Syrian Army Takes Control of IS-held Airbase

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed he would convince Trump to reverse his support of SDF in a meeting between the two leaders at the White House next week. Although the two countries are North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies since 1952, the relationship has never been a fully harmonious one, requiring compromises and tolerance for behavior the other party opposed, or at least did not support (for example, the invasion of Cyprus in 1974 by Turkey; the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by the U.S.).

If Erdogan fails to solve at least one of these two vital for Turkey's national security issues at the meeting with Trump, it will become another round of strengthening anti-Americanism in Turkish society.

Both leaders are proud of their electoral victories, seeing in them a repudiation of establishment elites and a vindication of their populist nationalism tactics. The important thing, he said, is that they present a "united front" against terrorism. The U.S. sees the Syrian Kurds as their best battlefield partner on the ground in northern Syria. The Obama administration previously provided arms to the SDF, while deploying hundreds of US special operations troops to northern Syria to train Syrian Kurdish fighters.

But the US doesn't consider the YPG a terrorist group and believes it's crucial in the fight against ISIS in Syria. They have been the most effective proxy force for the anti-Islamic State coalition, and should take the lead in the final push to defeat the jihadists in their self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa. Under the circumstances, the USA should not try so hard to force Turkey to turn its back on Washington.

Officials have suggested it could step up air strikes on PKK bases in northern Iraq, or YPG targets in Syria. Last week, Erdoğan said he would show Trump pictures and video footage showing American flags and YPG banners flying side by side, while U.S. Marines and YPG fighters stood guard together.

Erdogan blames Gulen supporters for a failed coup attempt last July and has conducted a large-scale crackdown on them, drawing criticism from Washington. Turkey contends the SDF's Syrian Kurdish militia, known as the YPG, is a terrorist group affiliated with the outlawed PKK, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, a terror group that has been battling the Turkish state for many years. Showing how much the Turks care about the meeting, the Turkish president's chief advisor, İbrahim Kalın, along with intelligence chief Hakan Fidan and top commander Gen. Hulusi Akar, traveled to the United States last week to meet their counterparts.

"Put yourself in the shoes of the Turkish president", the official said. In response, the Americans deployed their troops at the border to prevent the Turks from targeting the YPG and, if you believe the USA line, to prevent attacks by the militants against Turkey. Both the Obama administration and the administration of Donald Trump regard the Syrian Kurds as the most effective and appropriate combat partner for the USA in the fight against ISIS.

Will the election of Trump, the appointment of Sessions as attorney general, and the desire of some in the foreign policy community to placate Erdogan as we provide more assistance to the YPG lead to Gulen's extradition even if the evidence for such remains weak?

Such support "is not an action suitable to serious states", he said.

"Trump is unlikely to change his mind, and arming the Kurds in Syria will further strain relations between them", Nihat Ali Ozcan, an analyst at the Economic Policy Research Foundation in Ankara, said by phone on Monday. A senior European intelligence official told The Associated Press his country might withhold information from the USA if it confirms Trump shared classified details with Russian Federation.

Second, continued high-level consultations to preclude any surprises. The shipments were pre-positioned and could be delivered to the Kurdish militia "very quickly", according to U.S. Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Baghdad. "They presented lot of documents to help clear the USA stance on YPG".

Information for this article was contributed by Robert Burns of The Associated Press.

  • Leroy Wright


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