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Erdogan’s Gift to Bolton

President Trump and Turkish President Erdogan at the NATO meetings in July 2018. (NATO/public domain)

Bolton’s condition that the U.S. won’t withdraw until Turkey guarantees not to attack the YPG didn’t go over very well in Ankara:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan scolded and snubbed visiting White House national security adviser John Bolton on Tuesday, saying that he had made a “very serious mistake” by demanding protection for U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria.

The point of Bolton’s demand was to have it rejected so that U.S. forces would have a pretext to stay in Syria for a long time to come. We have to assume that Bolton wanted a bad reaction from the Turkish government. By insisting on a guarantee Turkey would never give, he has made it politically harder to pull U.S. forces out of Syria. Erdogan’s snub is the perfect gift for Bolton and for the other Iran hawks that want an excuse to keep our illegal war in Syria going a while longer.

The danger in all this is that it may soon put the U.S. in the absurd position of having to decide whether to defend the YPG from a Turkish military assault:

“The message that Bolton gave in Israel is unacceptable. It is not possible for us to swallow,” Erdogan said. He suggested that he might ignore the Trump administration’s request to delay the Turkish military operation.

“Very soon, we will take action to neutralize terrorist organizations in Syria,” Erdogan said. “We have completed our preparations for the operation to a large extent.”

The U.S. isn’t obliged to defend against an attack by one of our own treaty allies inside the borders of a country where our forces have no right to be. It is a measure of how far removed from U.S. security interests our Syria policy is and how far outside the law our military operations in Syria are that we are confronted with such a ridiculous predicament. No U.S. interests will be served by remaining in any part of Syria, and the risk of clashing with our own treaty allies is reason enough to get out as soon as possible.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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