Visible facts and real facts in Turkish-US relations
When Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ visited Washington, he made a very good comment on the Gülen community in a meeting at SETA.
He said the Gülenists had a visible face but on the other hand there were the facts. True, but this is not only valid for Gülenists but for several other matters, from the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to how Turkey handles the Gülen issue.
Visible: Turkey says the extradition of Gülen is the top priority; the United States has also appointed six prosecutors on the extradition file in a show of keenness.
Facts: Bozdağ spoke with his U.S. counterpart, Loretta Lynch, for 90 minutes, mostly on Gülen. But at the end of the meeting, he suddenly brought up the Reza Zarrab issue and said it was a political case. Lynch did not say anything; she just listened. Turkey has a tendency to couple the extradition of Gülen together with the Zarrab case. There are domestic objections to this; some experts argue that this strategy will harm Turkey. However, Ankara’s lawyer on the activities of the Gülen Community in the U.S., Bob Amsterdam, has a critical role in this strategy. Despite the visible U.S. keenness on the Gülen file, they are not able to explain why the FBI investigation on Gülen schools launched in 2011 has not become a case yet.
Visible: President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in his phone conversation with President Obama said Turkey was ready for military operation on al-Bab, Manbij and Raqqa.
Facts: That phone conversation occurred after concerns emerged in Washington because of the possibility that Turkey would engage in unilateral action during the Mosul operation and the Raqqa siege. Turkey has not undertaken a role in Mosul. Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis, contrary to what is being claimed, said Turkish F-16 jets were not included in the task force in Iraq. A top Defense Ministry official also said nothing has changed since Gen. Stephen Townsend said on Oct. 26 that the Syrian Democratic Forces, whose main component is the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the military wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), will take part in the Raqqa operation.
Another official from the administration said regarding Turkey’s shooting of YPG targets in Afrin, that the U.S. had no coordination with Afrin Kurds, that here were no U.S. Special Forces in Afrin and that both the Turks’ and Afrin Kurds’ acts were independent. Another U.S. official emphasized the significance of coordination in the movements of the coalition. There is no consensus there.
Visible: The U.S. is saying that an operation will be launched on Raqqa with the support of the Syrian Democratic Forces.
Facts: The most determinant component on Raqqa is the U.S.-YPG cooperation and this cooperation is losing ground with Turkey’s moves because as the Turkish Army hits YPG targets in Afrin and as Erdoğan calls for the YPG to withdraw from Manbij, the priorities for the YPG are changing. Before Raqqa, they want to secure themselves against Turkey. Last month Townsend told the Wall Street Journal that Turkey’s Jarablus operation had hampered the Raqqa operation. This is still valid. The concrete proof is that the Americans who have been conducting air strikes against ISIL in Syria since September 2014, did not hit any targets on Oct. 28 for the first time in two years. Zero attacks.
Visible: President Erdoğan, by saying that he told Russian President Putin, “Let us make the Aleppo people have peace. Aleppo belongs to the people of Aleppo,” gives the impression that he has reached an agreement with the Russian leader.
Facts: The al-Nusra front that Turkey worked together with at one time changed its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and declared that it had severed its ties with al-Qaeda. This front, together with Ahrar al-Sham which cooperates with Turkey and which controls the Syrian side of the Reyhanlı border post, launched a big offensive on Friday in Aleppo to break the Syrian regime’s siege. This is the second attempt. In the first try on July 28, they broke the siege but the regime, with the support of Russia, again surrounded the region held by the opponents at the east of Aleppo where 300,000 people live. They are attacking from the south and another group Turkey is supporting, the Nureddin Zengi Brigade, is waiting for the right time to support the operation from the north. There is no consensus there.
When David Leonhardt was appointed as the Washington bureau chief of New York Times in 2011, he said, “We should explain to our readers not what Washington is saying but what it is doing.” I have tried to do this as much as I could.