GZERO Media logo

Turkish Tough Talk

Turkish Tough Talk

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was overjoyed about Donald Trump's decision to remove US troops from Syria. Until now, the main thing preventing Erdogan from crushing Syrian Kurds just across the border was the protection of US forces who've been fighting alongside them.


So it's little surprise then that US National Security Advisor John Bolton, who just days earlier committed to slow-roll the president's withdrawal plan, was greeted less than warmly upon arriving in Turkey yesterday. Erdogan calledBolton's precondition that America's Kurdish allies in Syria be protected "unacceptable" and was so put off that he refused to meet with him altogether.

What's got the Turkish president so riled? Erdogan has long viewed Kurdish militias operating in northern Syria as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a violent Kurdish nationalist group within Turkey which Ankara considers a terrorist organization. As it happens, the EU and US agree on that.

But there's a big split between Washington and Ankara over the Kurdish militia across the border in northern Syria, known as the People's Protection Unites (or YPG). Turkey considers them an offshoot of the PKK that ought to be destroyed before it can set up a truly autonomous Kurdish region in Northern Syria.

The US, meanwhile, views the YPG as a valuable ally in the fight against ISIS and does not consider it a terrorist organization, which infuriates Turkey.

With the US withdrawal, Erdogan saw an opportunity to send Turkish troops and tanks into northern Syria, crush the Kurds, and declare "Mission Accomplished" all before crucial local Turkish elections in March. Sinking in the polls and with Turkey's economy in tatters, he could certainly use the political boost. But with the Trump administration suddenly attaching conditions to any US withdrawal from Turkey, that golden opportunity is fading.

Yesterday Erdogan reiterated his intention to move forward with an incursion, but doing so would risk significant political, and possibly even military, blowback from the US, to say nothing of a potential clash between US and Turkish troops.

The bottom line: The domestic consequences of Trump's hasty decision to bring home US troops from Syria were apparent almost immediately when Defense Secretary Mattis resigned over the issue. But now we are starting to see the thornier regional and US foreign policy implications as well.

Meet Carlo Fortini, a young geophysical engineer whose passion for speed and challenge resonates in everything he does. When he is not racing on his motorbike, you can find Carlo operating one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world at Eni's Green Data Center in Po Valley, Italy. Here, he brings his technical and creative expertise to develop new software for underground exploration.

Watch the latest Faces of Eni episode to learn more about what drives Carlo.

Back in 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump presented his vision for an "America First" foreign policy, which symbolized a radical departure from the US' longtime approach to international politics and diplomacy.

In electing Donald Trump, a political outsider, to the top job, American voters essentially gave him a mandate to follow through on these promises. So, has he?

Trade

"A continuing rape of our country."

On the 2016 campaign trail, candidate Trump said that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) — a 12 country trade deal pushed by the Obama administration — would "rape" America's economy by imperiling the manufacturing sector, closing factories, and taking more jobs overseas.

More Show less

In an op-ed titled "Iran Arms Embargo Reckoning," the Wall Street Journal editorial board argues that ending the UN arms embargo on Iran was a major flaw of the 2015 nuclear deal and questions whether Biden could do anything to contain Iran at this point. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group's Henry Rome take out the Red Pen to explain why this discussion misrepresents the importance of the embargo and the consequences for its expiration.

So, the US presidential election is now just days away, and today's selection is focusing on a specific aspect of foreign policy that will certainly change depending on who wins in the presidential contest—namely America's approach to Iran.

You've heard me talk before about the many similarities between Trump and Biden on some international policies, like on China or on Afghanistan. But Iran is definitely not one of those. Trump hated the JCPOA, the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, put together under the Obama administration, and he walked away from it unilaterally. Joe Biden, if he were to become president, would try to bring it back.

More Show less

It almost didn't happen — but here we are again. President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden face off tonight in the final presidential debate of the 2020 US election campaign.

More Show less

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, US President George W. Bush demanded that Afghanistan's Taliban government surrender Osama bin Laden and end support for al-Qaeda. The Taliban refused.

On October 7, US bombs began falling on Taliban forces. NATO allies quickly pledged support for the US, and US boots hit the ground in Afghanistan two weeks later.

Thus began a war, now the longest in US history, that has killed more than 3,500 coalition soldiers and 110,000 Afghans. It has cost the American taxpayer nearly $3 trillion. US allies have also made human and material sacrifices.

More Show less
UNGA banner

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal

Episode 6: Big cities after COVID: boom or bust?

Living Beyond Borders Podcasts