US miscalculation on Syria

US miscalculation on Syria

The United States has made its top general in Syria, Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, speak to stop Turkey carrying out an operation in Syria’s Afrin district.

Lt. Gen. Funk talked about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s remarks on the operation that the “Turkish Armed Forces will go to Manbij and even to the east of the Euphrates after Afrin to fight until the last terrorist is neutralized.” Undoubtedly, the fact that Funk went to Manbij, visited People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants, gave an interview next to them and called them “heroes” was about staging the scenario written by Washington. Funk threatened Turkey visually and verbally in this mise-en-scene. “If you hit us, we will aggressively respond,” he said.

Wrong method

Another striking remark from Funk was his answer to a question by a CNN International correspondent, who asked “What are you most concerned about?”

Funk said it is “miscalculation.” In fact, he meant to tell Turkey “Do not miscalculate. It is not the YPG, but it is us who you are against now.”

The timing of his speech was also significant. Lt. Gen. Paul Funk spoke just before the visit of U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Turkey. It was an attempt to announce the messages in advance, which will be given by McMaster and Tillerson, to measure Turkey’s reaction to them and to show the United States’ position.

It is important to note that a lieutenant general in Syria is not Ankara’s interlocutor. His only interlocutor can only be his peer in the Turkish army.

The United States should have made a political official at a level whom Ankara could have taken as an interlocutor to speak if it wanted to give a message before the visit of McMaster and Tillerson.

Washington’s method was wrong and it did not have any effect on Ankara, which maintained its position as clearly expressed before.

Also, Funk’s remarks “We are not planning to withdraw from Manbij” did not have any equivalence in Ankara because Ankara targeted the Democratic Union Party (PYD), its armed wing the Syrian Kurdish militia the YPG and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rather than United States when it said “They have to withdraw from Manbij, otherwise we will force them to do so.”

In fact, Ankara reminded the United States of a past promise with this statement. The U.S. had guaranteed that the YPG would withdraw to the east of the Euphrates. Instead, the U.S. said “We will not withdraw. If you hit us, we will hit back,” which could only be a statement that would come from the opponent side.

Calculations of Turkey

As for the “miscalculation” warning from the United States to Turkey through Lt. Gen. Funk…

Turkey has already announced its calculations openly to the world public opinion. With “Operation Olive Branch,” Turkey aims to neutralize the PKK-PYD-YPG and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorist organizations on its borders, which all aim to divide Turkey; as well as to guarantee the territorial integrity of Syria and Turkey’s perpetuity. It aimed at the same things in the Euphrates Shield Operation as well.

It is not realistic to expect Turkey to give up on these objectives.

If Ankara did not take any action against such a threat to protect its national security, this would be contradicting with its own existence. We should see the operation of the Turkish Armed Forces in Syria this way. After these points are guaranteed, Turkey will go back to its borders.

It is not Ankara but the United States who is making a miscalculation by backing the PKK-PYD-YPG and uttering threats although it clearly sees the concerns of its 60-year ally Turkey and its right to self-defense against the threats and attacks it has been facing.

Yes, the calculation of the United States is wrong.

It is wrong, because the United States’ clash with Turkey for the PKK will just play into the hands of Russia and Iran. It will cause a strong fracture and deadlock in NATO. The United States will lose Turkey; the situation in the Middle East will be even more unbalanced; the U.S. will be completely alone in the region and it will be harder for it to hold on in Syria.

It is not Turkey, but is the United States who needs to review its calculations.

Fikret Bila, hdn,