John Bolton Turkey
© Vivian Salama
NatSec adviser John Bolton, Gen. Joe Dunford and Amb. Jim Jeffrey departing from the presidential compound in Ankara after briefer than expected meetings with Turkish defense counterparts.
If U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton thought yesterday's visit was going to be a walk in the park, he must have had a rude awakening thanks to the lukewarm reception in the Turkish capital Ankara. In retrospect, it was probably a bad idea for Bolton to go rogue and try to impose conditions on the United States withdrawal from Syria. Keeping in mind that Turkey was already getting ready to send its troops to northern Syria before U.S. President Donald Trump's surprise announcement last month, it is time for Washington to accept that it isn't negotiating with Turkey from a position of power.

If there was ever any doubt that the resistance within the Trump administration wasn't real, what happened in light of Trump's decision to leave disproved the skeptics. Bolton and several other members of the Trump administration are committing a serious crime by preventing the current president of the United States from reversing his predecessor's misguided decisions in the Syrian theater. What is happening today isn't a policy debate, but a direct challenge to American democracy by unelected paper-pushers. Indeed, "many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate" President Trump's agenda.

A soft coup against Trump is underway in the United States. In recent days, anonymous U.S. officials, like the author of the infamous op-ed in The New York Times, have repeatedly lied to the American people in an attempt to force Trump to walk back from his comments about Syria. Turkey, they said, would "slaughter the Kurds" if U.S. military advisers leave the battlefield unconditionally. Although Turkey did not respond to that ludicrous accusation due to its absurdity, the speed at which such lies have been spreading demonstrates that malice, not ignorance, drives them.

Home to more ethnic Kurds than any other country, Turkey emerged as a safe haven for its Kurdish neighbors whenever they found themselves at risk. The Turkish government welcomed tens of thousands of Iraqi Kurds who escaped the horrors of then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's atrocious regime. More recently, Syrian Kurds sought refuge in Turkey as Daesh terrorists advanced toward the border town of Kobani. Meanwhile, for the past three decades, Turkish security forces have been trying to save Turkey's own Kurds from the oppression of the designated terrorist organization PKK and its radical Marxist ideology.

Turkey's imminent military incursion into northern Syria won't be any different. Turkish troops and their local partners, moderate fighters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), will target terrorists and terrorists alone. If anyone is seriously concerned about civilian casualties and collateral damage, they'd best check their own track records before making baseless accusations against a NATO ally.

Others claim that Turkey isn't genuinely interested in defeating Daesh. Unlike the United States, whose military advisers have been watching the battle from the sidelines, Turkey has skin in the game. It is the only country to have deployed combat forces to Syria in order to fight Daesh terrorists. If anything, Turkey has a vested interest in neutralizing the terror threat emanating from northern Syria due to its geographic location. If U.S. officials are genuinely interested in defeating Daesh, they should ask themselves whether they can count on the People's Protection Units' (YPG) support. After all, the same group that made a secret pact with Daesh to grant safe passage to hundreds of armed terrorists out of Raqqa, the so-called caliphate's capital, recently threatened to release over 3,200 Daesh terrorists from their custody in an attempt to retaliate against the United States.

Finally, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others seem convinced that they can enlist the services of the PKK's Syrian affiliate, the YPG, to contain Iran's influence in Syria. That a designated terrorist organization could be trusted with American interests is a joke. Defectors from the YPG-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), including the group's former spokesman Talal Silo, say that YPG militants have been coordinating their actions with the Bashar Assad regime, an Iranian client, since the civil war began some seven years ago. To make matters worse, U.S. Central Command's (CENTCOM) love affair with the PKK's Syrian affiliate doesn't change that fact that the group has been repeatedly accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In addition to recruiting children, the group remains in control of the illicit drug trade from Iran to Europe and, according to Trump, violates U.S. sanctions by engaging in the illegal sale of oil to Iran.

Bolton and other leaders of the "resistance" must stop beating a dead horse and wake up to the fact that they are not negotiating with Turkey from a position of power. The Turkish government had unveiled its plan to target PKK/YPG targets in northern Syria long before Trump decided to withdraw from Syria. If senior U.S. officials keep making up new rules as they go, the Turks will run out of patience.