To this end, Erdogan called Trump on Oct. 6. Although the White House later denied it, the readoutof the call suggests that Trump indeed greenlighted the assault. Trump, who does not want to keep U.S. troops in Syria any longer, gladly offered to withdraw American forces from Syria and pave the way for the Turkish incursion so Ankara could take responsibility for the battle against ISIS.
Similarly, Russian President Vladimir Putin also tacitly approved of the Turkish offensive, hoping that subsequent events would bog Turkey and Washington down further in Syria. The YPG collapsed like a house of cards only four days into the Turkish military operation against it.
In January 2018, Erdogan used a similar tactic, complaining to Putin about the protection the Russian and Assad regime had extended to the YPG in its other enclave, in northwestern Syria. That resulted in Putin — who has a new policy of courting Erdogan — giving Ankara its own green light for an offensive against the YPG, culminating in a complete takeover of the Kurdish area by Turkey and its allies in Syria.
Erdogan has achieved his primary goal of breaking the U.S.-YPG partnership thanks to his crafty policy of leveraging Trump and Putin against each other, and manipulating Washington by playing on the theme that Moscow is willing to do more for Turkey regarding the YPG than is the U.S.
But notwithstanding this military victory, Erdogan’s policy has had mixed results. While delivering a serious blow to the Kurds, he has failed to shape the outcome of events in Syria, where Turkey-backed rebels have been overwhelmed by the support Assad has received from Russia and Iran. Both countries are historic Turkish adversaries, and in the end neither side will allow Erdogan to exit the war in Syria with glory.
In the broader Middle East, the Turkish president’s backing of the Muslim Brotherhood has put him at odds with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries that see the political Islamist group as their greatest domestic threat. It’s also a reason why Israel, once a close ally of Turkey’s, has started to align with Gulf monarchies against Erdogan.
Turkey has not only failed to earn star-power status in the region but, as of 2019, has actually been left with no Middle Eastern friends other than Qatar.
Accordingly, and ironically, Turkey has not only failed to earn star-power status in the region but, as of 2019, has actually been left with no Middle Eastern friends other than Qatar.
What’s more, Turkey can no longer rely on its traditional allies, such as the U.S. and European states. Although Erdogan has had some success in building influence across the Balkans and Africa thanks to local dynamics in these regions, his policies have left Turkey overall more isolated than ever. The letter from Trump is only more harsh evidence of the bridges he’s burned.
This doesn't mean the complete bankruptcy of Erdogan’s foreign policy, however. Ankara is currently stuck among the NATO-led West, the Muslim Middle East and the Russian “North,” and Erdogan will continue to play these blocs against one another as he has done in northern Syria to get at least some of what he wants: more territory, a diminished Kurdish threat and a “say” in Syria’s future.