Will US policies on ISIL and Syria shift after polls?

Will US policies on ISIL and Syria shift after polls?

A different voice is coming from every U.S. administrative unit. Spokespersons from the White House, Pentagon, Department of State and National Security Council are all speaking differently.

That was Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s complaint on Nov. 1 on his way back from a meeting with French President François Hollande in Paris; it was about the recent discrepancies between Turkey and the U.S. over the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (IŞİD), the position of Kurdish fighters in that fight and the future of Syria.

“Some of them claim,” Erdoğan continued, “We do not support the U.S. [for that fight]. It is a lie. We gave the necessary support. But our support should be within certain rules and executed in accordance with NATO planning. And let me also say the amount we pay to host the refugees from Kobane is much more than the costs of the weapons the Americans are supplying them.”

The Turkish government expects that the policies of the Barack Obama administration regarding ISIL (Erdoğan shifted to calling them “DA’ISH”, their acronym in Arabic after meeting with Hollande), regarding the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria and the Kurds would become “clearer” after the Nov. 4 midterm elections.

Ankara follows the American political debate quite closely, including the possibilities of a reshuffle in especially security and foreign policy issues. The American voters will elect their representatives for all 435 representatives for the House of Representatives and a third of the 100 members of Senate. The House is already in Republican hands and observers claim that is not likely to change. But if the balances in the Senate also shift against the Democrats, that could put the Obama administration in a difficult situation.

“Since it would be almost possible to pass any critical legislation from the Congress for the remaining two years” said one source observing American politics closely, “Foreign policy could remain as the only toy for Obama to play with.” And because Republicans are pushing Obama for taking a more active stance on all those issues, Obama might be forced to commit diplomacy and armed forces more to the fight against ISIL in Syria and in Iraq.

Considering the rising influence of Iran in Iraq and its support for the al-Assad regime in Syria, also considering the increasing role of Turkey within NATO in countering the recent Russian moves because of Ukraine and the Baltic States, Erdoğan calculates that Obama’s new line could be in his advantage. Erdoğan thinks Turkey is too big for to be dispensable, or even to alienate, for the U.S. for the time being, and he might have a point in that. 

Will Erdoğan’s calculation prove right? Will Obama’s policy on ISIL and Syria change after the midterm elections and if so, will that change be in favor of Ankara?

Ankara eagerly waits to see the consequences of the American polls.