Well, if you were looking for further evidence to support the contention that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is milking the Jamal Khashoggi murder for all the geopolitical leverage it’s “worth”, look no further than the Trump administration’s abrupt decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.
Trump on Wednesday morning attempted to spin the decision as evidence that America’s job is done in Syria when it comes to defeating ISIS.
But it doesn’t take a political scientist to suspect that this is a concession to Erdogan. And indeed, a quick look across mainstream media outlets indicates that the Pentagon sees this for what it probably is.
“Pentagon officials were still trying to talk the president out of it, arguing that such a move would betray Kurdish allies who have fought alongside American troops in Syria and who could find themselves under attack in a military offensive now threatened by Turkey”, the New York Times writes.
We immediately flagged that possibility when the news crossed.
Erdogan has for years decried U.S. support for the YPG in Syria, who he equates with the PKK. For the uninitiated, the PKK is second only to Fetullah Gulen when it comes to people Erdogan despises.
And speaking of Gulen, it is absolutely not a coincidence that the Syria withdrawal news comes just days after Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a conference in Doha that Trump has informed Erdogan that Washington is considering removing Gulen from the U.S.
Erdogan’s activities regarding cross-border operations against Syrian Kurds have always been constrained by U.S. support for the YPG and with the removal of U.S. troops, the Turkish President will effectively have free rein to do as he pleases.
This is likely all tied to Erdogan’s use of evidence that implicates Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed in the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi as leverage to wring concessions out of Washington.
If you need “proof” of the assessment as delivered above, look no further than the Turkish lira which is rallying hard on the news.
That is no coincidence, and neither is the sharp move higher in shares of the Turkey ETF as shown below.
The irony in this is that it effectively undermines Trump’s “tough on Iran” stance. Part and parcel of Qassem Soleimani’s efforts to cement the Shia crescent is consolidation of Iranian influence in Syria. The removal of U.S. forces and implicit withdrawal of support for the Syrian Kurds removes a counterbalance to the IRGC’s influence in Syria. Here’s the New York Times one more time:
Mr. Trump from a wholesale troop withdrawal, arguing that such a significant national security policy shift would essentially cede foreign influence in Syria to Russia and Iran at a time when American policy calls for challenging both countries.
Abandoning the American-backed Kurdish allies, Pentagon officials have argued, will hamper future efforts by the United States to gain the trust of local fighters, from Afghanistan to Yemen to Somalia.
But Mr. Trump promised during his presidential campaign to withdraw American troops from Syria, and has been looking for a way out since
In recent days, President Erdogan has given Mr. Trump just such a possible path: Mr. Erdogan has vowed to launch a new offensive against the Kurdish troops that the United States has equipped to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
And oh, the irony. Prince Mohammed’s ill-advised decision to murder a dissident journalist is now manifesting itself in an outcome that will undercut efforts to constrain Tehran’s regional influence.
Blowback, folks. Blowback.