ESCALATION IN SYRIA: Erdogan I – The Phantom Menace of NATO
Deputy Spokesperson of the U.S. Department of State, Mark Toner, during a regular briefing on April 25 said that the U.S. expresses serious concern over Turkey’s aggression in Syria and Iraq.
It should be mentioned that in the morning, April 25 the Turkish Air Force struck the positions of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the Karachok mountain region in north-eastern Syria. They also attacked the positions of the Kurdish militia near the town of Sinjar. Turkish warplanes killed more than 20 fighters of Kurdish Peshmerga. Eight more soldiers were wounded. The targets hit by the Turkish Air Force in Syria also include local television and a YPG broadcasting media station. On April 27, the Turkish army continued its massacre of Kurds on the ground in the province of Aleppo.
Such active military actions on the part of the Turkish leadership against the only armed formation in the northeast of Syria that is capable to resist ISIS have been heavily criticized by the international community including Turkey’s main NATO partners.
Turkey which is well-known for its inconsistent policy carried out air strikes in northern Syria and Iraq once again without proper coordination with the U.S. and NATO. Moreover they acted without any approval of the U.S.-led coalition.
Under these circumstances concerns of the United States and other NATO member countries are understandable. The U.S. leadership has been playing the Kurdish card for a long time. The U.S. wish to use Kurdish units in their own interests is not surprising. Americans provide these groups with weapons, ammo and even air support, to say nothing of special task forces involvement.
At the moment YPG continues to advance the strategically important city of Al-Tabqa 35 miles to the south-west of Raqqa. It is considered the fourth phase of the Wrath of Euphrates operation carried out under the U.S.-led coalition command. However, Ankara’s latest stab in the back may force the Kurdish headquarters to stop their offensive towards ISIS because of the need to repulse Turkish and Syrian Free Army’s attacks in the north of the Aleppo province.
Kurds reacted immediately. According to France Press News Agency they called on the international coalition to stop Turkey’s air strikes against them. It seems that the U.S.-led coalition will be forced to respond as it is Kurd’s key partner in their fight against ISIS.
Turkey has repeatedly irritated NATO with such actions. Instead of becoming a pillar of international security in fighting terrorism the country, judging by its actions, is trying to prevent the Kurds from liberating Raqqa. Erdogan obliterates and bombs Kurds who are the only combat unit capable to resist terrorism. Military sources also reports of dozens victims on the eve of Turkish attack on Firfik settlement. American military instructors who are often engaged in the training process of military units in Syria and Iraq might have died as well because of such irresponsible actions.
The Turkish president strongly contributes to ISIS strengthening, he contradicts the NATO basic principles of fight against terrorism and do not coordinate his actions with the leadership of NATO. Turkey’s attacks on Kurds in Iraq and Syria are inherently criminal as they violate the international law.
It seems that Turkey’s attempts occupy some Syrian territories and to change the alignment of forces in the Middle East do not please the USA and other key stakeholders in the region. Apparently there is no point to keep Turkey in NATO whereas the leadership of the country is absolutely unpredictable. In a situation when the war against terrorism in Iraq and Syria is far from being over such aggressive actions definitely do not contribute to the consolidation of anti-terrorist efforts but intensify the already tense situation.
The X Files of Turkey & US: The Conflict Is Out There
According to Hurriyet Daily News, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on May 12, 2017, that the U.S. support of the Syrian Kurds harms the strategic relations between the two countries. He explained his position on the issue by the fact that such terrorist organization as the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) is extremely dangerous for Turkey.
By associating Kurdish forces with illegal armed groups Turkish president actually accuses the United States of supporting terrorism. “I want to believe that our NATO allies stand shoulder to shoulder with us and not with the terrorist organizations,” quoted Hurriyet Daily News. The Turkish president also said the U.S. is still in the process of transferring the authority after Donald Trump was elected president.
Apparently, the Turkish leader is trying to convince NATO allies that Turkey’s interests cannot be ignored and the contribution of the Syrian Kurds has no value if there are troubles with Ankara. Erdogan even plans to make sure his counterpart to give up the idea of using Kurdish detachments in capturing the main stronghold of ISIS in Syria during the meeting with Trump in Washington in mid-May.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. responded by openly demonstrating its flag within the framework of their mission in the northern part of Syria in order to prevent Turkey from hitting U.S. allies. Moreover, D. Trump decided not to depart from the policy of destabilizing the situation in the Middle East. Approving a plan of sending arms to Kurdish rebels fighting ISIS, he aggravated the situation in the Middle East even more.
Now, the only question is, how far do Trump and Erdogan extend, realizing their geostrategic ambitions? The security analyst, former Turkish diplomat Aydin Selgen, believes Ankara is able to unilaterally take actions to protect its own interests if a threat to national security from Syria and Iraq becomes possible. Turkish air strikes carried out against Kurds in Syria and Iraq last week displayed Erdogan’s seriousness of purpose and resolve.
Meanwhile, Kurdish analyst Mutlu Chiviroglu said the U.S. considers Turkey’s arguments unconvincing, as there is no real threat to Ankara from the Kurdish militia. Moreover, the expert is sure that at the moment the Kurds in Syria, unlike the Peshmerga in Iraq, do not plan any hostilities or subversive activity against Turkey.
In fact, the Turkish side periodically uses NATO partners for its purposes when it is beneficial for Turkey. At the same time Erdogan’s actions periodically demonstrate that Turkey does not share the goals and the main principals of the alliance. One of the most painful issues is Ankara’s reluctance to truly fight ISIS. Turkey along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar from the very beginning have been supporting the Sunni radicals, who eventually transformed into a powerful terrorist organization. It’s high time for members of the alliance to pay attention to the aggressive and unpredictable behavior of one of its members, as well as the hypocritical arguments of the head of Turkey. One of the best decisions for NATO would be the exclusion of Turkey from the Alliance.
Such a confrontation between NATO partners clearly shows how the six-year war in Syria has turned over strategic alliances. The conflict between NATO countries (mostly between the U.S. and the EU from the one hand and Turkey from the other) has been brewing for a long time. It looks like the U.S-Turkey’s conflict can lead to an open confrontation on the ground in Syria and Iraq.
FBR contributor Sophie Mangal, 25, is a freelance writer and a member of the Inside Syria Media Center. After attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a media and journalism major, Mangal monitored the refugee crisis in Europe, drawing parallels between the Syrian conflict and the Balkan problem, and has visited Syria on several occasions…