, adding that the number of civilian and security personnel killed by ISIL was proof of Turkey’s struggle against the group.
Edoğan said his meeting with Trump would be a decisive one.
“This issue, the problems have been continuing for far too long,” said Erdoğan. “We do not have the patience for it to continue.”