NOTE: I did a new interview for Real News Network about the near-murder of Palestinian prisoner, Samer al-Arbid, by Shabak torturer, “Nurit.” Please give it a listen and promote it on your social media accounts.
For Pres. Trump…embroiled in an impeachment crisis at home, he has searched desperately for a foreign policy triumph to divert the public’s attention. For Turkey’s Pres. Erdogan…he has searched desperately for a foreign policy triumph to deflect from multiple electoral defeats which have taken the luster off his proto-Ottoman political dreams.
With their phone call last weekend, they’ve given each other the victories they each need to hold up before their respective domestic constituencies. Nevertheless, the agreements arrived at threaten to upend the achievements of years of struggle to defeat ISIS. They also mean abandoning a long-time alliance between Syrian Kurds and the U.S. in pursuit of the goal of decimating the Islamist forces in Iraq and Syria. The Kurds have been the single most effective fighting force in this effort. The U.S. has spent hundreds of millions in equipping and arming the Kurdish effort.
The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so. They have been fighting Turkey for decades. I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home. WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN. Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out,
What a callow, cowardly, pusillanimous fool! Though Trump has succeeded in washing his hands of a U.S. engagement he has chafed at since his presidency began, this erratic shift in U.S. policy only underscores how impulsive and untrustworthy Trump is. No foreign leader, and certainly not Kurds for years to come, will ever trust a word out of his mouth.
As if Trump realized he’d done an “oopsie” in making this Devil’s Bargain, he subsequently tweeted this bizarre threat against Turkey:
As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019
Of course, his threat involves Turkey’s treatment of any potential ISIS prisoners it captures during its Syrian invasion. Trump mentions nothing about Turkey’s aggression against our Kurdish allies and the bloodshed and suffering that will ensue for them. Thankfully, other journalists are reminding him of the likelihood that Turkey’s army will engage in war crimes in this operation.
Donnie Bro, Sen. Lindsey Graham, is none too happy with Trump either, calling this phone call a “stain on national honor.” As if Trump had any honor–or Graham himself for that matter. Pooe Lindsey, Trump has made a fool of you as well!
Paul Krugman has also weighed in:
So did Trump just betray the Kurds because
(a) He has business interests in Turkey
(b) Erdogan, being a brutal autocrat, is his kind of guy
(c) His boss Vladimir Putin told him to
Remarkable that all three stories are perfectly plausible.
— Paul Krugman (@paulkrugman) October 7, 2019
Since foreign policy quid pro quos are in the news lately, there are a number of important ones likely to come from the Trump-Erdogan “chat:”
One of the most contentious aspects of U.S.-Turkish relations has been Erdogan’s decision to buy the Russian S-400 anti-missile system. When Turkey announced its intention, Trump immediately threatened and later implemented a ban on the sale of the U.S. F-35, our most advanced warplanes. This phone call may have played a major role in resolving this disagreement, which has imperiled bilateral relations for months. If Erdogan pledged not to activate the missle batteries already delivered and not to order any further S-400 systems, then Trump could reinstate the F-35 order, thus adding billions of U.S. arms export orders. Everyone is happy, except the poor Kurds who have been left to their fate by the ever-erratic Trump.
Over the past month, as impeachment has brewed as a real possibility, Trump has sought a foreign policy victory. He thought he had one when French Pres. Emmanuel Macron brought Iran’s Pres. Rouhani to the brink of a phone call with the U.S. leader. But the Iranian backed out at the last minute and Trump was left empty-handed.
The Turkish leader, on the other hand, has seen his political star sink with two major defeats in municipal elections. He even lost the rematch election which he forced by claiming the first election had been fraudulent. Erdogan too needs to show his followers that he is the strong, decisive leader he has projected in the past. What can he expect? A massive Turkish invasion of northern Syria in order to flush out ‘Kurdish terrorists.’ For Erdogan, Kurds are the same bogeyman that Hamas and Iran are for Bibi Netanyahu. They are a punching bag to be used to deflect attention from domestic crises and woes.
Finally, and perhaps the icing on the cake, Trump dangled a White House invitation before Erdogan in return for committing all those billions to buy the F-35s. That visit could come as early as the coming month. There’s nothing like a White House visit to boost one’s political standing back home. That’s why Ukraine’s president wanted one so badly, and Trump refused to give it to him unless he went after Joe and Hunter Biden. A different sort of quid pro quo.
Many will remember that during the Turkish leader’s last visit, his security goons beat up protesters outside the Turkish embassy. The Justice Department did little or nothing to hold the Turks accountable for their breach of diplomatic protocol, eventually dropping all charges. One can only imagine the mayhem that could ensue during Erdogan’s upcoming visit.