When outgoing US Secretary of State met Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on the 16th of February, it was said that on the 19th of March, the two countries would hold further discussions regarding some sort of agreement on the US disarming Kurdish YPG/PKK militants in Manbij, the Syrian city that has been declared by Ankara as the next stop for the anti-YPG/PKK Operation Olive Branch. With Rex Tillerson being fired by Donald Trump via Twitter on the 13th of March and without Trump’s new appointee for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo being sworn in, the US State Department appears to be in total chaos. Turkey has been consistent in saying that no foreign power will be able to deter its Operation Olive Branch which looks to sweep further east across the Turkish-Syria border, but Ankara has said that if the US cooperates in disarming its Kurdish YPG proxies in the region, it is happy to work constructively with Washington in this respect.
Not only has the 19 March deadline passed, but the US State Department now denies reaching anything even close to a deal regarding Manbij.
— Abdullah Bozkurt (@abdbozkurt) March 21, 2018
Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu has clarified the situation, stating that Ankara and Washington have reached an “understanding” but not an agreement. This strikes one as a diplomatic way of saying that the US has agreed not to stand in Turkey’s way for the sake of its increasingly disloyal Kurdish proxies, but that Washington will still voice its opposition to Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch in an attempt to retain what is left of its Kurdish proxy militia in northern Syria.
As recently as the 3rd of March, the US admitted to losing control over many of its YPG Kurdish proxies who in areas under US occupation, general fight under the SDF flag (while also carrying YPG and PKK insignia). As YPG militants deserted their positions guarding the oil fields of US occupied north-eastern Syria in order to travel west to Afrin to fight Turkey, it became clear to the US, that its Kurdish proxies have no more loyalty to the US than the US has to them.
However, in a sign that the US remains keen on antagonising Turkey over its clear geopolitical and economic pivot away from the west and towards Russia, Iran and China, Washington did nothing to stop its Kurdish proxies from travelling to Afrin in order to fight Turkey, even though the US is clearly powerful enough to do so.
While neither the US nor Turkey have any desire to face each other on a field of battle, the US remains keen to push Turkey as far as it can, up to and until such a battle would breakout. Therefore, the US refuses to renounce its Kurdish terrorist proxies in spite of Ankara’s strong protestations, while at the same time, acts increasingly blasé when these same proxies desert their American posts to fight Turkey, allegedly of their own volition.
The biggest problem in Turkish-US relations in 2018 is that neither side wants to be the first to fully admit that the old alliance is over and that the two NATO members are now de-facto regional rivals. Both sides are playing a game of diplomatic chicken, waiting to see who will officially pounce first. Irrespective of who does, the US support of the Fethullah Terror Organisation (FETO), its continued support of the YPG, even when the YPG abandoned the US positions in order to fight Turkey and Washington’s failure to condemn a tide of anti-Turkish violence in Europe and the US threat to sanction Turkey if it purchases Russian S-400 missile defence systems, all serve to demonstrate that the US is happy to let its relations with Turkey plummet. At the same time, US appears too coy to state its obvious purpose, which is to weaken Turkey’s regional influence at a time when Ankara is pivoting towards traditional geopolitical opponents of America. If anything, the US is working behind the scenes to make sure life for Turkey becomes as difficult as possible. Thus far, as Turkey’s victory in Afrin demonstrates, the US has failed in its objective.