Reprinted from Counterpunch
"The US and it's allies want to keep this monster (ISIS) in check, but they don't want to destroy it. All their military, political and media campaigns are smokescreens. What the West has done so far has strengthened terrorism not ended it. The proof of this is the fact that terrorism has spread everywhere, its material resources have increased, and its ranks have swollen." -- Syrian President Bashar al Assad
Has US policy in Syria fallen prey to the political ambitions of one man, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan?
Certainly not. Washington has its own malignant agenda in Syria, which is to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad, split the country into pieces, lock-down critical pipeline corridors, and establish a "Salafist principality" that will justify continued US intervention across the Middle East for the foreseeable future. These are the objectives of US policy and they haven't changed because of anything Erdogan has done.
That's not to say that Erdogan hasn't complicated matters by requiring the US to play by Turkey's rules. He has. Just look at the Incirlik deal. In theory, it looks like a win-win for US war-planners who will now be able to cross into Syrian airspace in 15 minutes instead of the two hours it took from Bahrain. But the devil is in the details which suggest constraints on the US military's ability to conduct its own campaign or even choose its own targets. Take a look at this excerpt from an article in Al Monitor:
"Turkey wants to open Incirlik not only to US warplanes but also to the aircraft of anti-IS NATO members France, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Canada. What Turkey wants to accomplish here is to affix NATO legitimacy to the operation by reinforcing the perception that operations against IS targets in Syria are part of a NATO mission.- Advertisement -
"Turkey insists that operations, flight routes and targets should be decided collectively by the coordination cell, but subject to Turkey's final approval. This means decisions made at Incirlik must be conveyed to Ankara immediately. The coordination center in Ankara must be kept informed of all operations and flights in real time with Incirlik.
"Ankara is trying to insert a clause that gives it the authority to send back the coalition planes in case of contravention of the agreement.
"... The emerging concept is coordinated planning of Turkish air operations against the PKK in Iraq and US attacks against IS. The United States and Turkey would know all the details of each other's operations in Iraq, but not interfere with each other." ("What's US really doing at Turkey's Incirlik Air Base?" Al Monitor)
If it sounds like Erdogan is in the driver's seat, it's because he is. The US will have to do whatever Ankara tells it to do or get the boot. It's that simple. How do you think the Obama crew is going to like taking orders from a megalomaniac like Erdogan?
They're not going to like it at all, but they're going to have to suck it up and play along if they want to get rid of Assad. And, whether they admit it or not, removing Assad is their top priority, so they'll probably do what they're told.
And did you notice how Erdogan wants to get NATO involved? That's because his generals were resisting any action against Syria without international approval. Now that Erdogan has gotten the thumbs up from NATO and Uncle Sam, the military can bomb the Kurds "til their hearts content" and never worry about punitive sanctions or future war crimes tribunals.
Also, Erdogan is going to have the final say-so on who is targeted and who isn't, which means that his attacks on the People's Protection Units (YPG) or the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) can continue unabated, but Washington will have to get the go-ahead for their attacks on ISIS. Looking at it from this angle, the agreement doesn't look nearly as rosy as the media has been saying. Even so, the Pentagon still believes Incirlik will be a "gamechanger", which it could be since the real goal is not to eliminate ISIS, but to create a no-fly zone across Syria that reinforces US-proxy fighters in their war against the Syrian gov forces.
Of course, US officials are not about to call the no-fly zone a no-fly zone because that would be an act of war and a violation of international law. Instead, they're going to stick to their script, pretend nothing is happening, dodge the question whenever possible, and get their buddies in the media to keep the matter off the front page, which is exactly what they've been doing up to now.
Qatari C-17 at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey
(Image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org)) Permission Details DMCA
But there will be consequences for intensifying the war effort, after all, Syria does have a few powerful friends that can make US flyovers a bit more difficult. Putin, for example, is not just going to roll over and play dead. Check this out from BGN News: