Activists say Kurdish-led forces advance on IS-held Raqqa

Jay Jacobs
May 15, 2017

Turkey's direct military participation in Syria, "Operation Euphrates Shield", has produced mixed results in the fight against ISIS, although that may be because Turkey's actual objective was to counter Kurdish influence. Its defense minister, Fikri Isik, said Wednesday that the decision plunges Washington and Ankara into a "crisis".

According to Mr Yildirim, the U.S. has also promised that Kurdish forces that may enter Raqqa (Isis's de facto capital in Syria), as part of an American-backed offensive, will not be allowed to stay in the city.

The challenge is hardly new.

Erdogan welcomed Trump's election victory last November and said he hoped it would lead to "beneficial steps" in the Middle East.

Past administrations have sought a delicate balance.

With regard to Washington doubling down on its Kurdish alliance, Redur Xelil, a spokesman for the YPG, said, "We believe that from now on and after this historic decision, [the YPG] will play a stronger, more influential and more decisive role in combating terrorism at a fast pace". Too little cooperation with the Kurds risks squandering a battlefield ally with proven effectiveness against extremist threats and who has staunchly supported Washington.

A Kurdish-led Syrian force backed by the USA expects to advance on the Islamic State group's de facto capital of Raqqa in northern Syria this summer, a commander said Friday, following a decision by the Trump administration to supply the force with heavier weapons. "We will storm and liberate (Raqqa) city", Qahraman Hassan told AFP. "This might be the beginning of the end of Turkey-U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation relationship", Kadercan said.

Turkey considers the PYD and its armed wing, the YPG, to be the Syrian offshoots of the PKK, a banned terrorist organization in the U.S., Turkey, and the EU. Ankara is afraid that the PKK could use the weapons provided to the YPG against Turkey.

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No, "Turkey has concluded it is better to be on the in than the out", Stein added. Kurds are an ethnic group predominantly concentrated along the borders of four countries - Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Analysts doubt that Trump and Erdogan can come to an agreement during their talks at the White House. Of concern is not only the PKK's growing presence in Sinjar, but also in and around Kirkuk-an area of high Turkish interest for both strategic reasons and due to kinship ties.

"I believe this support will arrive soon", he said.

The U.S., too, has a wish list for Turkey.

In Turkey, opposition politicians and some media called on Erdogan to cancel his visit to the United States, increasing pressure on the Turkish president. Trump's premise has been that he is focusing on deal-making.

Now, the American leader may try to cash in. The U.S. military has long argued that the Syrian Kurds are the strongest partner force on the ground to fight ISIS in northern Syria. 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. "They are people that will fight for whichever government gives them money".

However, Syrian Kurdish politician Ilham Ahmed said they have never threatened Turkey.

"It will not be very easy to put relations back on track", Ozel said.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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