Trump has no choice but to grapple with Syria – analyst

U.S. President Donald Trump has no choice other than to grapple with growing contradictions underlying Washington’s policy toward Syria, Ishaan Tharoor wrote in the Washington Post.

Trump is faced with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has mounted a ground offensive in Syria to deal with “terrorism” while degrading democracy at home, and the Kurds, U.S. allies against Islamic State, who are accusing the West of failing to support their fledgling democracy in the face of Turkish aggression, Tharoor said.

Assertions that the United States needs to placate Erdoğan by slowing support for the Syrian Kurds and siding more clearly with Turkey’s geopolitical interests in Syria, to counter the interests of Russia and Iran, are not an easy sell, he said.

“Foreign-policy and national-security elites in Washington have soured on Erdoğan, while the Kurds command a great deal of affection.”

Turkey says Kurdish forces in northern Syria are indistinguishable from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group recognized as terrorists by the United States and European Union, hence they are a direct threat to its security. Ankara has waged a three-decade war against the autonomy-seeking PKK in Turkey at the cost of more than 30,000 lives, most of them Kurdish.

Erdoğan is waging "a dangerous war on many fronts" with his approach to Syria and domestic opposition at home, Tharoor said.

"U.S. Special Forces have been conducting patrols in the most bitterly contested areas in a bid to keep the SDF (Syrian opposition forces led by the Kurds) and Turkish-backed forces from clashing, but that may soon become a much harder task," he said.
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