Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Game of Zones

Are our relations with Turkey reeling from differences over the fate of Assad or are we managing to find a common denominator for cooperation?

Is Turkey's support for jihadis who fight Assad dangerously damaging relations as we focus on fighting ISIL (which also fights Assad)?

The US and Turkey are headed for a showdown over Syria, as evidence mounts that Ankara is enabling groups that Washington is actively bombing.

Discord between the two allies is now more public than ever following a new report by Dr. Jonathan Schanzer and Merve Tahiroglu of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

I've leaned to the Turkish position, actually, despite annoyance that Turkey didn't take the opportunity to strike a deadly blow against ISIL at Kobani.

Although I think that a determination to defeat Assad doesn't have to mean support for jihadis in the long run.

And I've long supported the creation of a safe zone inside Syria to provide a safe haven for rebels we support. I've mentioned the idea before--although as a band aid off fast kind of guy I'd have preferred Turkey to drive all the way to Damascus early in the crisis.

Despite talk of collision, it seems we've found a common way forward:

U.S. and Turkish officials have narrowed their differences over a joint military mission in Syria that would give the U.S. and its coalition partners permission to use Turkish air bases to launch strike operations against Islamic State targets across northern Syria, according to officials in both countries.

As part of the deal, U.S. and Turkish officials are discussing the creation of a protected zone along a portion of the Syrian border that would be off-limits to Assad regime aircraft and would provide sanctuary to Western-backed opposition forces and refugees.

When it comes to Assad's fate, I just hope we remember that when you play the game of zones, you either win or you die.

UPDATE: Good grief. Is our president playing games with the Turks over no-fly zones to buy time to avoid making decisions until he leaves office rather than resolving that Assad really must go--as the president once demanded?

The real explanation, one surmises, is that the Obama administration has quietly changed its policy on Assad without telling anyone: From calling for Assad to go, Obama has now decided that Assad must stay. And why? Part of the explanation is undoubtedly Obama’s desire to strike a deal with Assad’s patrons in Moscow.

Yes indeed. It is quite possible we are seeing smart diplomacy--Assad's--in action.