Erdoğan toughens his rhetoric on US
Despite all the diplomatic contacts following U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent visit to Ankara, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is not likely to drop his sharp rhetoric against the U.S.
Looking at the criticism he levelled against the Trump administration in a speech he delivered at a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) parliamentary group meeting on March 6, just two days before talks in the joint Turkey-U.S. committees in Washington, it is possible to say that Erdoğan is deliberately sharpening his rhetoric.
The main message he convened in his speech was that he holds the U.S. largely responsible for the existence of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and People’s Protection Units (YPG) elements in northern Syria.
Erdoğan said the YPG is in full agreement with the regime of Bashar al-Assad regarding the “terror corridor that is wanted to be established along Turkey’s borders,” and he indirectly included the U.S. into this equation. “The aim of the terror corridor is Turkey. Indeed, all the trenches, traps and guns we have seized in Afrin were actually aimed at Turkey. Are you our friends? Is this your friendship? We are supposed to be allies. We are supposed to be NATO allies. They all act like ostriches,” he said.
In the speech, Erdoğan did not limit his criticism of the U.S. to the situation in Afrin. He also expanded his disapproval to the situation in the east of the Euphrates River. “Excluding the oil field around Raqqa, the situation is the same in the east of Euphrates,” he said.
The following remarks made by Erdoğan are the strongest criticism yet directed at the U.S. strategy in the east of the Euphrates.
“Let us think about it. How can we explain the preparations against us [Turkey]that is part of the western bloc due to its deep rooted ties with the European Union and a NATO member with DAESH [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – ISIL], the stability of Syria and security concerns? Obviously, Turkey is being targeted here. The target is Turkey’s territorial integrity, its unity, its determination for development and its power.”
Erdoğan questioned the U.S. decision to not withdraw from a large area in Syria’s north stretching up to the east of the Euphrates, implicitly dismissing Washington’s argument that its cooperation with the YPG is just a tactical partnership aimed at finishing off the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and restoring Syria’s stability.
Not so indirectly, Erdoğan said the U.S. effectively targets “Turkey’s territorial integrity, its unity, its determination to develop, and its power.”
I also want to underline the following remarks he made: “They can lie as much as they want, they can resort to delaying tactics, they can play diplomatic games. We see this truth and say it to their faces and we will continue to do so.”
He did not shy away from using the word “lie.” Indeed, in the later part of his speech, Erdoğan continued to talk about “lies.” “We do not care anymore about who says what. We care only about who does what. We are fed up with those who lie to us while looking straight into our eyes,” he said, adding that “we do not attach any value to words, talks and agreements that are not implemented.” This was probably a reference to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, with whom Erdoğan had a one-on-one meeting in Ankara last month that lasted for three hours.
Indeed, it is fair to say that there has been little progress regarding the promises thawt the U.S. made three weeks ago. On the contrary, Reuters recently reported, citing YPG sources, that “1,700 militants have moved to Afrin through the east of the Euphrates.”
The YPG units that until recently stood side by side with U.S. soldiers, having been trained and armed by the U.S., are now taking up positions against Turkey in Afrin. This is the bare truth that lies behind Erdoğan’s anger.