Turkey’s President Erdogan has once again thrown down the gauntlet to the United States, saying that they must disarm their YPG/PKK proxies in the occupied Syrian city of Manbij. Erdogan stated,
“The U.S. needs to hand over Manbij from YPG/PKK terrorists to its true owners, the Syrian people. If the YPG terror group is not removed from Manbij, we will be forced to remove them with the support of the local Syrian people. We will clear Tal Rifat from YPG/PKK terrorists to complete Operation Olive Branch”.
This is the the most recent of many statements by Erdogan regarding the US which serve as an ultimatum to Washington to disarm its Kurdish militant proxies in Manbij and ostensibly beyond. Erdogan has previously stated that Ankara’s anti-PKK operation in northern Syria will push all the way to the Iraq border assuming the US does not agree to disarm its YPG/PKK proxies, including those fighting under the so-called SDF flag.
Turkey has furthermore threatened to attack PKK terrorist targets in the northern Iraqi city of Sinjar if they do not withdraw. Thus far, conflict reports have emerged regarding whether or not the PKK terrorists have evacuated Sinjar.
Turkey’s concerted pledges to neutralising PKK terrorists both at home, in Syria and Iraq represent one of the most thorough anti-PKK operations in contemporary Turkish history. Crucially, this is all being done in spite of resistance form the United States.
As recently as the 3rd of March, the US admitted to losing control over many of its YPG Kurdish proxies who in areas under US occupation, general fight under the SDF flag (while also carrying YPG and PKK insignia). As YPG militants deserted their positions guarding the oil fields of US occupied north-eastern Syria in order to travel west to Afrin to fight Turkey, it became clear to the US, that its Kurdish proxies have no more loyalty to the US than the US has to them.
However, in a sign that the US remains keen on antagonising Turkey over its clear geopolitical and economic pivot away from the west and towards Russia, Iran and China, Washington did nothing to stop its Kurdish proxies from travelling to Afrin in order to fight Turkey, even though the US is clearly powerful enough to do so.
While neither the US nor Turkey have any desire to face each other on a field of battle, the US remains keen to push Turkey as far as it can, up to and until such a battle would breakout. Therefore, the US refuses to renounce its Kurdish terrorist proxies in spite of Ankara’s strong protestations, while at the same time, acts increasingly blasé when these same proxies desert their American posts to fight Turkey, allegedly of their own volition.
The biggest problem in Turkish-US relations in 2018 is that neither side wants to be the first to fully admit that the old alliance is over and that the two NATO members are now de-facto regional rivals. Both sides are playing a game of diplomatic chicken, waiting to see who will officially pounce first. Irrespective of who does, the US support of the Fethullah Terror Organisation (FETO), its continued support of the YPG, even when the YPG abandoned the US positions in order to fight Turkey and Washington’s failure to condemn a tide of anti-Turkish violence in Europe and the US threats to sanction Turkey if it purchases Russian S-400 missile defence systems, all serve to demonstrate that the US is happy to let its relations with Turkey plummet. At the same time, US appears too coy to state its obvious purpose, which is to weaken Turkey’s regional influence at a time when Ankara is pivoting towards traditional geopolitical opponents of America. If anything, the US is working behind the scenes to make sure life for Turkey becomes as difficult as possible. Thus far, as Turkey’s victory in Afrin demonstrates, the US has failed in its objective.
Turkey’s willingness to pursue Kurdish terrorist throughout northern Syria is as clear a sign as any of the de-facto collapse of the US-Turkey alliance. Diplomatically, both nations continue to downplay the rift, but the facts on the ground continue to tell a very different tale.