Move Comes Ahead of Erdogan Visit to US
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was already making much of his plans to lambaste President Trump during his DC visit later this month, complaining about the US provision of arms and military support to Kurdish factions that Turkey considers terrorists.That issue is going to be even bigger now, as President Trump has signed off on a plan to directly arm the Syrian Kurds with even heavier weapons than ever provided before, a move which the Pentagon was pushing as part of the Kurdish YPG’s invasion of ISIS capital Raqqa.
The Kurds had already received a lot of weaponry, and some limited armored vehicles from the US before, and this move eliminates restrictions on what more will be sent, though so far it’s not entirely clear what’s going to end up going to the Kurds.
Anything the Kurds get is likely to be used against NATO member Turkey, however, as Turkey has been attacking the YPG off and on over the past year, and the YPG has been firing back intermittently when the opportunity resents itself. The decision to arm them further amid this tension is likely to be chief among Turkey’s objections.
That may be the reason for the timing, as President Trump clearly doesn’t like being publicly contradicted, and Erdogan has been very public in objecting to the US support for the Kurds.
But it also runs contrary to the US stated policy of keeping Syria united under a strong central government, as the political wing of the YPG, the PYD, has set up a large autonomous region in northeastern Syria, and the US is now giving them so many arms they’ll clearly be able to keep that area autonomous beyond the current war, even though the US officially doesn’t want that.