Dec 14 2018

Erdoğan has given slap in the face to U.S. Syria policy  – analyst

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has given the United States a slap in the face by announcing plans to invade northeast Syria, according to Nicholas Heras, a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).

Trump’s new team on Syria, which includes former U.S. ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey, now faces a major test as it seeks to build stability post-Islamic State through the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and assuage Turkish concerns about the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey says the SDF is tied to, Heras said.

“If he acted on his threats, Erdoğan would likely collapse the SDF and provide a life-saving boon to ISIS, which would in turn be a threat to the Trump administration's Syria policy,” he said in an article on CNAS’s website. “The Trump administration should respond decisively to Turkey and meet Erdoğan's threat with strong resolve in support of the SDF and its continued presence in the areas east of the Euphrates.”

Erdoğan made the threat to send troops east of the Euphrates, which SDF and U.S. forces jointly control, on Wednesday. On Friday, he said he couldn’t stomach a further day of delays, calling on the United States to honour a deal to rid the city of Manbij, which is the headquarters of U.S.-Kurdish operations in Syria, of Kurdish militants. Turkish troops are reportedly building on the Syrian border ready for an invasion, according to local news reports Friday.

U.S.-Turkish relations fell into crisis this year, partly due to a Turkish invasion of Syria’s Afrin region, which was controlled by elements of the SDF. Pro-Turkish Islamic militants now control Afrin and there have been widespread reports of human rights abuses and forced displacement of Kurds there.

“American forces should conduct joint patrols with SDF forces in the areas east of the Euphrates as sign of support for the SDF and warn Turkey that threats against American and Coalition forces operating with the SDF could lead to the use of lethal force to protect them,” said Heras.

The Trump administration should also tell Erdoğan that no SDF forces will withdraw from Manbij or from elsewhere in Syria until the anti-ISIS campaign is complete and there has been a successful test of power-sharing in Manbij, he said.