And now, the end is near…
When two global superpowers decide to end a war, it happens. It looks like this will be the outcome in Syria after Russia’s latest overture. It may seem like a brutal blow to Ankara’s “Death to Assad” policies but in the long run, Russia and the United States have agreed on keeping Turkey in one piece. And that means more than words.
According to Washington’s highly placed sources, the U.S. has made a decision “not to support some of the opposition groups at any cost.” Not surprisingly, these were the groups that Turkey had proposed for the “Train-and-Equip” Program. Instead, the U.S. had taken the matter into its own hands to create a fighting force against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Gen. Lloyd Austin, the head of U.S. Central Command, said this during his testimony at the Senate Armed Services Committee:
“What our Special Operations forces have done in northern Syria is that they didn’t wait for the New Syrian Force program or train-and-equip program to fully develop. At the very onset, they began to engage elements like the [Kurdish People’s Defense Units] YPG and enable those elements, and they are making a difference on the battlefield.”
Austin’s words are an echo of the policy decisions in Washington about engaging the Kurds against ISIL rather than supporting and empowering the opposition groups Turkey suggested, like the al-Nusra Front. After a $500 million fiasco, the U.S. has decided to do things “its way” because, according to a Foreign Policy article by Dan de Luce, some of the opposition fighters that were invited into the Train-and-Equip Program with Turkish references leaked their mission when visiting their relatives in camps inside Turkey. So much for the discipline of “Turkey’s boys” inside Syria.
Thus, Washington has decided to support the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) offshoot, the YPG, inside Syria. This time they are putting their money behind a brand, not some brigade with a creative Ottoman sultan’s name that Ankara claimed to have created. This is all after the Dağlıca attack and all the losses we have had in two months. The U.S. feels fooled and cheated as Ankara tried to play the game its way and lost.
The Foreign Policy article also mentions that the effort could also be derailed by rising tensions between Turkey and Kurdish groups in the area… But quoting a defense official, “There’s still a belief that we need to do this.”
The U.S. is not alone in the effort. Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning to unveil a detailed plan for Syria at the U.N. Summit on Sept. 28. Yes, that summit, which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan decided not to go to because he could not get a one-on-one with President Barack Obama. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced military-to-military talks between Russia and the U.S. about Syria. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu will be visiting Moscow to talk about Syria. Iran has made its position clear about fighting ISIL. Turkey is not only missing a chance to shape the events in its backyard, it is failing to get involved in the most crucial issue in its Kurdish peace talks.
The irony is this may be actually good for Turkey at this point in history. The powers that be are watching how Turkey will turn into a more pluralistic, democratic society. They will not allow Turkey to become another Syria. And they will do it “their way.”