19 January 2019 08:05

‘Safe zone’ to considerably challenge Turkish home and foreign policy

The US’ “safe zone” incorporates also the PYD-YPG. As for Turkey, the entire focus is centred around driving PYD and YPG from the “safe zone!”.

İhsan Çaralan

The steps taken by US President Trump to bring Turkey into alignment over [the question of] Syria following the release of pastor Brunson have begun to bear results.

Despite appearing as a kind of “inconsistency” of Trump’s “one morning, suddenly” style (containing a time when Trump “tweets” something depending on his mood that morning which he later does not hesitate to contradict), it has become clear that that is not at all what is really transpiring. On the contrary, Trump is a US president who is taking unabashed steps for the interests of US imperialism in the region, who “re-establishes” its relations with its “allies” (collaborators) according to its interests!

And indeed Trump, through attempts characteristic to his style, even if for now, has drawn Erdoğan to the line he wanted. Moreover, by getting him to say, “that is what we wanted anyway”!


Erdoğan has openly put forward the line they have reached in his party’s group meeting the previous day.

Having noted the “regret they felt” for Trump’s statement that “we will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds,” Erdoğan’s assessment that “Last night we debated these matters again. It was a considerably positive and historical meeting…” completely disregarded Trump’s hefty threat which cannot be swallowed by any dominating power.

And for the last two days, songs of “US has come to say what we were” are being sang about the proposal Trump made during his phone conversation with Erdoğan that “a 20-mile-deep ‘safe zone’ should be established in the Turkish-Syrian border.”

The similarity and the opposing aspects in between the US-declared “safe zone” proposal, presented with “an air of celebration” and the “safe zone” mentioned by Turkey are not, however, considered fully.

But even if the contrasting proposals presented both by the Presidential spokesperson Kalın the other day and those presented by the US in response are considered (there are reports that both parties have presented proposals containing 5 points each), it can be seen that both parties conceive different things from “safe zone”.

The US’ “safe zone” incorporates also the PYD-YPG. As for Turkey, the entire focus of the proposals it has put forward is centred around driving PYD and YPG from the “safe zone!”

For both the parties, the rest is mere details!


However, Trump’s tweet does not only contain aspects with characteristics to bring about new upheavals in the Turkish-Syrian relationships but also in Turkey’s policies at home and in its Syrian-policy-centred foreign policy.

We may predict these possible developments as follows:

1- The possibility of generating a breakdown in the ‘Presidential Alliance’ [between Erdoğan’s AKP and Bahçeli’s the Nationalist Movement Party, MHP]: Trump perhaps may not have foreseen the reactions “the proposal of a safe zone” will get in the home policy front. But once it has been taken into account that the Erdoğan-Bahçeli alliance stipulate home policy on “Turkey’s existential question” and that the most sensitive aspect of this “existence” is “not to allow Kurds in any way to form an administration in Syria,” it can openly be seen that that the “safe zone” plan proposed by the US will also cause difficulties for the “Presidential Alliance.”

And indeed only a few hours before Erdoğan’s “We had a conversation of historical importance with Trump” statement the previous day, speaking in his party’s group meeting, after harshly berating the US, Bahçeli burned the bridges with the US stating “As if they are going to be able to devastate our economy. Let the one saying ‘OK’ to you be like you”!

Moreover, the “nationalism” which has been recently subject to MHP schooling, because of depending on the thesis that a “safe zone” will, sooner or later, result in a “Kurdish state” as it did in Iraq, is opposed to “the safe zone” as a matter of principle. Hence, this state of affairs, if steps begin to be taken in this direction, will mean the emergence of serious issues between the MHP and AKP within the ‘Presidential Alliance’.

2- The possibility of causing major issues in the Turkey-Iran-Russia alliance: Trump and Erdoğan are busy establishing safe zones in Syria, forming administrations there, are conducting negotiations over the phone,… what is more is that Erdoğan has already made even the architectural plans for the houses to be built in the “safe zone” by TOKI [Toplu Konut İdaresi Başkanlığı, The Public Housing Development Administration, the Turkish government’s arm’s-length housing agency] but are completely disregarding that;

• The concerning zone is Syrian soil,

• Whether or not the people living in north of Syria, with the primarily the Kurds, will accept or reject such a plan,

• What Syria, Iran and Russia will say while a new administration is being established in this region. At least they seem so.

As for Trump, with this attempt, is aiming exactly for the escalation of a confrontation between Turkey, Iran and Russia, for dealing a blow at the attempts ensuing around Astana talks and for turning Idlib into a trap for Turkey. Incidentally, Turkey’s embracement of “the safe zone” shows how close Trump has got to achieving these objectives.

Perhaps, Erdoğan is thinking that he will surmount these issues in his upcoming meeting with Putin in a week’s time but the extent to which the stage the Syrian crisis has reached will allow this is highly contentious too.

Once it is considered that the most important and immediate aim of the steps taken by Trump in Syria is to undermine the alliance of the Russia-Iran-Turkey triad, we can assert that Trump has drawn significantly closer to his aim.  

For this, it is adequate even to consider only the developments occurring after Trump’s “We are going to withdraw our troops from Syria” tweet!