By Tom Luongo
Turkish-US relations are terrible and deteriorating by the day despite bromides to the contrary. Actions speak louder than words. And that has been all President Trump seems capable of anymore, words not actions.
Since the beginning of l’affair Khashoggi Turkey has been extracting concession after concession from the US as the Trump administration tries to salvage its soon-to-be-unveiled Middle East peace plan.
The latest concession may be the biggest. There’s a report out now that the Trump administration is readying the extradition of cleric Fethulah Gulen, who President Erdogan believes was behind the coup attempt against him in July of 2016.
The US has protected Gulen well beyond any reasonable measure for someone not in their pay so Erdogan’s claims ring true enough. I’ve always thought he was a US intelligence asset and that the US was the ones truly behind the coup attempt.
And since the Trump administration has been desperate to get the Turks to stop leaking details of the Khashoggi murder, Erdogan has pretty much had a free hand to conduct business as he’s seen fit for the past two-plus months.
Whether the US ever returns Gulen to Ankara or not is actually irrelevant; keeping it a sore spot open is its biggest value while Turkey prepares an assault against US-backed YPG forces in Manbij, Syria.
It helps raise Turkey’s position with the other countries involved in the Astana peace process for Syria while keeping Trump, his foreign policy mental midgets and Saudi Arabia on their collective back foot.
Turkey has grown increasingly restless about the US’s lack of movement in turning Manbij over to them. And have now unleashed attacks on Kurdish forces in Northern Iraq to hamper them further.
All of this is making the US presence in eastern Syria more untenable over time while the Saudis struggle with falling oil prices and no longer want to pay the bill for the US’s proxy war.
Don’t kid yourself, the US is struggling to keep its financial pressure up on Iran.
If these things weren’t enough Turkish Prime Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said recently that Ankara was now willing to work with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if he survives “democratic and credible” elections. This is rich coming from Turkey, but whatever.
The importance of this statement, however, cannot be overstated. Turkey was one of the major partners in the mission to destroy Syria. And now they have joined with Russia, Iran and China in negotiating the peace process.
They have gone from “Assad must go!” to “Assad can stay.” It is an admission that the US plan for balkanization of Syria will eventually fail and that their best bet is putting maximum pressure on the US to give up its regional plans.
Russia, of course, stands behind Turkey in this and themselves are now upping the costs on the US and the Israelis. Because, it is now Russian policy to assist Syrian Arab Army forces in proportional retaliation against Israeli aggression in Syrian territory, according to Elijah Magnier.
No longer will the Russians stand aside and allow Israel a free hand over bombing what it says are Hezbollah and Iranian targets within Syria. The SAA will now strike back with a proportional response.
An airport for an airport, as it were.
What started as a State Department operation to install a puppet government and sow chaos in Syria under Hillary Clinton then became one to drain Russian and Iranian resources by wasting their time under John Kerry.
Today, that US/Israeli/Saudi strategy has been turned on its head.
It is now the US and the Saudis that are feeling the pinch of yet another quagmire without end. Moreover, the Israeli security situation is now worse than it was before all of this started in the first place. This necessitates an even more unhinged response from Washington which it cannot defend to the American people as to why we need to stay in Syria forever.
None of this is what President Trump campaigned on. None of this is what candidate and citizen Trump argued for.
The real war of attrition was never about physical resources and money. It was always about time. The Iranians and Russians have played for time. Time brought out the truth about the Syrian invasion. It exposed the real causes of the conflict.
The hope now for the US is that financial pressure will get Iran to knuckle under. But, look at what is happening. Oil prices are in freefall as the global economy slows down thanks to debt saturation, a rising dollar and increasing opposition in the West to neoliberalism and globalism.
Trump whines about this because it upsets his mercantilist plans to corner the energy markets while weaponizing the use of the dollar.
EU technocrats who fancy themselves the inheritors of a waning US empire, bristle under Trump’s plans. They will build an alternative payment vehicle to buy goods and services from sanctioned entities. This is about much more than Iranian oil.
So, while Trump, Bolton, Mnuchin and Pompeo, the Four Horsemen of the Foreign Policy Apocalypse, think they are winning this war on commerce, all they are doing is falling into the very trap Putin, Xi and Rouhani have set for them.
Again, they playing for time. The dollar is the US’s strength and also its Achilles’ heel. And if you are playing for time it is to build alternative channels for trade oil, gas and whatever else the US deems against its interests without need for dollars.
Trump’s energy dominance plan is as transparent as his narcissism. More likely the sanctions exemptions for buying Iranian oil will be extended in May because he can’t have a global crisis be his fault as he prepares for re-election in 2020.
But, that’s exactly what he’s setting up.
So, now back to Syria.
Those who were set up to be scapegoats – namely Qatar and Turkey – washed their hands of the operation quickly, made deals with Russian President Vladimir Putin and charted their own independent paths. By the time the truth about US involvement in Syria was exposed they were long gone and only the real perpetrators left holding onto poor positions and worse arguments.
All Trump can do now is openly admit that we’re there on behalf of Israel and Saudi Arabia to get Iran. That’s it. He can sell that to part of his base. But, not enough of them to win re-election.
His peace plan is DOA. It died along with the 15 Russian airmen on that IL-20 back in August. I’ll be surprised if it is ever actually announced. That one event set us on this path. It permanently poisoned Russian/Israeli relations as Netanyahu overplayed his hand assisting NATO in a needless provocation which nearly sparked a wider war.
Reports are the Putin doesn’t return his phone calls and now dictates to Bibi what happens next. This also tells me Putin now has control over his Israeli fifth columnists within the Kremlin otherwise this order would never have been issued and made public.
Now Netanyahu is hemmed in on all sides and the Saudis are political pawns between the warring factions of the US government – Trump who wants an Arab NATO and the Deep State that wants him on a platter. Their benefactor, Trump, is in an increasingly untenable position who will soon be forced to choose between hot war and impeachment.
Meanwhile, Iran, Turkey and Russia will continue to bleed out the US forces in Syria while sanctions prove to be increasingly less effective. Simultaneously, the Astana process moves forward with all groups trying to reach out to each other around the sclerotic reach of the US and put an end to this shameful period of US foreign policy insanity.