Event Summary: Turkey’s Military Operation in Northern Syria
On October 17, 2019 the SETA Foundation at Washington, DC hosted a panel discussion titled “Turkey’s Military Operation in Northern Syria,” moderated by Kadir Ustun, Executive Director at SETA DC. Panelists included Mike Doran, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, and Michael Reynolds, Professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University. Last week, the two panelists co authored an article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Turkey Has Legitimate Grievances Against the US.”
Michael Reynolds magnified the fact that the YPG is effectively equivalent to the PKK, which has been waging a terror campaign in Turkey since the mid 1980s. As one of the pioneers of suicide bombing, the PKK continues to launch an effort to establish its own sovereign Kurdish state, posing a direct threat to Turkey’s national security. In his eyes, Turkey was correct to respond in the manner that it did because its NATO ally trained and armed its mortal enemy. Reynolds also demonstrated that Russia is deeply involved in the Kurdish question that Turkey faces. One of the reasons why Turkey purchased the S400 missile defense system from Russia is due to the belief that Turkey is too dependent on the US and the West as arms suppliers. The US should in no way burn its bridges with Turkey and needs to seek solutions.
Mike Doran expressed great concern about the politicization of this issue and the divergence between the US and Turkey. The framework in which Turkey operates is extremely important to US interests, and at the end of the day, the US needs to find a way to persuade Turkey to operate within an American framework as opposed to a Russian one. He makes it clear that the Obama administration oriented its Middle Eastern policy around the fact that he was negotiating the JCPOA with Iran, instructing the US military to avoid increasing tensions with Assad in Syria as it might jeopardize negotiations. While Doran does not share the same feelings of betrayal that many Americans feel regarding Trump’s decision to sever ties with the YPG, he understands it and insists that the US needs to account for the humanitarian concerns in the area.