It’s been a while since I’ve done any Erdogan satire and NATO’s favorite autocrat is actually trending on Tuesday, so it’s time.
As everyone anxiously awaits Trump’s “primetime” address to the nation – during which he’ll presumably expound on the relative merits of “steel” versus “concrete” (the former is stronger, in case you’re “not in the construction business”) and “slat barriers” versus solid “walls” (the former are “see-through” which helps ensure border agents don’t get hit in the head with “60 pound sacks of stuff“) – the President’s bungled Syria pullout plan is falling apart in real time.
At the risk of coming across as arrogant (a risk I’m not exactly shy about taking), we said everything that needed to be said about Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria minutes after the news first crossed the wires back on December 19.
The move was a concession to Erdogan and needs to be understood in the context of his disdain for the YPG (who the U.S. arms and supports) and, more broadly, in the context of the evidence Ankara has that implicates Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
Since the announcement (which served as the last straw for Jim Mattis), the Pentagon and the State Department have been at pains to explain how they plan to protect Syrian Kurds from Erdogan who would obviously be inclined to simply massacre them once he no longer has to worry about accidentally killing US spec ops as part of any cross-border offensive.
That effort (to somehow explain how a sudden withdrawal of US support for the Kurds won’t ultimately put the YPG at Erdogan’s mercy) hasn’t gone well.
“Erdogan made a commitment to President Trump that the Turks would continue to the counter ISIS campaign after our departure, and that the Turks would ensure that the folks that we’d fought with would be protected”, Mike Pompeo told CNBC on Monday.
That’s clearly laughable. Erdogan is holding literally all the cards here and everyone with any sense knows it (see the linked post above).
In his infinite wisdom, Trump sent John Bolton (offensive mustache in tow) to Ankara this week and on the way there, he (John) stopped off in Jerusalem, where he said this:
We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States at a minimum, so they don’t endanger our troops, but also so that they meet the president’s requirement that the Syrian opposition forces that have fought with us are not endangered.
When pressed on whether the US would demand that Erdogan guarantee the safety of the Kurds, John said “basically, that’s right.”
If you know anything about Erdogan, you know he doesn’t take kindly to “demands” of any kind. Further, he most assuredly isn’t going to be “guaranteeing” the safety of the YPG, who he equates with the PKK, which is second only to Fethullah Gulen on the (long) list of people Erdogan hates. “Basically”, John Bolton just screwed up.
So, can you guess what Erdogan did? Well, he snubbed John, that’s what he did.
“It is not possible for us to swallow the message Bolton gave from Israel”, Erdogan told Parliament on Tuesday, after literally refusing to meet with John. Bolton, Erdogan says, has made a “grave” mistake.
Here is the clip of the Turkish autocrat sporting a dapper three-piece suit complete with what looks like a super-awesome wool button-down vest:
Bolton was in Ankara, but promptly left after Erdogan gave him the cold shoulder. The lira sold off hard on the news.
This is all kinds of hilarious and it underscores the fact that Trump’s penchant for pandering to autocrats puts his advisers in an extremely precarious situation.
You cannot make promises to someone like Erdogan if you don’t intend to keep them and you most assuredly cannot send an underling to meet with Erdogan in Ankara and expect it’s going to go well when said underling insults the Turkish leader on the way there.
So, if you’re wondering how the ill-conceived Syria pullout is going, ask John Bolton.