Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Donald Trump and Tayyip Erdogan agree to work together in the fight against ISIS in Syria.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. Reuters. 

After a phone call between the two leaders, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and American President Tayyip Erdogan have agree to work together in the war against ISIS in Syria. Reuters. The cooperation will be centered on the Syrian cities of Raqqa, ISIS's capitol in the region, and al-Bab. The new coordination comes after Turkish/American relations dropped significantly under Barack Obama due to his support of Kurdish militia groups fighting ISIS and not turning over Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan blames for last year's coup attempt. Taking control of Raqqa and al-Bab would help both Trump and Erdogan establish a "safe zone" for refugees displaced by the war. CIA director Mike Pompeo is heading to Turkey to work out the details and settle the issue of supporting the YPG Kurdish group. 

My Comment:
I've got mixed feelings about this. I have never been a fan of Tayyip Erdogan. He doesn't respect civil rights and the freedom of the press and he has become less secular over the course of his presidency. Had the coup succeeded, I would not have been upset. He's a dictator and a thug and I don't like what he has done and what he is doing. 

All that being said though, Turkey is a critical NATO ally and Barack Obama did some serious damage to our relationship. Turkey was and is furious that we supported the Kurdish YPG group that they consider terrorists. Though the Kurds have been good allies against ISIS, they are also radical far left communists and I don't really like them. And it's pretty hard to deny that YPG has some serious ties to the more radical terrorist Kurdish groups currently engaged in a guerrilla war against Turkey. Those groups are one of the few secular groups that use suicide bombing as a weapon so I don't have much sympathy for them either. 

I also have to say that Turkey has somewhat redeemed themselves a bit in the battle against ISIS. Though it is not enough to make up for the tacit support they gave ISIS during the earlier stages of the Syrian Civil War, the fact that they have been curb stomping them since ISIS started to attack them is a welcome development. Taking the border from ISIS really hurt them more than any other action since the war began.

I do think that this is a win for just about everyone in Syria that isn't ISIS. We obviously get to degrade and destroy two of ISIS's most important cities. Turkey gets better security and prevents the Kurds from creating an independent Kurdistan. The Kurds don't have to risk their troop to fight in areas they have little interest in. Even the Syrian government wins because that is two less cities they have to fight ISIS for and they can turn their forces against al-Nusra and other rebel groups closer to their strongholds. 

Will it work long term though? I am not sure. The huge question is what happens to Syria after ISIS and al-Nusra are gone. It really looks like the country is going to be split in at least two parts. The regime will take back most of the territory they lost but I think the Kurdish areas in the north will come under control of Turkey. They already have troops their and it would be in their interest to create a buffer zone between them an the Kurds. I don't know if the Syrians will go along with it though... 

As for ISIS, they are in serious trouble. If the Turks really do start advancing on Raqqa they will be facing a professional and well trained military armed with modern weapons and the will to use them. Unlike the Iraqi Army, who breaks half the time and the Syrian Army, who had been bled dry, the Turks are going to fight to win and aren't going to be intimidated by ISIS. Even if the Turks advance primarily using the local militias, they will support the fight with armor and airstrikes. 

Again, I think this is probably a good thing in the end. As much as I dislike Erdogan, we need him as an ally and since he is finally doing the right thing by destroying ISIS, I think we can work with him. We should work with any ally in Syria, even the Russians, who are fighting against ISIS and al-Nusra. They are existential threats and they need to be destroyed. Hopefully we can work with the Turks to get that outcome... 

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