YAIAR – Turkey-US cooperation on Syria

Turkey-US cooperation on SyriaUS Vice President Joe Biden visited Turkey on Nov. 22 and had a long talk with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post reported on Dec. 1 and 2, respectively, that the establishment of a safe zone in Syria was andldquounder consideration.

andrdquo The US perception of a safe zone is strictly a protected area for civilian refugees, and not a rebel safe haven, whereas Turkey perceives it as having further purposes.The Middle East Briefing (MEB) of Dec.

7 wrote that the press reports were incorrect and that significant differences remained between Washington and Ankara No matter who says what, it is a known fact that Turkeyand#39s priority remains toppling the Assad regime, while the US is focused on crippling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Time will tell whether any progress was achieved in narrowing the gap between these two positions.

The most concrete result of Bidenand#39s visit was an agreement with the Turkish authorities on the train and equip program A similar program was already approved by Congress in a resolution voted on Sept. 19, 2014, so that access to funding was available long before the formal agreement was reached between Turkey and the US.

Though specific details on spending were not articulated, the resolution confirms that funds will be made available for the purpose of andldquotraining, equipment, supplies and sustainment, to vetted members of the Syrian opposition.andrdquo This will only cover the Turkish-US agreement if a new resolution is passed to that effect, however the technical details of the existing act give an indication of the US administrationand#39s approach:- The present legislation does not stipulate a specific amount of funding or include the allotment of funding but rather establishes a framework for how funds are to be spent.

In order to obtain funding, the Defense Secretary must submit a request to Congress, ensuring that the request meets the parameters of the resolution.- Various factions of the Syrian opposition requested assistance from the US authorities for the express purpose of toppling the government of Bashar Assad.

The present legislation does not authorize assistance for this purpose. It identifies ISIL, rather than the Syrian government, as the entity from which Syrians should be protected.

Assistance may support the defense of territory under opposition control, but assistance to support offensive operations by US-trained forces is not authorized.In an interview with NBCand#39s andquotMeet the Pressandquot on Sept.

7, President Barack Obama said his focus was andldquonarrowly on ISIL.andrdquo A similar opinion was expressed by Gen.

John Allen, special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. When asked whether Syrian opposition units being trained under the train and equip program to fight ISIL would later fight the forces of the Bashar Assad regime, he replied: andquotNo.

What we would like to see is for the FSA and the forces that we will ultimately generate, train and equip to become the credible force that the Assad government ultimately has to acknowledge and recognize. There is not going to be a military solution here [in Syria].

We have to create so much credibility within the moderate Syrian opposition at a political level . that they earn their spot at the table when the time comes for the political solution.

andquotThis is not exactly Turkeyand#39s position as it prefers to see Assad eliminated before sitting around the negotiating table, but a compromise may be found between this position and US policy if Turkey is more realistic by bearing the US position in mind. Turkey must also remember that it does not enjoy the same popularity in the US as it did five or six years ago and that there are active groups in the US working to tarnish Turkeyand#39s image.

The Russian Federation on the other hand is working hard to persuade the US to find a solution that involves coming to an agreement with Assad.Furthermore, differences persist between various powerhouses within the US.

The State Department believes that the Syrian armed opposition will not be able to overthrow the Assad regime now or in the foreseeable future, despite the train and equip program The evolution of the situation in northern Syria confirms the State Departmentand#39s assessment.Turkey should not disregard these factors if and when it devises new policies for Syria.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman