Nearly Openly, the United States is Inciting Turkey to a New Aggression
In a press briefing by Ned Price, the US Department of State spokesperson, on June 6, one reporter asked him about the US position regarding a potential Turkish military operation in northern Syria. Price responded: “our position is one that you’ve heard… ever since this potential operation was first raised. We have emphasized that we remain deeply concerned about discussions of potential increased military activity in northern Syria, and in particular, its potential impact on the civilian population there. We have continued to call for the maintenance of existing ceasefire lines. We would condemn any escalation beyond those lines. It’s crucial for all sides to maintain and to respect those ceasefire zones to enhance stability in Syria and to work towards a political solution to the conflict”. He also added: “we expect Turkey to live up to the commitments that it made in October of 2019, including the commitment to halt offensive operations in northeast Syria. Any new escalation beyond those existing ceasefire lines could prove to be especially costly setbacks – costly setbacks to our collective efforts to counter Daesh, the efforts of the counter-ISIS coalition, but also to our efforts to promote political stability within Syria”.
The aforementioned statement represents the outer shell of the US position from a new potential Turkish aggression. Based on this, the US seems opposed to such approach; however, the reality of the matter can be traced at three levels:
- Within official statements.
- Within the nature of US media coverage and analyses of US “experts”, including think tanks and former officials.
- More importantly than the above, within attempting to understand the US’ real interests, not what it says publicly, whether officially or semi-officially.
As for the first level, and going back to the same press briefing with which we started this article, after Price gave the above response, a reporter reminded him that his statements are the same as those made before the Turkish aggression in October 2019. The reporter asked: “will there be anything different this time?” since the statements are the same. To this, Price responded by saying: “What we can do is to make very clear where the United States of America stands on this…. We’ve made very clear to [our Turkish allies] our concerns with any renewed offensive in northern Syria”.
Therefore, the limits of the official position do not include any traditional talk about sanctions or consequences to a new potential Turkish aggression, but are merely limited to “making the position clear” along with possibly “showing concern”.
The Second Level: “The Experts”
In general, it is not unusual for countries to express their positions and interests at various levels: the official, which is the general position and carries a “diplomatic” form; and an unofficial form, which is expressed through “experts” who are usually former officials or major think tanks.
The “unofficial” positions are most of the time closer to the truth from the official ones. However, especially in the case of the US, the maneuvering between the official, unofficial, and actual, is the main tool for enforcing policies, despite the reality that the difference between the official and actual can at times reach the point of complete contradiction.
The main explanation of this contradiction is that the US policy for decades has been based on allusion of alliance with everyone, while at the same time working to get everyone against everyone. When we are before a very complicated situation like the Syrian one, this policy becomes much more complicated and “esoteric”. The US, within a new potential Turkish aggression on northern Syria, presents itself as an ally to both sides: the aggressor and the defender. All the while, experience from the last few years, and through three “Turkish military operations”, shows that the US in reality stands with neither the aggressor nor the defender, but instead stands with a war taking place, so that it tries to control its outcomes and boundaries.
Looking at “experts’ opinions” allows clarifying this point further:
- A Newsweek article published on June 1, and after going through a spectrum of various opinions and analyses, concludes according to a US military expert that: “The priority of the United States is going to be to keep NATO intact”. This clearly means that the US will not stand in the way of a new potential Turkish aggression on northern Syria.
- Along the same analytical line, an article published by the AP on June 3 noted that analysts “say Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is taking advantage of the war in Ukraine to push his own goals in neighboring Syria – even using Turkey’s ability as a NATO member to veto alliance membership by Finland and Sweden as potential leverage”. Also according to analysts, the Turkish president sees that “the Americans need [him] to drop his objections to the expansion of NATO” and feel like there is “an opportunity to try and get concessions from the West”.
- Perhaps one of the more important “expert” articles, is one published by the Atlantic Council, one of the main US think tanks, on June 7. This article concludes that “The United States (and the West) should engage at the most senior levels not just to ‘warn’ or ‘caution’ Turkey, but to seek mutually acceptable conditions or limits on the operation. The hands-off approach hasn’t worked in the past, and is unlikely to do so now”. Here, the actual positions seems clearer, as the issue is not about criticizing a new Turkish aggression or warning against it as the official position would indicate. To the contrary, the position is to incite a new aggression the “limits of which are agreed upon”. In the same article, the author indicates that a Turkish operation that leads to Turkish control of more areas in northern Syria, and amid Russia’s preoccupation now, could mean not allowing Iran to go in and control these areas. This implicitly means that the operation might resonate positively in Washington.
The above examples are merely samples of a greater amount of “opinions” and “analyses”, all of which go in the same directions. Let us now move on to the more important level.
The Third Level: Washington’s Interests
Following the Ukraine crisis, some have forgotten or are pretending to forget, the general trend of US withdrawal from the entire Middle East region, which is mainly resulting from the deep retreat of the US that is forcing it to globally reposition its retreating military capabilities (based on its retreating economic capabilities).
This trend is still ongoing, even becoming greater with the launch of the Russian military operation in Ukraine. If the main frontline towards which the repositioning is supposed to go is China, then now there are two main frontlines towards which repositioning should go: Europe and the periphery of China, together.
That is, what is left of US forces in the Middle East, has become an unacceptable luxury within the ongoing big battle.
This also goes for Syria, and perhaps more so than anywhere else. Therefore, if the US is thinking about withdrawing, as usual it would want the sabotaging effect of its presence to continue after its withdrawal. Nothing can be a better chaotic tool that getting everyone to go up against everyone.
Therefore, encouraging a new Turkish aggression is not only required to get the Autonomous Administration to clash with the Turks, but also to attempt to create tensions among Russia, Turkey, and Iran.
All of this, naturally does not detract from the Turkish opportunism and aggression, where Turkey tries to exploit these equations, which makes the Astana framework the most critical to contain and prevent a Turkish aggression. The same goes for pushing towards deeper understandings among Syrians themselves, on the basis of the unity of the land and the people, and not within also opportunistic frameworks, in the narrow political sense, among the various political Syrian sides.