The lose-lose game in Syria

The United States has been following unsteady Middle East policies, especially in the Syrian crisis.

The United States has been following unsteady Middle East policies, especially in the Syrian crisis. Neither the Barack Obama nor Donald Trump administrations laid down an ultimate regional strategy for the U.S. with both administrations changing their policies after significant regional developments. They declared some principles but remained indifferent or changed their policies when these principles were violated. Eventually, for the regional actors, it became quite difficult to follow and understand American foreign policy in the region.

However, the last two American administrations seem very clear in terms of what they do not want in the region and in Syria. Rhetorically, the U.S. prefers political stability in the region, but it does nothing to contribute to regional stability. For instance, Trump motivated the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia to punish Qatar due to its independent foreign policy. Yet, later he asked these two countries to normalize their relations with Qatar.

The ambiguity of American policy in the region became clearer in the Syrian crisis. The U.S. has been investing in the PKK-affiliated People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its political wing the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in its struggle against the notorious Daesh. The U.S. administrations have sent thousands of trucks full of heavy weapons to their only ally on the ground, the YPG/PYD, and trained their militants. The U.S. administrations declared the YPG the representative of the Kurds living in Syria. However, many American politicians and academics admit that the YPG/PYD is a branch of the PKK, a group listed as a terrorist organization not only by Turkey but also by the U.S. and the EU. Therefore, American politicians, bureaucrats and academics contradict themselves and each other regarding their position on the YGP/PYD.

When it comes to other actors active in Syria, the American ambiguity increases. For instance, the U.S. claims that it opposes the Bashar Assad regime, which is supported by both Iran and Russia, but it does nothing to end the regime since they believe that they have no other option in the country. The U.S. does not support the opposition either, and it d

oes not recognize the opposition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Washington considers most of the Syrian opposition groups extremists, and therefore refuses to support them.

The U.S. has been following anti-Iranian policies for decades. The Trump administration ended the normalization process with Iran initiated by the Obama administration and toughened its anti-Iran discourse. Trump and his team are determined to minimize the Iranian regional influence, more specifically, together with the Israeli state and some Gulf countries, the U.S. is determined to continue its struggle against Iranian influence.

Similarly, the U.S. does not want increased Russian influence in the Middle East. Russia has begun to achieve a balance of power not only in the Middle East but also in the eastern Mediterranean region, and it has been consolidating its military power in the region against the interests of the NATO alliance.

Additionally, the U.S. has been following an anti-Turkish policy in the region. The U.S. remained indifferent toward the national security concerns of Turkey; in fact, it has been supporting what the Turkish government considers to be a huge threat, the YPG/PKK. As seen in the latest explanations and tweets by American officials, U.S. representatives even began to threaten Turkey, due to the latter’s enmity toward this terrorist organization. Thus, the U.S. has been pushing hard to discard Turkey, whic

h will result in a change in the balance of power not only in the Middle East but also in the eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea regions. The loss of Turkey will alter the regional balance of power against American and European interests. Each anti-Turkish American move pushes Turkey eastward while increasing anti-Americanism in the country and uniting the Turkish people against the West.

The U.S. has been playing a lose-lose game in Syria. There will be no winner in the Syrian crisis. Continuation of political instability and chaos in the country will only produce more terrorists, migrants and humanitarian crises, all of which will negatively affect Western countries, neighboring countries and Europeans the most. In conclusion, the U.S. does not have a policy of conflict management, and regional countries’ and the international community’s concern about American uncertainty has reached a new high.

[Daily Sabah, 16 January 2019]

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