Hopes are raised in Ankara that President Donald Trump will honor his word and pull the United States out of Syria.
This they believe will enable Turkey to clear the whole of its border region of the Kurdish YPG, and make Turkey a key player in shaping the future of Syria.
Those who are banking on Trump to put his money where his mouth is, say he has already fulfilled a number of election promises, no matter how outlandish these may have sounded at the time.
Others, however, question this logic when it comes to Syria by citing Washington’s obsession with Iran, and reluctance to cede more strategic ground to Russia in the Middle East. Delivering such advantages, or “bonuses” in this case, to arch-rivals and enemies goes against the grain as far as the U.S. is concerned, they maintain.
Trump will undoubtedly meet serious resistance from within his own administration, not to mention Congress, if he should move towards pulling out of Syria in earnest. He will also face resistance from regional allies such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.
Turkey, however, for whom the U.S. is not even a “frenemy” anymore, but a true enemy – as attested by what is written and said especially in the pro-government media – would be delighted to see the American’s leave Syria and Iraq. There is also clamoring from the left, the right, and the Islamist wings to shut down U.S. bases in Turkey.
If Trump were to end Washington’s engagement in Syria he would become a hero of sorts in Turkish eyes. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has already congratulated him on his “courageous remarks” on this topic.
Put simply the general belief is that without the U.S. in Syria Turkey life there would be so much simpler. Would it though?
To start with, are Turkey’s plans and expectations in Syria in tune with those of Russia and Iran? How pleased would Turkey be, for example, to see Russia and Iran help the Syrian regime take over the whole country?
Then there is the “Kurdish question.” Did Russian President Vladimir Putin not say in Ankara on Tuesday that the Kurds also have a place under the Syrian sun? Can Ankara ensure that any final settlement in Syria pushed through by Moscow will exclude the Kurds, or at least replace those it sees as terrorists with Turkey-friendly Kurds?
By the same token, can Ankara convince Moscow that the Kurds should not get some degree of autonomy after the U.S. departs?
And what about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s nemesis Bashar as Assad? How will Ankara cope with him once he is back at the helm with Russian and Iranian support?
These are questions are valid even today, before there is any U.S. pullout. They will merely loom larger if Trump follows through on his promise.
Having said all this, though, political realism tells us that we are nowhere near there, whatever Trump says. We can expect him to start equivocating on this soon. In the end, he is probably only playing politics in order to divert attention from his domestic troubles, as many in Washington and elsewhere seem to believe.