Key Points

Monday’s official meeting between the Turkish and Syrian spy chiefs indicates that Erdogan is coming close to recognizing the Assad regime in return for Moscow’s further cooperation in Libya and Syria. Putin’s remarkable ability to reverse Erdogan’s Syria ambitions and force an official meeting between Turkish and Syrian intelligence officials is yet another reminder that Russia is keen and able to fill the vacuum left by the partial U.S. withdrawal from Syria and the Middle East.

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Likewise, in coordination with Brussels, Washington should push for aggressive application of the Third Energy Package and deploy expeditiously the $1 billion recently appropriated for strategic energy projects in Europe and Eurasia. Finally, Washington should facilitate U.S. LNG exports by easing burdensome licensing requirements, potentially by expanding existing exemptions to cover larger quantities.

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The Moscow talks show that 2020 will continue the trend of deepened cooperation between Erdogan and Putin. Turkey purchased the S-400 missile defense system from Russia last summer, much to the chagrin of the international community, as well as negotiated a ceasefire following Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria this past October. Their partnership in this new arena demonstrates that despite being on opposite sides of the fighting in Syria and Libya, the Turkish and Russian presidents have an uncanny ability to cut deals. However, it is unclear whether these bargains can hold, and thereby remedy Erdogan’s troubles at home and abroad.

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Turkey’s relations with Armenians at home and abroad touch on deep-rooted issues of national legitimacy and identity. Resolving these issues will require genuine outreach to Armenians at governmental and societal levels and generations to redress wrongs and heal wounds. A small step in the right direction, however, would be the recognition of legal status for Armenians and also for Greeks, Jews, and other religious minorities in Turkey—and allowing these communities to elect leaders as they see fit.

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Washington is certainly capable, if Republican and Democrats can agree on the baleful nature of the Islamic Republic, to make the clerical regime bleed in Syria in the way it made the United States bleed in Iraq.  Simple justice, let alone strategic common sense, ought to incline Washington to train and aid Syrians willing to take the fight to the Revolutionary Guards, allied foreign Shiite militias, and Alawite forces.  It’s not too late to do this.  If there is American will, there’s always a way.  Barring such action, however, U.S. foreign policy in Syria will, at best, devolve into a holding action against an Iranian-Alawite-Russian advance at Dayr az-Zor, the critical juncture of Iraqi and Syrian highways, and a waiting game to see whether American sanctions and rioting Shiites throughout the region can crack the Islamic Republic and its imperialism.

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Events

EVENT: Results of Erdogan's Snap Election Gambit: Implications for U.S.-Turkey Relations

June 27, 2018 | 11:45

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