A recent US decision to provide heavier arms to the Kurds has angered Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally. But the relationships between these factions and foreign powers are much more complex than they seem, experts say.
But then, on May 9, just one week before Erdogan's White House visit, the United States announced it would provide weapons to the YPG, Kurdish forces fighting as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the rebels who are now planning to assault Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State. Turkey also fears that the YPG and other groups will create an autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria, which would inspire Kurdish separatists inside Turkey.
Whereas the Turkish government has always been proposing its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally for launching Raqqa operation with Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters and Erdogan is expected to raise the offer once more during his talks with Trump. He insists the U.S. abandon Syrian Kurdish fighters, the "People's Protection Units", or YPG.
Summary⎙ Print In tomorrow's meeting, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will seek to persuade US President Donald Trump to reverse the decision to arm Syrian Kurdish militia, but Trump is unlikely to reverse course on the closest he has to a sure thing: victory in Raqqa.
That puts the Syrian Kurds in the strong position of having the support of Syria and its ally Russian Federation, and also the U.S. It is noteworthy that the U.S. and Russian Federation are thus in effect cooperating to restore territory to Assad.
Nicholas A. Heras: It depends on the constituent YPG militia within the SDF.
Erdogan calls the YPG a terrorist organization.
Raqqa is also an oil-rich province, which could potentially become a source of income for the YPG, and subsequently the PKK, if the YPG does not cede control to the local population once Daesh is driven out of the city.
But the White House views the YPG as a key partner in the fight against Islamic State, and separate from the PKK.
Officials have suggested it could step up air strikes on PKK bases in northern Iraq, or YPG targets in Syria.
More broadly, the agreement aims to mitigate tensions between Turkey, Syrian Arabs and Kurds. Last month, the Turkish military bombed Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq, in one case with American forces only about six miles (10 kilometers) away. The countries acting as ceasefire guarantors - Russia, Turkey and Iran - signed a memorandum on setting up four de-escalation zones in Syria.
Earlier this month Turkey, Russia and Iran agreed to work together as guarantors of "safe zones" in Syria, excluding any USA involvement. It insists the U.S.is laying a unsafe bedrock for future instability in the region, essentially fighting terrorists with terrorists.
Turkey's Islam-rooted government was never very enthusiastic about taking on IS, either.
Many Turks also still refer to an incident in northern Iraq that year, when US forces handcuffed 11 Turkish soldiers whom they suspected of plotting to assassinate a top Iraqi Kurdish official.
"The main aim of this agreement could be seen as part of the United States "tactical" policy to reduce tension and create buffer zones between the SDF and Turkey", said Obaydah Amer, a political editor the Midan website. The Kurds monopolized the fight against ISIS.
However, the issue of Turkey's desired involvement inside Syria, and the status of the Kurdish militia, could prove to be a flashpoint. However, it's very hard to harmonize Russian and Turkish priorities on the ground.
After the USA election, Erdogan hoped that Trump would be more sympathetic to Turkey's concerns than Obama. Any announcement following the meeting of the two presidents that touch on such an understanding will be very positive for Turkish financial markets, which trade cautiously awaiting the outcome of the Trump-Erdoğan meeting.
WASHINGTON (AP) The United States is on a collision course with its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey, pushing ahead with arming Syrian Kurds after deciding the immediate objective of defeating Islamic State militants outweighs the potential damage to a partnership vital to US interests in the volatile Middle East. Eventually he will have to accept the inevitability of Syrian Kurdish autonomy, if not a statelet.
Trump and Erdogan have spoken at least three times, and in two of those conversations they discussed plans to fight ISIS in Syria, according to the White House. One possibility to reduce the YPG/PYD's power in the Kurdish parts of Syria would be the presence of another effective, armed group, like the KNC-linked Roj-Peshmerga.
In an unsubtle attempt to give Trump a way out, Erdogan claimed that the decision to arm the YPG was made "under the influence of United States officials" who served under the Obama administration.
In this April 6, 2017 photo, President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., after the USA fired a barrage of cruise missiles into Syria.