Column: …and Trump starts showing his teeth


Crucial executive orders signed by President Donald Trump have been issued one after another since the weekend.

The president has shelved Obamacare, he has pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and has ordered the construction of a wall across the Mexican border while also cutting federal funds for states run by the Democrat governors who have turned their states into refugee shelters.All this comes as rumors abound that the president will temporarily halt the inflow of refugees into the U.S. while denying visas to citizens of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia. The fact that these are all Muslim countries suggests that Trump is motivated by the same thing that propelled his anti-Muslim campaign declarations.

There is nothing surprising about the moves made by the new U.S. president as he had promised all of these during his presidential campaign and now he is keeping his word.

Yet, one important rumor that interests Turkey is that Trump has ordered plans to be drawn up for safe zones in Syria and in “neighboring countries” for refugees who are trying to escape the civil war in that country.

Turkey has been telling the U.S. and its other Western allies that a safe zone should be established in the north of Syria to house the refugees fleeing the barbarism in the country.

The Western countries only toyed with this idea but never took any firm steps. In the end, Turkey took matters into its own hands about five months ago sending its forces into northern Syria to push the militants of the Daesh terrorist group out of these areas and liberate Syrian land where a safe haven for the Syrians refugees fleeing the carnage could seek shelter. With the help of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Turkish forces secured a 90-kilometer area just across the border and then moved 45 kilometers deep into Syria creating an ideal safe zone. Now Turkey is poised to capture the strategic town of al-Bab in the region and thus complete an important section of its mission to secure the safe zone. Turkish forces and the FSA will then turn their attention to Manbij and clear the Arab city of the Kurdish militants and thus offer the area west of the Euphrates River for the settlement of Syrian refugees.

So if President Trump is talking about this safe haven and will help us further secure the area by declaring it a no-fly zone then what he is saying is a very welcome news. However, if he is talking about the regions held by the Kurdish terror group of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) militants who are an extension of the PKK terrorist gang that has wreaked havoc in Turkey then that is not so appealing.

Turkey wants to hear from the new U.S. administration that is severing its ties with the PYD and that it will regard Turkey as the only partner on the ground to finish off Daesh in Syria.

If that happens we can see a speedy recovery of the ailing relations between Ankara and Washington and that Trump will have strong and reliable friends. This can also open the path for strong cooperation between Turkey, Russia and the U.S. on Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

*İLNUR ÇEVIK is a Turkish columnist. He writes for Daily Sabah Turkish newspaper.

(Published in Daily Sabah on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017)