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As Washington Arms Kurdish Fighters in Syria With Heavy Weapons, What of Turkey?

© REUTERS / Rodi Said/File Photo / Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) stand near a U.S military vehicle in the town of Darbasiya near the Turkish border, Syria April 28, 2017
Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) stand near a U.S military vehicle in the town of Darbasiya near the Turkish border, Syria April 28, 2017 - Sputnik International
US President Donald Trump has approved the supply of weapons to Kurdish forces fighting Daesh in Syria, a longtime enemy of Turkey. What’s behind this move, and how is it likely to affect relations between allies Washington and Ankara?

A Syrian Democratic Forces(SDF) fighter poses for a picture near Euphrates River, north of Raqqa city, Syria March 8, 2017 - Sputnik International
US Arms Supply to Kurds to Accelerate Daesh Defeat, Liberation of Raqqa - SDF
Fighting for their own independent state spanning territory in Syria, Iraq and Turkey, the Kurds are a longtime adversary of the government in Ankara — a member of NATO, and thus an ally to the US. Yet the Trump administration has moved to arm the Kurds, who have been quite effective in fending off Daesh so far, with heavy weapons, a move that will most certainly bring condemnation from the Turkish government.

According to Ben Norton, a reporter for AlterNet's Grayzone Project, both the US and Turkey are playing a double game. The US, looking to get the upper hand in the liberation of Daesh's de-facto capital, Raqqa, seeks alliance with the Kurds. At the same time, the US supports Turkey because Turkey is a member of NATO.

"The US is in a very contradictory relationship," Norton told Sputnik's Loud & Clear.

At the same time, he said, Turkey claims to be fighting Daesh as well. It even intervened in Northern Syria with a campaign of airstrikes purportedly targeting the terror group. But it's no secret that Turkey also seeks to suppress the Kurds, who are also fighting Daesh.


​Turkey has a less-than-stellar record of combating Daesh, including "holes" in the Turkey-Syria border that Daesh fighters have used for reinforcements and the infamous oil truck columns that were largely devastated by the Russian Air Force in Syria.

For Turkey, the Kurds are a greater threat than Daesh, Norton noted.

In this undated photo released Thursday, May 11, 2017, by Hawar News, the news agency for the semi-autonomous Kurdish areas in Syria, shows fighters from the Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces, patrolling on a street in Tabqa, northern Syria - Sputnik International
Message to Turkey: What is Behind US' Decision to Supply Arms to Kurds
While Kurds in Iraq enjoy a recognized entity, Iraqi Kurdistan, there is no such designation in Syria. Norton acknowledged that Kurdish forces there tend to ally more with Damascus, as anti-Assad opposition groups are largely dominated by anti-Kurdish religious extremists, but the Kurds are also pushing for an autonomous region in northern Syria. It is something that Ankara is vehemently opposed to, fearing Kurdish autonomy in Syria could become a catalyst for separatism in Turkey, which could in turn mean the loss of a massive chunk of Turkish territory.

Interestingly, the US had a record of siding with Kurds during the Cold War, according to Norton, which is particularly ironic, given that Kurds are largely dominated by socialist political movements. This was a move of so-called Realpolitik from the US, wherein allies are chosen by immediate strategic necessity.

But the US also has betrayed the Kurds a number of times, Norton said, and so the Kurds fear that once they defeat Daesh completely, the US will once again withdraw its support.

"It's hard to say what the US will end up doing, but if you ask my opinion," Norton offered, "the US will do what they did to the Kurds before."


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