On June 14, SETA Foundation at Washington DC hosted the event, “The Manbij Agreement: The Way Forward in US-Turkey Relations.” The panelists discussed the recent roadmap endorsed by the US and Turkey and its effects on US-Turkey relations. The panelists were Ambassador James Jeffrey, Philip Solondz Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; Mark Perry, Author and Foreign Policy Analyst; Bassam Barabandi, Director of External Relations for People Demand Change; and, Kilic Bugra Kanat, Research Director at the SETA Foundation at Washington DC. Kadir Ustun, Executive Director at the SETA Foundation at Washington DC, moderated the event.
Bassam Barandi focused his talk on the perception from the ground. He noted the while people respect and appreciate the intervention in Manbij, they are confused about who is going to control the area. He also discussed how Turkey is currently working to bring services, such as hospitals, schools, and electricity, back to the Manbij area. He also emphasized that Syrians are absent in the roadmap deal that was reached between the US and Turkey.
Mark Perry provided a perspective focusing on the US military. He argued that with the situation and roadmap on Manbij, one can see real tensions with American foreign policy within the military. The tensions will be apparent with American foreign policy towards Russia, Iran, and the continuing war in Syria. Furthermore, he contended that Manbij raises the debate of “what now” for US foreign policy and its revolving relationship with Turkey.
James Jeffrey reflected on the military perspective while also presenting a diplomatic perspective. He argued that the Manbij agreement will be more likely to work than previous agreements because now both Turkey and the US are more concerned with the bigger questions of what to do with Syria and how to address Russia and Iran’s influence in Syria. He noted that now that terrorism concerns are less, there is a strategic value in working together.
Kilic Bugra Kanat added a Turkish perspective to the discussion. He noted that the agreement is long overdue and there are steps that still need to be worked out, including developing local administration and governance of the deal. He argued that the agreement is important for the future of NATO, demonstrated that diplomacy still works, and showed Turkey that boots on the ground are important. He also contended that without Turkey’s operation in Afrin this agreement would not have been possible. Moving forward tough questions will need to be addressed, but both countries recognize the importance of stability in Syria at this time after terrorism threats have been mostly thwarted.