It is clear the Trump Administration’s new Middle East policy has begun. The military chiefs of Turkey, the United States, and Russia held a tripartite meeting in Antalya, Turkey, with developments in Syria and Iraq at top of the agenda.
According to a written statement from the office of the Turkish Chief of General Staff, Turkey’s chief general, Gen. Hulusi Akar, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, and Russian Chief of General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov began an all-day meeting today, March 7. Pictures distributed by the Turkish army feature the three top soldiers sitting side by side at the head of a table of subordinate officers of all three countries.
If this is what it appears to be, it is the strongest combination of countries ever brought together to, hopefully, bring peace to the region. It is a combination which the British Empire has feared would come together for the last 200 years.
Although no details have been given, it appears that the next step will be the taking of Raqqa from the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
According to Hurriyet Daily News, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim had signaled in an earlier interview with Haber TV that such a meeting of the three countries’ military leaders would take place.
“There is no point in doing an operation [on Raqqa] without coordinating with Russia and the U.S. It would be futile, and the consequences may become more complicated. For that, there are military, technical negotiations going on,” Yildirim said. He also said the government has presented its proposal for tripartite cooperation in a joint operation on Raqqa.
“We have conveyed our offer to the U.S. There has not been a formal response yet. So it would not be right to say `they have other plans’ just by taking what has been written about the issue into account. But we will not be anywhere there are terrorist organizations. It is that clear,” Yildirim said.
Yildirim reiterated that one of Turkey’s principal concerns is to have the Syrian Kurdish PYD forces, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), withdraw east of the Euphrates. He also said it was natural that the Syrian government forces should take control over territory freed from ISIS and where the YPG has withdrawn.
While the U.S. has, until now, backed the YPG against ISIS, Turkey considers it an ally of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) inside Turkey, which it considers a terrorist organization and with which it is at war.
“It is quite natural that there would be Syrian elements there after it is provided. Because it is Syrian territory,” he said. “It can be the U.S. or it can be Russia. We are saying, if it is desired, we can make a triple mechanism with Russia, the U.S., and Turkey,” he said.
“When terrorist groups like the PYD and the YPG are completely cleared, same as we did in Jarablus with the Euphrates Shield operation, or in al-Rai, Dabiq, and as we have started to do in al-Bab, Syrians will come and settle there. Life will go back to normal,” he said.