How long should Turkey rely on Trump on Syria?
An initiative by France and the United Kingdom to issue a condemnation statement on Turkey’s military offensive at the U.N. Security Council was stopped by the United States and Russia. This does not only reveal a big divide between U.S. and Europe when it comes to security matters, but also suggests a very rare alliance between the U.S. and Russia on an issue concerning the Syrian turmoil, although for different reasons.
As this column was being written, there were efforts at the U.N. Security Council to reach a compromise on the wording of a probable resolution or a statement about “Operation Peace Spring” by Turkey. We will see whether European members of the council will be able to propose a language acceptable to all the members of the Security Council.
What seems to be important to watch will be U.S. President Donald Trump’s stance in regards to the Turkish operation and how long he will be able to stand tall against his internal critics.
His administration denies that Trump gave a green light to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for launching the operation and underlines that the withdrawal of the troops from the immediate operation area was for the protection of the U.S. troops on the field.
The U.S. has so far followed a very delicate line on the operation. Trump’s daily Twitter messages illustrate a mess in his mind on how to treat the Turkish government as he is under growing pressure from his allies inside and outside the U.S. He has not refrained to urge Turkey that he could “obliterate” the Turkish economy if it “goes off limits,” but has not directly slammed the operation.
But this stance of his has already sparked an outrage among the Republican Party brass. His closest allies do not avoid grilling him on his decision to pull back troops from Syria and allow a Turkish operation against the YPG. A bipartisan legislation seeks to severely sanction Turkey. His democratic rivals are also trying to take advantage out of this divergence within the republican camp for further pushing efforts to impeach the president.
This chorus has now been grown by important evangelical leaders who have sharply criticized Trump’s decision on the concerns that a green light given to Turkey’s operation would threaten the Kurds and vulnerable Christian communities.
“It is very possible that the American withdrawal from the region will lead to the extinction of Christianity from the region,” Ashty Bahro, former director of the Evangelical Alliance of Kurdistan, told the Christianity Today news outlet. Not only him, but other evangelical leaders have tweeted their disturbance over Trump’s move to pull out U.S. troops in Syria.
Since the start of the Turkish operation, a very good majority of the U.S. media, think tanks and academics have continued to slam Trump’s move in Syria, with calls on him to reverse his stance and deliver an adequate response to the Turkish operation.
For now, as Trump has said, his administration is closely following the Turkish operation. According to the U.S. media, the red line on Trump’s mind is to what extent Turkey will take care of the civilians in the operation area. Turkey, as it has in the previous operation, assures all the international community that utmost attention is being paid to avoid civilian casualties. As the early days of the operation has shown that the YPG will continue to attack civilians on the Turkish side of the border in order to provoke the Turkish army for a reckless operation. Given this picture and increased pressure on the U.S. president, Ankara should question how long it can really rely on Trump.