Even in the last days or maybe hours of its mandate, U.S. President Barack Obama's administration has succeeded in being more deceptive than ever in the Syrian crisis and its dealings with NATO ally Turkey.
Turkish officials have told me that Turkey has repeatedly sought the support of the U.S.-led anti-Daesh coalition for its military operations with Free Syrian Army (FSA) components in al-Bab, but the Pentagon came up with operational excuses that don't make sense to anyone, except American spokespeople.
The problem, apart from phony arguments to mislead public opinion, is simple. The PKK terrorist organization's Syrian offshoot, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), or its armed wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG), the U.S. partner on the ground against Daesh, demanded that Washington must preserve Kurdish dominion in the recently seized Syrian town of Manbij against Turkish threats, otherwise it won't pursue the Raqqa prize with its Arab recruits. Of course, according to U.S. officials, Turkey should not go after the PYD, despite the fact that several PYD-trained suicide bombers ended up killing dozens of Turkish civilians.
What was the U.S. solution to stop Turkey moving into Manbij? Obviously, it was the decision not to provide military assistance to Turkish operations in al-Bab. As Turkish casualties were mounting in Syria against the Daesh terrorist group, Washington preferred to turn its head, while its aircraft were taking off from the Turkish İncirlik Air Base to support YPG operations near Raqqa.
An American official, speaking to the Anadolu Agency last week, openly said that the Pentagon could provide ammunition, intelligence and air cover for Turkey-backed operations in al-Bab on the condition of not touching Manbij. So Washington has taken the liberty of undermining the fight against Daesh when it is not aligned with its set of goals, such as prematurely attacking Raqqa to boost Obama's ratings before he leaves the office.
One must accept that this is trickier than it seems, not just because the U.S. has failed to keep its promise, but also it has taken another misstep by leaving a NATO ally alone in its darkest hours in Syria, namely the only European country that dared to deploy ground forces against Daesh.
Never mind the fact that President Obama himself promised President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that all the forces in the YPG would leave Manbij; this has never happened. The Turkish military delegation visited Manbij last December with its American colleagues, but the observations were not convincing, as the YPG was still present and in control of the town.
A second visit has been set by this joint committee, but the date is still not clear. While Turkey publicly demands U.S. help, American officials have invited new excuses to its sitting ducks. For example, American officials, providing background to The New York Times, claimed over the weekend that U.S. aircraft could not drop ordinance against Daesh targets in al-Bab because Turkey had banned them from flying surveillance drones to obtain enemy intelligence in the area. A senior Turkish official flatly denied this allegation. Moreover, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis also told me this week that the U.S. wouldn't ask permission of any country when it wants to conduct intelligence and surveillance operations in Syria.
So why did they invent such an argument? There are two reasons. Firstly, it is almost always easier to blame Turks, since Ankara is not good at doing its own PR. And secondly, American officials were able to present their decision to pick up intelligence in al-Bab as a sign of progress to the media in their good-willed pursuit to resolve a difference between Turkey and the U.S.
This is more than sad. We have an ally here, according to a report by the Washington Post, whose soldiers were idly standing by while the PYD brainwashes Arab recruits with terrorist Abdullah Öcalan's nonsense and anti-Turkey hatred. U.S. officials still have the self-confidence to deny the existence of such ideological indoctrination in the face of credible reports and on-the-record YPG threats against Turkey.
At least, if they ask why there is anti-American hysteria in Turkey, you now have the answer.