Will Trump Sacrifice US-Turkish Relations for Raqqa Liberation?

© REUTERS / Umit Bektas/File A Turkish soldier on an armoured personnel carrier waves as they drive from the border back to their base in Karkamis on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern Gaziantep province, Turkey, August 27, 2016
A Turkish soldier on an armoured personnel carrier waves as they drive from the border back to their base in Karkamis on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern Gaziantep province, Turkey, August 27, 2016 - Sputnik International
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The Pentagon risks alienating Turkey if it continues to team up with the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces during its Raqqa operation. For its part, Damascus warned foreign powers that any military operation in the country without the approval of the legitimate Syrian government will be seen as an invasion.

The Pentagon's Raqqa operation may result in the deterioration of relations between Ankara and Washington.

The crux of the matter is that the US still largely relies on the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), viewed by Ankara as an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, designated as a terrorist organization in Turkey.

"President Donald Trump's administration is currently engaged in an intense debate over whether to continue supporting Kurdish forces' advance on Raqqa, or shift US support to Turkey and its allies," Foreign Policy magazine pointed out, adding that top US commanders regard the YPG as "superior fighters and the only viable option for ousting the Islamic State [Daesh]."

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Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim warned Washington that "if [the United States] insists on carrying on this operation with terror organizations, our relations will be harmed — that is clear."

However, speaking to Sputnik Turkey Tuesday, a representative of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) confirmed that the Pentagon is going to deploy an additional 1,000 US troops to Syria to assist the SDF during the upcoming advance on Daesh's stronghold in Raqqa.

He also disclosed that the US continues to deliver heavy armaments to the region.

"Every two days the US deploys a large amount of weapons, primarily heavy armaments, to the region. They have sent tanks, armored vehicles, missiles, sniper rifles, mortar launchers and other types of weaponry," the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Sputnik.

"In addition, the United States has told us that a decision was made to send an additional 1,000 US troops to take part in the Raqqa operation," he said, specifying that US troops will serve as military advisers during the operation and will not take part in the combat, at least initially.

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Needless to say, these prospects trigger growing concerns in Ankara, which sees the Kurdish advance as a threat to Turkey's security.

In his January interview with Radio Sputnik, Turkish academic Behlul Ozkan explained that Ankara needs to prevent the YPG and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) from strengthening their positions in northern Syria.

According to Ozkan if Kurdish militants manage to gain control over the Turkish-Syrian border they will "isolate" Turkey from the Middle East.

At the same time he bemoaned the fact that the Kurdish-dominated SDF received much more support from the Pentagon than Turkey — Washington's major NATO ally in the region.

"According to the Turkish sources, American warplanes have been supporting the PYD. However, Turkey cannot get the same level of support from the US. That creates a kind of frustration in Ankara," Ozkan emphasized.

© REUTERS / Rodi SaidSyrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters walk with their weapons during an offensive against Daesh terrorists in northern Raqqa province, Syria
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters walk with their weapons during an offensive against Daesh terrorists in northern Raqqa province, Syria - Sputnik International
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters walk with their weapons during an offensive against Daesh terrorists in northern Raqqa province, Syria

The situation on the ground shows that this trend has not much changed since then.

Foreign Policy magazine suggested that if the US continues to ignore Turkey's concerns, Ankara may throw a wrench in Washington's works in Syria.

"If Ankara wanted to, it could throw a sizeable wrench in US strategy in the region — for example, by cutting off access to airbases in southern Turkey, from which the United States launches airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, or by deepening its cooperation with Russia," the media outlet highlighted.

For its part, Damascus has recently signaled that it will consider any military operation in Syria without the approval of the Syrian government to be an invasion, be it Raqqa or any other city.

"Any military operation in Syria without the approval of the Syrian government is illegal, and I said if there's any troops on the Syrian soil, this is an invasion, whether to liberate Raqqa or any other place. This is first. Second, we all know that the [US-led] coalition has never been serious about fighting ISIS [Daesh] or the terrorists, so we have to think about the real intention of the whole plan, if there's a plan to liberate al-Raqqa," Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Russian journalists.

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