Intel: How Turkey is putting the US on notice in Syria

al-monitor Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling Justice and Development Party during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Jan. 8, 2019.  Photo by REUTERS/Umit Bektas.

Jan 8, 2019

The euphoria generated in Turkey by President Donald Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of Syria has quickly devolved into acrimony as Washington and Ankara fail to reach agreement on the fate of the Syrian Kurds.

Why it matters: Hammering home his country’s refusal to take orders from the United States, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pointedly refused to meet with national security adviser John Bolton during his two-day trip to Turkey. The pro-government Daily Sabah piled on today with an editorial accusing Bolton of staging a “soft coup” against Trump by allegedly creating caveats for the withdrawal with demands that Turkey first pledge not to attack the US-backed Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State.

"Bolton's remarks … are not acceptable. It is not possible for me to swallow this," Erdogan said during a speech today in parliament. "Bolton made a serious mistake. If he thinks that way, he is in a big mistake. We will not compromise."

What’s next: Should the Trump administration insist on seeking a guarantee for their Kurdish allies against possible Turkish military action, tensions between Turkey and the United States are poised to escalate. In a New York Times op-ed published Monday, Erdogan insisted that Turkey bears no ill will toward Syrian Kurds but would not allow the US-backed Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which it considers terrorists, to hold sway.

Know more: Be sure to read Al-Monitor columnist Semih Idiz’s in-depth coverage on how the self-congratulatory mood in Ankara is souring. For details on Turkey’s planned military operation east of the Euphrates, make sure to follow Al-Monitor defense analyst Metin Gurcan.

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