Published: Thu, May 18, 2017
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

As Erdogan Visits Trump, Much Friction Between US And Turkey

As Erdogan Visits Trump, Much Friction Between US And Turkey

On Tuesday, May 9, the Pentagon's chief spokeswoman Dana White said that yesterday, US President Donald Trump had authorized the Pentagon to equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS in Raqqa.

Announcing the decision without waiting to meet with Erdogan is "humiliating" considering the sensitivity of the matter to Turkey, said Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The slow pace of US efforts to take Islamic State strongholds Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq have produced a risky USA move in relations with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey.

Washington sees the YPG as distinct from the PKK and as a valuable partner in the fight against Islamic State.

The Trump administration has not specified the kinds of arms to be provided, but US officials have indicated that 120 mm mortars, machine guns, ammunition and light armored vehicles were possibilities.

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Davis added that the US -led coalition "tracked fleeing fighters and targeted those that could be safely hit without harming civilians". Both the Obama administration and the administration of Donald Trump regard the Syrian Kurds as the most effective and appropriate combat partner for the United States in the fight against ISIS. "There are Obama's men in lower positions [in the current administration]". Therefore, the USA president's decision to supply heavy weapons to the Syrian Kurds was a cold shower for the leadership of Turkey. And I say there is no need for the YPG or the PYD [Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party]. "Side by side. Now, instead of siding with your ally - which has 800,000 soldiers - you are opting to side with a terrorist organization". The U.S. also has pressed unsuccessfully for the release of Andrew Brunson, an American pastor, and other detained U.S. citizens. The Obama administration previously provided arms to the SDF, while deploying hundreds of US special operations troops to northern Syria to train Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Asked if Turkey would continue to bomb the YPG in Syria if the group is armed by the U.S., Yildirim was succinct.

The Turkish government opposes the US plan to provide equipment including mortars and armored cars to the Kurdish militia group YPG in Syria, which it regards as a terrorist group linked to the separatist Kurdish PKK in southeast Turkey. But the US sees the YPG as effective partners on the ground in their fight against ISIL.

Erdogan said he would bring up his concerns with Trump and called on Washington to immediately reverse the decision, indicating Turkey was still interested in a joint operation to oust the jihadists from their bastion of Raqa so long as it does not include the YPG. Since a Turkish airstrike on YPG forces in late April, U.S. troops reportedly are patrolling with YPG forces to preclude another strike by the Turks. The United States was not included in the agreement. The Wall Street Journal on May 10 reported that the USA was beefing up joint intelligence efforts with Turkey to help the government better target terrorists in the region, according to US officials.

Conflicts within the widely divergent anti-jihadist alliance have so far been addressed with quiet diplomacy by U.S., Turkish and Russian military commanders.

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The decision, announced before Erdogan had a chance to make his case in person, is setting the two allies on a collision course after months of rising tensions.

Turkey also retains the option of canceling an agreement that allows US and anti-Islamic State coalition warplanes to fly out of its air base at Incirlik. Washington is concerned by rising anti-Americanism in Turkey that Erdogan's government has tolerated since the July coup attempt.

Ties have also been strained by Turkey's demand for the extradition of USA -based cleric Fethullah Gulen whom Turkey blames for last year's failed coup attempt. This presents a complication for the U.S., but not necessarily a bad one. On July 19, 2016, Ankara sent four dossiers to support its demand for Gülen's extradition at Washington's request and demanded his temporary arrest in September 2016, but Turkish politicians have reproached the USA over its apparent reluctance to process Turkey's request.

The same goes for Zarrab, who was arrested in Miami in March past year and was linked to a 2013 corruption scandal that ensnared the government when Erdogan was prime minister.

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