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Dec 13 2018

Trump should tell Erdoğan ties endangered by Syria plans - analysis

President Donald Trump should make it clear to Turkey that any attack on Kurdish militants in a U.S.-controlled region of Syria will lead to an immediate and significant deterioration in bilateral ties, Tom Rogan wrote in an analysis for the Washington Examiner.

The United States cannot stand by if President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan fulfils a pledge made on Wednesday to attack fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) east of the Euphrates river, said Rogan, who writes on political affairs for the weekly publication. Erdoğan stated that the military operation would occur within a few days.

U.S. forces are embedded with the YPG so any Turkish military action would greatly endanger U.S. personnel, despite a promise by Erdoğan to never target them, he said.

“Erdoğan must be made to know that U.S. forces will be defended robustly and that any U.S. casualties will result in major sanctions,” Rogan said. “The U.S. must also stand firm here because Erdoğan is almost certainly being influenced by Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

Washington says the YPG are crucial partners in efforts to eradicate the last vestiges of Islamic State (ISIS) from Syria. Erdoğan is objecting, saying the threat of ISIS is now a “fairy tale” being used to justify the U.S. presence in the country. The YPG is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a militant group in Turkey that’s recognised as terrorist by the United States and European Union.

Erdoğan is working closely with Russia and Iran to secure peace in Syria under the so-called Astana process, which the three countries launched in January 2017. Turkish troops are stationed in Syria’s Idlib province, the last of four “de-escalation zones” foreseen under the peace plan. The other three are now in the hands of forces backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

While the United States should take measures to allay Turkish concerns over the YPG during the months ahead, the immediate worry is a Turkish attack that would serve the agenda of Russia and Assad, Rogan said.

“The Russians want the U.S. out of Syria, and they want to consolidate Turkey in support of their looming offensive against Idlib,” he said. “For these reasons, Putin will love the prospect of U.S. forces being killed by their Turkish counterparts.”