“It’s time to see Erdogan as no friend of the West.”
Did Turkey’s despotic leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan test President Donald Trump last week when he launched massive aerial attacks on Trump’s main allies in the battle against the Islamic State, the Kurdish Peshmerga militia in Iraq and the Syrian Kurdish fighting force YPG?
Some experts say he did, according to the news site Al-Monitor.
True, Erdogan apologized for the attack on the Peshmerga fighters in the Mount Sinjar area in northern Iraq and said that the intended target was the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party that has a presence in northern Iraq.
Nevertheless, his order to launch the attacks on the Kurds shocked the U.S. military.
“We didn’t know anything about this,” baffled U.S. soldiers said after the attacks. However, Erdogan has repeatedly warned he would take action.
The Turkish despotic leader has said he wants the U.S. to change partners in the battle for the liberation of ISIS’ capital Raqqa and sees the area of Mount Sinjar in Iraq as a Turkish outpost because of the nearby city Tal-Afar that is populated by Shia and Sunni Turkmen.
The city is one of the last bulwarks of Islamic State’s fast shrinking caliphate in Iraq and Erdogan uses the PKK presence in the area to prevent the Iran-backed Shiite militia Hash al-Sha’abi from taking over the region.
Last week Erdogan labeled the Hash al-Sha’abi a terrorist organization and said they were trying to take-over Tal-Afar while he again threatened to invade northern Iraq.
Turkey could “come (to Sinjar) overnight, all of a sudden without warning,” Erdogan said using a phrase taken from an old Turkish song that dates back to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
“Erdo?an cited the song after photos appeared in the international media showing a YPG militant side by side with an American soldier, under a U.S. flag, watching the Turkish border with concerned expressions,” the state-controlled Turkish news outlet Hurriyet reported referring to the deployment of U.S. Special Forces along the Turkish border after the assault on the Kurds.
The Turkish leader sees the YPG in Syria as a branch of the PKK in Turkey and has branded the Kurdish militia a terrorist organization over its ties to the PKK
Some think Erdogan’s sudden action against the Kurds in Syria and northern Iraq was inspired by his misinterpretation of Trump’s congratulatory phone call after the national referendum that gave the Turkish president finally the sweeping powers he sought for a very long time.
Erdogan thought Trump gave him a carte blanche, Al-Monitor analyst Ambarin Zaman suggested.
The Turkish dictator apparently thought he could now carry out an old plan to that would drive a wig between the Kurds and the U.S. and would force Trump to reconsider the long-standing alliance with the Kurds.
The alternative he offers is not feasible for the U.S., however. The Turkish alliance that operates in Syria consists of “armed hordes that open fire haphazardly and are ill-disciplined, untrained and inexperienced,” according to Turkey expert Fehim Tastekin.
The Turkish proxy army in Syria includes the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham terror group and cooperates with al-Qaeda’s local branch Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra.
Erdogan now plans to raise the issue with Trump during his upcoming visit to the White House on May 16.
“We are seriously concerned to see U.S. flags in a convoy that has YPG rags on it. We will mention these issues to President [Donald Trump] during our visit to the United States,” the Turkish leader said this weekend.
He also expressed his opposition to the fact that U.S. military personnel attended some funerals of Kurdish fighter who were killed in the Turkish airstrikes last week, and vowed to teach Trump a few things about the global fight against “terrorism”.
The question is now if Erdogan can convince Trump and if the president will budge and reconsider his current policy of cooperating with the Kurds.
Trump’s aides and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were reportedly not happy with Trump’s congratulation call to Erdogan after he announced the results of the national referendum in mid-April.
They rightly feared the call would embolden Erdogan who aspires to revive the Ottoman Empire and immediately after winning the national referendum over his executive powers unveiled the hidden caftan of Selim I the first Caliph of the Ottoman Empire.
Other developments in Turkey make clear Erdogan is not fit to be a partner in the war against Islamist forces that threaten the West as well.
Last week the Turkish dictator ordered the blockage of Wikipedia in Turkey over a supposed “smear campaign” against his country and banned alcoholic beverages in the popular resort town of Antalya.
Erdogan’s regime also arrested another 1,000 people across Turkey and ordered the suspension of 9,103 police officers over their alleged ties to spiritual leader Fethullah Gulen who is living in exile in the U.S.
Trump will now need “the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon” – as CNN’s Ben Wedeman put it – to sort out the mess he’s in and to prevent an all-out war between Turkey and the Kurds.
Such a war would destroy the changes to get rid of ISIS in Syria anytime soon and could pitch the U.S. military against the Turkish army, a fellow NATO-member, and the second largest military in the alliance.
On the other hand, Trump could put Erdogan “on notice” and inform him that his behavior is unacceptable and endangers an already destabilized world, say some analysts.
One of them is Daniel Pipes who called the Western responses to Erdogan’s provocations “weak-kneed.”
“It’s time to see Erdogan as no friend of the West,” Pipes noted, adding that Trump should pull out the U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from the Incirlik NATO base and inform Erdogan Turkey’s “NATO membership is in jeopardy pending a dramatic turnaround in behavior.”