Erdogan Will Give Up the S-400 on One Condition

Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 defense system has long been a burden not only for the United States but for NATO, too, the security bloc in which Turkey is a member. 

NATO was created to counter Soviet threats. Today it aims to do the same as Russia extends its influence across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Its members are sovereign states with the right to have normal relations with any nation, even Russia. But its members also have the obligation to not undermine the interests of the alliance. Turkey’s purchase of the very military equipment the alliance was created to deter undermines the interests of NATO.

The situation is not complicated. No NATO member can purchase defense systems that are incompatible with NATO defense systems, especially if the missiles were created to shoot down fighter jets like the American F-35.

Turkey’s list of bad decisions against US national security interests is never-ending: from evading Iranian sanctions, standing against designating the IRGC a terrorist organization, condemning the US recognition of US Embassy to Jerusalem and its recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, supporting Venezuela’s Maduro regime, threating America’s Kurdish partners in Syria and more. 

One must ask itself: Why does America need enemies when it has an “ally” like Turkey? Why is Erdogan so adamant on purchasing our adversaries’ weapons, even as the US gave Ankara an option to purchase the Patriot missile system, a much more sophisticated choice? 

The answer may not seem obvious, but as Kurds, we understand Erdogan’s devious tactics. 

Erdogan wants American’s to move out of the way in Syria so he can have his way with the Kurds, with an intent to slaughter them. 

Erdogan is dragging his feet. This is not about America or his country’s defense needs. The United States has gone out of its way to appease his Islamist government, even after multiple warnings. For Erdogan is threatening a shift toward the East, as he has already done and will continue to do, unless America lets go of the Kurds.

But the reality is that Turkey, with or without Erdogan, needs America, Europe and NATO. And if America wishes so, it can shut down the Turkish economy with a blink of an eye, as it nearly did with very basic sanctions in 2018. In addition, Turkey is already in a recession, so threatening the US is not very smart on Erdogan’s part.

Turkey’s policy toward the same Kurds who defeated the Islamic State caliphate, the same Kurds that sacrificed over 11,000 fighters and had nearly 8,000 wounded, should be condemned.

The biggest loser of the defeat of the caliphate is not ISIS itself, but Erdogan. He counted on the radical group to wipe out the Kurds, as we witnessed in 2014 in Kobani. With the threat of Erdogan from the North, ISIS and the Assad regime, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) composed of majority Kurds shattered Erdogan’s dream.

Erdogan’s biggest fear is another autonomous Kurdish region similar to that of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, created by the US in 1991 after it imposed a no-fly zone. There are more than 20 million Kurds in Turkey; the fear that they will demand the same is unfathomable to any Turkish government. 

The Russian S-400 is set to be delivered in July, though Erdogan has threatened to move the delivery date sooner. He has also declared that the purchase is complete and that he will not go back on the deal. 

Due to the reality on the ground, and in the interest of US national security, those in Washington must see Turkey for what it is: an unreliable burden on NATO and America. Erdogan is unlikely to change any time soon and may never. Therefore we must approach his government with realistic expectations and stop going out of our way to attempt to change it. 

America must continue to protect the Kurds in Syria. They are not up for bartering. Set up a no-fly zone for northeast Syria and recognize the Syrian Democratic Council as the best and proven alternative to the Assad regime. And finally, call Erdogan’s bluff so that he cannot use the Kurdish card in America as he has done in Turkey to gain political points. 

Originally published: https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Erdogan-will-give-up-the-S-400-on-one-condition-588098

Photo: Reuters

About the author  ⁄ Diliman Abdulkader

Diliman Abdulkader is the director of The Kurdistan Project at the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET). He was born in Kirkuk, Kurdistan.

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