Should President Trump withdraw troops from Syria

Monday morning at the Presidential Palace in Ankara. Turkish journalists are waiting, an appearance by the head of government and military commander-in-chief has been announced. A gray curtain opens, like in a theater, briefly reveals the gleaming gold interior, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan goes to the microphone and closes the curtain. Erdoğan's voice sounds rough, like someone who has talked too much in the past few hours. And what he says doesn't make anything really clear: "In one evening, suddenly," that is, without further warning, the new Turkish invasion of Syria could begin, says Erdoğan. And then added - as if there was still plenty of time: he would discuss developments in the region with US President Donald Trump in Washington in the first half of November. Curtain up, Erdoğan resigned, curtain closed. The president then sets off for Serbia.

The talks could possibly get a little more complicated than Erdoğan assumes during his appearance.

A few hours earlier, the White House had announced that the US would not support the "long-planned operation" in the embattled Syrian territory that Turkey would "soon" begin. The withdrawal of US troops from the Syrian-Turkish border region then began immediately - with US President Donald Trump giving Erdoğan a free hand to take action against the Kurdish militias, which were previously Washington's partners in the fight against the "Islamic State" (IS). The White House announced that the Turks would then have to deal with the IS terrorists captured by US troops and Kurds in the past two years.

Even from the ranks of the Republicans, however, massive criticism of the troop withdrawal was loud on Monday. Influential Senator Lindsey Graham, otherwise a loyal supporter of the president, called Trump's decision "short-sighted and irresponsible": that the IS was finally defeated is the "greatest lie told by the government". In the event of a Turkish invasion of Syria, Graham threatened his NATO partner with sanctions. Trump then tweeted: "If Turkey does anything that, in my great and unmatched wisdom, I consider taboo, I will completely destroy and wipe out the Turkish economy."

Former US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and ex-security advisor John Bolton had tried again and again when they were still in office to prevent Trump from withdrawing troops from Syria in order to protect the Kurdish militias, which are also the dominant part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are. Its spokesman, Mustafa Bali, confirmed the US withdrawal via Twitter. Bali wrote that the US was allowing the area to become a war zone. Trump's decision is ruining confidence in the US, Bali tweeted.

Trump is about the money

Trump also tweeted: Further support for the Kurdish-led rebel groups would be too expensive. "The Kurds fought with us, but they got a lot of money and equipment for it." It is time, Trump said, for the US to exit "these ridiculous, endless wars, many of which are tribal." In fact, according to the New York Times just 150 to 200 soldiers moved within Syria.

From Ankara it was said that the US withdrawal could take a week. That sounded as if the attack was not to be expected in the next few days at least. Brett McGurk, once Trump's special envoy for the fight against IS, called Trump's decision "impulsive", it endangered allies, and all because of a "harsh phone call". Trump and Erdoğan spoke on the phone on Sunday. Ten or 35 kilometers, how deep will Turkey advance into Syria for its "security zone"? After Erdoğan's appearance, Turkish experts discussed this for hours on the Habertürk TV station. Erdoğan recently showed maps to the UN General Assembly showing a corridor 480 kilometers long and 30 kilometers wide. In the telephone conversation with Trump, he said, according to the President's Office in Ankara, that the central goal of the military operation was "to neutralize the threat posed by PKK-YPG terrorists". In addition, they want to create conditions that enable the return of Syrian refugees. Erdoğan had made his "frustration" clear to Trump that a planned joint action with the USA in Syria had been prevented by the US military and the American security bureaucracy. Erdoğan described joint patrols by American and Turkish soldiers as eyewash.

During his visit to Ankara last week, Turkish interlocutors also presented plans to relocate refugees to new model cities in Syria, "in detail", as Seehofer told the SZ. Erdoğan is hoping for a financial contribution from the EU for the construction of new cities in northern Syria.

However, the EU could hardly jump to the side of an occupying power in Syria with financial aid. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy recently calculated that around 850,000 people currently live in the area, 650,000 of whom are Kurds. The Turkish journalist Cengiz Çandar warns that conflicts are inevitable when Sunni Syrian refugees are resettled. The left-wing Turkish author Ahmet Aziz Nesin tweeted that Erdoğan was leading Turkey "into suicide" by attacking Syria.

The Turkish media critical of the government also warned of the imprisoned "ten thousand" IS fighters and their families in the Syrian Kurdish region, which Turkey would then have to deal with. Erdoğan called this number "exaggerated" in his brief appearance on Monday.

If the president invades, he can count on the ultra-nationalists allied with his AKP. Their rhetoric is sometimes even stranger than that of the AKP. The largest opposition party, the secular CHP, on the other hand, takes the position that Ankara should talk to the dictator in Damascus, with Bashar al-Assad, because without him no peace would be possible. This position is not shared by the entire opposition. When the Turkish army captured the Kurdish province of Afrin in January 2018, Ankara arrested hundreds of Turkish critics of the operation.