Ankara – The appointment of Brett McGurk as Middle East Coordinator in the National Security Council of President-elect Biden has already set alarm bells in Turkey.
Why it matters: McGurk, who was a counter-ISIL envoy to both Barack Obama and Donald Trump, is considered a staunch critic of the Turkish government’s policy in the Middle East and an outspoken defender of America’s partnership with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). ) for ISIL victories.
- The SDF is seen by Turkey as a Syrian sequel to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged decades of revolt against the Turkish state.
Flashback: In 201
- In 2019, McGurk suggested that Turkey may have sheltered ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
- That same year, following a fiery speech by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, McGurk tweeted: “Erdogan has called on Muslims to unite against the West as Turkey hosts US terrorist Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas in Istanbul. “
- McGurk was also very critical of Turkey’s plans to establish a safe zone in Syria, saying it would “effectively expand Turkey’s border 30 kilometers into Syria, including areas of Christians, Kurds and other vulnerable minorities.”
What are they saying: A critical report by Academician Talha Abdulrazak was published on the website of Turkey’s state network TRT World on January 9th, arguing that McGurk’s appointment meant “more terror to fight terror.” arming the Syrian Kurds.
- “In the name of fighting ISIL, McGurk was the architect behind the avoidance of statesmen and longtime NATO allies like Turkey in favor of using terrorists to fight other terrorists in Syria,” it said.
What to watch: McGurk will be responsible for coordinating US policy not only in Syria but also in Iran, Iraq and Libya – all of which are important to Turkey.
- However, the Syrian battlefield has changed a lot since McGurk left office in December 2018, with Turkey’s sphere of influence expanding and America narrowing.
Bottom row: McGurk will have to find ways to work with Turkey.