While most commentators have focused on the reasons and consequences of the U.S., British, and French missile strikes on targets in Syria, very few realize that Turkey is the biggest loser as the result of this attack.
Two weeks ago, when United States President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would “very soon,” withdraw its soldiers from Northern Syria, the Turkish government was elated. Turkey’s invasion of Afrin was intended to expand the occupation to Manbij and the entire Northern Syria to dislodge Kurdish fighters from that region. The only obstacle standing in the way of the Turkish troops was the U.S. military, which has over 2,000 soldiers deployed in the Manbij area. Repeated Turkish threats to attack the American troops did not scare the U.S. Commanders who stood steadfast in their defense of the local Kurdish population.
Within two weeks, President Trump reversed his position on the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. The latest reports from Washington and Paris state that the Pentagon and French President Emmanuel Macron “convinced” President Trump to keep the U.S. military in Syria until the Syrian crisis is resolved or other Western and Arab countries replaced the American forces. Turkey’s leaders were also disappointed that due to his dismissal former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson could not keep his promise to President Erdogan that the U.S. forces would withdraw shortly from Northern Syria.
With the American troops staying in Syria, the Turkish ability to attack Kurdish fighters in Northern Syria would be limited. Despite his crazy antics, President Erdogan is not going to target the U.S. military or as he described, “deliver the Americans an Ottoman slap!” Thus, the unsubstantiated accusations of a chemical attack by the Syrian government on civilians in Douma near Damascus was most probably orchestrated by those who wanted to prevent American forces from leaving Northern Syria, to the great chagrin of Turkey. Interestingly, in his remarks shortly before the missile strike, President Trump did not mention a single word as to what evidence he had about the responsibility of the Syrian regime for the chemical attack.
Incidentally, the missile strike on Syria generated conflicting reactions in Turkey. While President Erdogan was unhappy with the stay of the U.S. troops in Syria, he was delighted with the attacks by the U.S., Great Britain, and France, since Turkey wanted to undermine the Syrian regime and overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. The missile strike, however, did not have such an objective, as President Trump tweeted after the attack, “Mission Accomplished!” Everyone, except Erdogan, agrees that President Assad had the upper hand in the Syrian conflict and his overthrow would worsen the situation in Syria and the region.
The other negative consequence of the Turkish praise of the missile attack on Syria was the souring of relations between Turkey, and Russia and Iran, staunch supporters of President Assad and harsh critics of the strike. In addition, President Erdogan alienated his domestic political opposition and a large segment of the Turkish public upset by the Western powers’ attack on a fellow Muslim country.
Turkey was also unhappy that President Trump, in his remarks just before the missile strike, mentioned “Saudi Arabia, the United Emirates, Qatar, and Egypt” as “our friends,” disregarding NATO ally Turkey due to its rapprochement with Russia and Iran.
Curiously, in his speech President Trump criticized Russia and Iran stating: “what kind of a nation wants to be associated with a mass murder of innocent men, women and children? The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep. No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants and murderous dictators.” It is unfortunate that on the eve of April 24, the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, President Trump would attack other countries for keeping company with a murderous nation, ignoring the fact that the U.S. is an ally of Turkey, a country that denies the murder of 1.5 million Armenians, and defends its predecessor criminal Ottoman regime that committed the Armenian Genocide. This reminds us of what Jesus said: “You hypocrite! First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
As I wrote a year ago when President Trump attacked Syria with Tomahawk missiles, he was simply hitting Syria to deviate the attention of the American public from his many infidelities, illegalities, and investigations of his covert relations with Russia.
Finally, President Trump, UK Prime Minster Theresa May, and French President Macron violated the constitutions of their respective countries, by going to war against another sovereign state without getting the consent of their legislative bodies.