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All Talk No Action: Why US Won’t Provide Real Backing to Turkish Military Efforts in Idlib

Although US Ambassador James Jeffrey vowed support to Turkey and underscored that Washington and Ankara’s interests in Syria and Libya overlap, that doesn’t mean the US will back its words with military action, say international political commentators, explaining why the Trump administration will not directly engage in the turmoil over Idlib.

On 17 February, Russia and Turkey conducted joint military patrolling in northeastern Syria following a temporary suspension amid clashes between Syrian Arab Army personnel and Turkish troops in Idlib.

Earlier, Washington threw its weight behind Ankara dispatching US Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey to the country. Commenting on the situation surrounding the last remaining terror hotbed in Syria, the US ambassador highlighted on 12 February that “the United States totally agrees with Turkey on its legal presence and justification for Turkey defending its existential interests” in Syria.

“We understand and support these legitimate Turkish interests that have Turkish forces in Syria and specifically in Idlib”, Jeffrey told NTV, Turkish nationwide television news channel. “We understand that, and we as a NATO ally, are looking into how we can help ensure that Turkey has the information it needs and that our equipment transfers to Turkey which are considerable, are working well”.

Why Trump Won’t Involve in Military Conflict Over Idlib

One might wonder whether the US is ready to provide further military support to Turkey under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty in case clashes over Idlib between Ankara and Damascus resume.

“It is extremely unlikely that the US will be directly involved militarily in the tensions between Turkey and Syria – simply because this is not the Foreign Policy approach of the Trump administration”, opines Dr Bamo Nouri, a lecturer in American foreign policy, political analyst and investigative journalist from the UK.

The scholar explains that previously, US military interventions were justified by a broad set of goals including “the promotion of democracy, peace, national and regional security, stability and also economic interests”; for its part, the Trump administration “operates on much narrower interests when it comes to foreign policy”.

“There has to be a clear and obvious economic interest for the US to intervene or a direct threat to national security”, he says. “In this particular case, there is neither”.

According to Nouri, what Turkey may expect from the US is voicing diplomatic support for Ankara, “which has already happened, at the same time re-iterating the need to de-escalate to prevent a humanitarian crisis”.
There’s yet another reason why Washington is unlikely to meddle in the Idlib crisis; the scholar points out: “Given that we are in an election year, Trump will be obligated to be careful in foreign policy matters, so as not to involve the US in unwanted and unjustified conflicts around the world”, he suggests.
“Scrutinised foreign policy as a result of the legacies left by Obama and Bush, and the priority of economic interests has created a clear reluctance towards military intervention by the Trump administration”, Nouri elaborates.