Risks rise of U.S.-Turkey clash in Syria – Bloomberg

Talks between Turkish and U.S. politicians and generals do not seem to have resolved the fundamental argument that risks bringing NATO’s two biggest armies into direct conflict in northern Syria, Bloomberg said.

Turkey launched an offensive against Kurdish fighters in the northwestern Syrian enclave of Afrin two weeks ago. No U.S. troops are present in Afrin, but U.S. special forces are alongside the same Kurdish force around the town of Manbij and other areas to the east.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the operation would soon extend further east from Afrin to Manbij, regardless of the U.S. presence.

“We’ll press against terrorists without taking into consideration who’s next to them,” Bloomberg quoted Erdoğan as saying.

Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish militia as part of a separatist Kurdish group it has been fighting inside Turkey for more than 30 years.

The United States, however, relied on Kurdish fighters to largely defeat Islamic State, and may now extend that support as a bulwark against a resurgent Syrian government and its backers, Iran and Russia.

Turkey feels betrayed by the United States over its alliance with the Syrian Kurds, Nihat Ali Özcan, an analyst at the Ankara-based Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, told Bloomberg.

That is why “the risk of a friendly fire between Turkish and U.S. troops can’t be dismissed unless one of the sides back down,” Özcan was quoted as saying.