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Turkey Has Legitimate Grievances Against the U.S.
Turkish Armed Forces' armoured vehicles and armored personnel carriers, move towards to Turkey's Syrian border as they are being dispatched to support the units at the border, in Kilis, Turkey on October 09, 2019. (Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Turkey Has Legitimate Grievances Against the U.S.

Michael Doran

This piece was co-authored with Princeton professor, Michael A. Reynolds.

President Trump’s critics see his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria as the product of a dangerous impulsiveness that ignores strategic realities. They argue that it betrays the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, the Kurdish force that helped the U.S. defeat Islamic State, while rewarding a dangerous autocrat, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But it is Mr. Trump’s critics who disregard reality.

Most members of America’s foreign-policy establishment see Turkey as an ungrateful ally, perhaps even a Trojan horse inside the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s walls. On Capitol Hill and in many Washington think tanks, a call for concessions to Tehran will get a more sympathetic hearing than a call to compromise with Ankara, a treaty ally for 67 years. Turkey’s determination to secure its southern border against the YPG is a wanton impulse, in the prevailing view. But the YPG has substantial ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK, as then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter testified before Congress in April 2016. Classified by the State Department as a terrorist organization, the PKK has been waging armed struggle against Turkey since 1984 at a cost of tens of thousands of lives, according the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, a respected source on armed conflict.

Turkey’s critics point to Ankara’s recent purchase of the S-400 air-defense missile system from Russia to confirm their belief that Mr. Erdogan is rupturing the U.S.-Turkey relationship. But that’s an oversimplification that rests on a lazy assumption—that Mr. Erdogan’s personality is the root of the rancor in American-Turkish relations. It invokes his authoritarianism, Islamist worldview, hostility to Israel, sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood, and opposition to Kurdish nationalists inside and outside Turkey’s borders to argue that Turkey is unworthy of U.S. support.

Read the full article in Wall Street Journal

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