Turkey’s intelligence chief Hakan Fidan and presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın “exploded” when Mike Pompeo informed them of the United States’ decision to work with Syrian Kurds, the former US Secretary of State wrote in his memoir.
Washington could have worked with either the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) or Turkish-trained Syrian rebels, Pompeo wrote in Never Give an Inch, published on Tuesday.
Fidan and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself “repeatedly” called Pompeo to convince the then-secretary that SDF was a terrorist organisation, a view that Washington still does not agree with.
However, the Pentagon was not convinced that Turkey-backed factions would succeed in the quest to remove the Islamic State from northern Syria. Then-Defence Secretary James N. Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford “had a different concern: Turkey’s army did not have the capacity to defeat ISIS”, Pompeo wrote. “Now came the diplomatic piece of breaking the news to the Turks. The meeting went poorly.”
“I’ve never seen such anger erupt so quickly in a room,” Pompeo continued. “Kalın and Fidan exploded and then left quickly. It wasn’t great for the relationship.”
In another part of his memoir, Pompeo recalled a video he was shown during his first visit to Turkey as CIA director in 2017.
The video on the 15 July 2016 failed coup attempt was “so long and so obnoxious that I considered it a mental health issue”, Pompeo wrote.
Pompeo also wrote about his 2020 visit to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos in Istanbul. “The Turkish government threatens the church, so I made a point of not meeting any Turkish government official on my Istanbul trip,” he wrote. “A simple message: This church must remain independent, separate from the state, and free.”
President Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu “were not happy but the Orthodox world saw that the United States supports their god-given right to uphold their faith”, the former secretary wrote.