Andrew Gabel on The Washington Perspective. Photo: Rudaw
The United States has a lot of tools in its belt to deter Turkish aggression in northern Syria, argued Andrew Gabel, research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
“The US really does have real powerful tools at its disposal to convince [Turkish President] Erdogan that it’s serious about protecting the integrity of east Syria, beyond simple phone calls and beyond letters and beyond empty words,” he said in The Washington Perspective programme.
On the ground, the US has several options, he explained, essentially physically putting American forces in between Turkey and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
It could establish US outposts around the flashpoint towns like Manbij and Tal Abyad, essentially setting up a “quarantine” that would ensure Turkish troops cannot advance. Or, more aggressively, the US could take up positions inside these towns.
Washington could also take aim at its broader relationship with Turkey.
One option would be sanctions – a favourite tactic of President Donald Trump’s administration.
“I think if the Trump administration threatened to designate certain Turkish businesses or certain Turkish individuals as recourse for moving the Turkish military into east Syria, this probably would catch the attention of President Erdogan, especially given the recent economic difficulties in Turkey,” said Gabel.
Another option is the F35. Turkey is in line to receive 100 of the state-of-the-art jets and Trump could easily sideline this as Congress is already uncomfortable with giving the technology to Turkey.
Washington could also exacerbate Turkey’s economic woes by leveraging the waiver it gave Ankara on Iranian sanctions, he argued.
The challenge lies in putting Erdogan in the position where he has to weigh risk versus reward. Is it better for him to push ahead with a military offensive or to back off.
The US could alter the equation so that the risk “greatly outweighs” the reward, argued Gabel.