Manbij agreement could lead to U.S.-Turkish front vs Assad – U.S. diplomat

The newly announced U.S.-Turkish roadmap to expel Kurdish militias of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Manbij, a north Syrian area near the Turkish border, may lead to a broader strategic partnership against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey James F. Jeffrey wrote for the Washington Institute.

Monday’s announcement of the roadmap, made during Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s Washington meeting with his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo, marks a significant easing of tension between the NATO allies, which had been driven apart in Syria by U.S. support for the YPG, classed in Turkey as a terrorist organisation.

The two countries are still at odds over a number of significant issues, including Turkey’s purchase of S-400 missile defence systems from Russia and its imprisonment of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson for use in “hostage diplomacy,” which have led to a motion in U.S. Congress to block weapons sales to Turkey.

This has not stopped sources in both governments quoted by Jeffrey from discussing a plan to “jointly press the Assad regime, Iran, and ultimately Russia to accept a political solution through the UN-sponsored Geneva process,” however, by jointly occupying “almost all of northern Syria, which encompasses over 40 percent of the country’s territory, tens of thousands of well-armed local allies, and millions of Syrian citizens either resident there or displaced by the war, including many across the border in Turkey.

Such a plan would be difficult to push through due to the contradiction posed to the United States of having to work together with both Turkey and the YPG and its affiliates; it may also be unfeasible given U.S. President Donald Trump’s professed desire to pull out of Syria this year.