Turkey sees betrayal as US backs Syrian Kurds

It is the least bad of a series of pretty bad options. And it is perhaps as much about Iran as it is about Syria....

Posted: Jan 17, 2018 4:44 PM
Updated: Jan 17, 2018 4:44 PM

It is the least bad of a series of pretty bad options. And it is perhaps as much about Iran as it is about Syria.

But the US announcement that it will back a border protection force for Kurds in northern Syria answers one key question: what happens once the fight against ISIS -- led and endured with huge losses by US-backed Syrian Kurds -- finally ends?

It is clear now that the US is not wholesale leaving the country, but instead planning to train up a 30,000-strong force to keep ISIS from coming back and to assist local Kurds in keeping a grasp on the land they now control northeast of the Euphrates River.

Part of this may be rooted in history: the US was accused of abandoning the Iraqi Kurds back in the '90s, and don't want to duck out again. Part of it may be about ISIS, whose militants remain scattered across the swathes of desert there, in refugee camps, or trying to cross into southern Turkey.

Part of it too may also be about Iran, an effort to curtail Tehran's growing influence in that area. Iranian-backed militias have great sway across the border in Iraq, and Iran backs the Syrian regime on the other side of the Euphrates.

The Syrian Kurds have always sought to court all the main actors in the country -- including Russia -- and keep their options open. But continued American assistance means the Pentagon will get to have a say in what happens in that vast expanse of desert -- which, in its most geopolitically broad definition, runs from Iran to Israel -- in the coming years.

But there is one friend the US may have failed to take into consideration -- Turkey, whose leaders are enraged by the announcement of the new border force.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused the US of "building an army of terror" on his border and threatened to "drown" the US-backed force. On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu suggested that a Turkish operation to root out Kurdish militants may extend from the Syrian border region of Afrin to east of the Euphrates, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. Turkish tanks and troops have been amassing on the border since the weekend.

It is extraordinary to hear a NATO ally openly threaten to "drown" a US-backed force, and possibly by extension the US troops implementing the program. But that is where the US-Turkish relationship is after the failed coup against Erdogan.

Understandably, Ankara sees support for the Syrian Kurds -- allies of Turkey's own Kurds, whom it sees as terrorists -- as a betrayal by the US.

But aside from a complete withdrawal, there are few other options for the US strategically. Washington has clearly calculated that it can afford to upset Erdogan, who is becoming more authoritarian at home and increasingly close to Russia (whose missile systems it is buying) abroad.

Barack Obama fought long and hard to stay out of Syria's civil war. His successor doesn't seem to have or want that option, even as the conflict begins to shudder towards its end. And the post-ISIS Middle East is getting more complicated, fraying old alliances -- and forging new ones -- day by day.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 35419

Reported Deaths: 1230
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds290851
DeSoto190019
Madison144638
Jones120349
Harrison113616
Rankin108715
Neshoba104577
Forrest99343
Lauderdale96381
Scott81915
Jackson77519
Washington72213
Copiah65315
Leake63520
Lee61222
Oktibbeha61128
Grenada5949
Warren59421
Holmes58641
Wayne56218
Yazoo5536
Lowndes54813
Lamar5347
Leflore53156
Lincoln52935
Pike49920
Lafayette4974
Sunflower4778
Monroe45635
Panola4486
Covington4355
Bolivar40518
Simpson3933
Attala38424
Newton37510
Tate35213
Adams35120
Pontotoc3466
Marion32712
Claiborne30111
Chickasaw29719
Winston29511
Pearl River28832
Noxubee2788
Jasper2776
Marshall2773
Walthall2627
Clay25811
Union25211
Smith24612
Clarke22325
Coahoma2226
Lawrence2092
Yalobusha2079
Tallahatchie1954
Kemper18414
Carroll18111
Montgomery1713
Calhoun1645
Humphreys16310
Itawamba1468
Tippah14511
Hancock14413
Webster13411
Jefferson1263
Tunica1233
Jefferson Davis1204
Prentiss1204
George1163
Greene11310
Amite1103
Alcorn1002
Quitman991
Wilkinson989
Tishomingo971
Perry874
Choctaw754
Stone742
Franklin542
Sharkey480
Benton460
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 49892

Reported Deaths: 1077
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6433170
Mobile4753139
Montgomery4430112
Tuscaloosa263253
Madison21199
Marshall192611
Shelby164225
Lee157237
Morgan12695
Baldwin120711
Walker106131
Elmore102920
Dallas9969
Etowah95114
DeKalb9417
Franklin93216
Autauga67614
Russell6750
Chambers67427
Unassigned65328
Butler65129
Tallapoosa62869
Limestone6223
Houston5857
Cullman5716
Lauderdale5686
St. Clair5133
Colbert4956
Calhoun4905
Lowndes48122
Escambia4808
Pike4725
Coffee4244
Jackson4182
Covington41412
Barbour3942
Dale3911
Talladega3897
Bullock37710
Marengo35211
Hale34823
Chilton3232
Clarke3126
Wilcox3038
Blount2961
Winston2965
Sumter29113
Marion27514
Pickens2696
Randolph2589
Monroe2553
Perry2362
Conecuh2308
Bibb2211
Macon2159
Choctaw21212
Greene1959
Henry1533
Washington1418
Crenshaw1273
Lawrence1250
Cherokee1237
Geneva960
Lamar871
Clay852
Fayette821
Coosa651
Cleburne421
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Few Clouds
77° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 78°
Columbus
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 73°
Oxford
Broken Clouds
77° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 78°
Starkville
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 70°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather