'The US military, with Kurdish support, is looking to establish itself in Syria'
The US is to provide heavy military equipment to Kurdish forces fighting in Syria as they prepare to retake the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) stronghold of Raqqa, according to the White House.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Tuesday the US and Turkey discussed the role of the Kurds fighting ISlS and would try to reach an agreement on the issue.
Turkey's President Recep Erdogan has condemned the US for allying with the Kurds in Syria and deploying troops along the Syrian-Turkish border.
RT: What has prompted Washington to supply Kurdish forces in Syria with weapons despite the tension in relations with Turkey?
Michael Maloof: They really had no choice or very little choice I should say. The Kurds have been helping to facilitate the US movement of equipment and troops into Syria where we are not really supposed to be. There is probably a larger strategic reasoning for this. The US after they do take Raqqa may be looking to the Kurdish region actually to establish a base. And that is something that I think could be forthcoming because in a post-war environment, particularly as well as in Iraq, the US just isn’t going to get up and leave. The US is looking to establish itself both in Syria and in the eastern portion which is now ISIS-controlled and in Iraq, which has got government opposition to that as well. The US does not see in terms of its own interest of just pulling up stakes as it did before in Iraq and just have jihadist Salafists come back and fill the void. This is going to create a temporary problem with Turkey. I think it depends on how the US handles it. Obviously, they gave Turkey a little bit of warning to lay that foundation. Although President Erdogan’s priority, of course, is to go after the Kurds rather than ISIS. This will create at least some friction for the time being. I don’t think it will be a permanent rupture, but it certainly will result in frosty relations. And it is interesting that it is coming a week before President Erdogan comes to visit President Trump at the White House.
RT: Do you believe that such a step will worsen relations between Ankara and Washington? Is Turkey likely to have a strong reaction?
MM: I think it depends on how the US handles it. They did give him an advanced warning. And it also will depend upon the extent to which the US uses the Kurds actually to go into Raqqa. I know that because Raqqa is very much Sunni and they prefer the Arabs. That the Arab component of the SDF is probably preferable even to Turkey, although Turkey would rather have its own trained fighters. But they are totally inadequate for this kind of mission. So, now the US is saying we are going to give the Kurds certain type of weapons because they have been the ground troops leading all this against ISIS. But the whole idea is that those heavy weapons will be returned, which will be interesting. I’ve seen this movie before. That has never happened. We will see how that develops…I think ultimately, what the US is looking at is the help from the Kurds to establish itself in the Northern part, in a post-war stabilization effort in Syria and Iraq.
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