President of Turkey Tayyip Erdogan will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump in the White House today, a highly-anticipated meeting between the two leaders of a critical relationship in the Global War on Terror that has been hindered lately by policy decisions from both countries.
Certain to be at the top of the list for President Erdogan will be discussing with President Trump the issue most concerning Turkey: the arming of Kurdish militias, and specifically the YPG, in Syria. Providing the Kurds with weapons and military equipment, long advocated by U.S. military leaders as the only viable solution to affecting a defeat of the Islamic State on the ground short of deploying actual American soldiers, has become a lightning rod issue for Turkey, who insists the YPG and other Kurdish groups are terrorist organizations.
Erdogan had high hopes for a reboot in relations between the United States and Turkey with the election of Donald Trump. Under the Obama administration, the mood had soured between the two nations over Syrian policy, as well as American officials refusing to extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. Gulen, a political exile from Turkey, lives in Pennsylvania and has been accused by the Erdogan government of inciting the failed July 2016 coup in Turkey.
Despite this, there are signs of renewal in U.S.-Turkey relations. Unlike most other European and world leaders who condemned the recent referendum election in Turkey which granted significant powers to the presidency, Donald Trump called and congratulated Erdogan. And Erdogan has seemed to be sympathetic to Trump’s inherited foreign policy challenges, referring to the Obama administration in saying “Unfortunately now they have left the Syria and Iraq problem in Trump’s lap.”
Despite strong talk from Erdogan and other Turkish officials, it seems highly unlikely the U.S. will change course from its current strategy of arming and assisting the Kurds as they prepare to seize Raqqa, the Islamic State’s capital in Syria. Regardless of Turkey’s protestations, they still benefit from the overall U.S. presence in Iraq and Syria, where the U.S. is expending millions of dollars and military expertise in crushing jihadists that Turkey would have to contend with otherwise.
Image courtesy of Sputnik International