Trump traded Syrian Kurds for Erdogan silence over Khashoggi's murder

TEHRAN, Dec. 26 (MNA) – Professor Paul Pillar, who was CIA intelligence analyst for 28 years, says one possibility for withdrawal of US troops from Syria is that “in return for getting out of Turkey's way in northern Syria, Erdogan agreed to downplay the issue of the Saudi crown prince's involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”

Pillar told the Tehran Times, “although the Erdogan government certainly does not like the Assad regime, it would be less worried about an extension of the regime's influence in northeastern Syria than about a more independent Kurdish separatist movement.” 

He also added that one possibility for withdrawal of US troops from Syria is that “in return for getting out of Turkey's way in northern Syria, Erdogan agreed to downplay the issue of the Saudi crown prince's involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”

Following is the text of the interview:

The United States has announced that it will immediately leave the north-east of Syria and leave entire Syria within the next 60 to 100 days. What are the reasons for this decision?

This decision was wholly a matter of President Trump wanting to fulfill a campaign promise.  Although there are legitimate strategic reasons for the move, Trump has repeatedly shown himself to be motivated less by international strategy and geopolitics than he is by domestic politics and campaign rhetoric.

Trump in justifying the withdrawal of his troops from Syria has declared that ISIS has failed in Syria and implicitly called "ISIL defeat" the reason for the decision. This is while some sources have spoken of the consultations between Erdogan and Trump. Can the decision be linked to Erdogan and tramp's consultation? If so, what is the agreement between Trump and Erdogan on the Kurdish regions?

It is likely that the conversation with Erdogan is related to Trump's decision, although it is only a matter of speculation as to what sort of understanding the two presidents may have reached.  One possibility that comes to mind is that in return for getting out of Turkey's way in northern Syria, Erdogan agreed to downplay the issue of the Saudi crown prince's involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  Trump seems determined to stay on the side of the crown prince, and he would welcome Erdogan's cooperation in helping to make the issue go away. 

The Syrian Kurdish democratic forces, that are backed by the United States, expressing dissatisfaction with the decision of Trump's decision, have interpreted it as a dagger from the United States. What will be the status of these forces and have they been the bill of exchange by Trump and Erdogan?

Diplomacy and negotiation may get ahead of military action on this subject. The Syrian Kurds now have a much stronger incentive than before to reach some sort of understanding with the Assad regime--possibly pledging loyalty to the regime in return for a degree of autonomy in northeast Syria.  Although the Erdogan government certainly does not like the Assad regime, it would be less worried about an extension of the regime's influence in northeastern Syria than about a more independent Kurdish separatist movement.  A large Turkish military assault in the area is still a possibility but is not inevitable. 

Israel said that despite the announcement of US withdrawal from Syria, it will continue to oppose Iran in Syria. How do you assess the Syrian field situation in the absence of the United States, especially in the middle of tensions with Israel?

Israel will continue to do its military thing regardless of what the United States does with its own troops.  Having the troops there has not stopped the Israelis from launching scores of air attacks against targets in Syria over the past couple of years.  Israel will continue doing that whether the US troops stay or go. 

The Summit of formation of the Syrian Constitution was held yesterday with the participation of Iran, Russia, Turkey, and the United Nations. Although this meeting is at the beginning of its course, it shows that Syria is in a constitutional stage. Is there a connection between this stage of the Syrian situation and the decision of Trump?

There is no connection.  The United States has been conspicuously absent from the most promising diplomatic efforts on Syria.  Not wanting to sit at the same table as Iran has been a major impediment.  So too has been the overall aversion of the Trump administration to any sort of multilateral diplomacy.

Interview by: Javad Heirannia

MNA/TT

News Code 140926

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