US arming Syrian Kurds will lead to 'big collision' with Turkey

US arming Syrian Kurds will lead to 'big collision' with Turkey
The US decision to arm the Kurds could have repercussions in Syria, says Michael Maloof, a former Pentagon official. For Turkey’s President Erdogan, this means that the US supports the civil war against his government, analyst Gregory Copley added.

The US government has confirmed it is now sending arms to Kurdish militia groups, fighting against ISIS in Syria.

RT: Is the US potentially putting itself on a collision course with Turkey, by arming the Kurds in Syria?

Michael Maloof: Yes, this collision course has been set up for months. Turkey knew about that for quite some time. Politically, the US has told Turkey and even told President Erdogan, when he was visiting, that [Trump] was going to be arming the Kurds. Erdogan was very, very unhappy about that. This could have repercussions. They can have repercussions on the ground in Syria, as far as Turkey is concerned. They are not going to tolerate that. In fact, Turkey still regards the Kurds as a greater threat to Turkey then ISIS itself.

The fact is that the whole argument of Turkey is that those weapons would be taken by the Kurds, used, and sent to the PKK in Turkey – for potential civil war. Now, the US claims that it is going to bring all these weapons back, which – we’ve seen this movie before – it never happens. I think there is a collision course that has been set up, and I think it is going to be a big collision. It could have a major impact on US-Turkish relations, on the one hand, and I think it could have an effect on [US chances of posting air forces at the Incirlik airbase], just like with the Germans now…

RT: Is this just the first step? Will we see more such weapon deployments?

MM: Absolutely. There has got to be. Especially [since] they are going to be taking on Raqqa. Erdogan was hoping that perhaps the Free Syrian Army, the element that he supports, would be allowed in the vanguard of [those forces] going into Raqqa. The US said: “No, the fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces, [which is] comprised mostly of Kurds and some Arabs, would be in the vanguard.” And then the argument was: “Well, maybe the Arab contingent within the Syrian Democratic Forces would be allowed to go, but not the Kurds.” And the US said, “No,” again, because the Kurds have the fighting experience [that can] defeat ISIS, whereas the FSA [Free Syrian Army] and its Turkish backers have not been able to do that. Yes, it is going to create a problem.

Showdown in Turkish-US relations

Gregory Copley, editor of Defense and Foreign Affairs publications, agrees that the US are Turkey are on a collision course.

RT: Turkey considers the YPG in Syria to be a terrorist group, and now the US is arming them. What could this mean for US-Turkey relations?

Gregory Copley: This is a clear signal from the Trump administration, as we saw when President Erdogan was on his very ill-fated mission to Washington this month, that Turkey and the US are on a collision course. The US made it clear that it would not back down on its support for the YPG, which does indeed have relations with the PKK, the Kurdish Workers’ Party, and it will continue to support YPG in this regard. To Turkey’s mind, or to President Erdogan’s mind, this means that the US is supporting the civil war in Turkey with the Kurds against the Turkish government. So, we’re looking at a showdown in Turkish-US relations. Neither side, however, wishes to bring this to a head. Turkey wishes to maintain its NATO relationship for as long as possible, [while] the US is not going to be the one that dismisses Turkey from NATO. But the reality is that Turkey is no longer a NATO ally.

RT: Do you think the US decision to arm the Kurdish fighters will significantly help the fight against ISIS?

CC: No question about it. Turkey is not committed to the fight against ISIS [Islamic State, or IS, also formerly known as ISIL). It basically was the father, the sponsor, of the creation of ISIS in its origins. Similarly, its support for ISIS has backfired and ISIS is now at war with Turkey, as well as with the West. But basically, ISIS is the creature of Ankara and the US is opposed to ISIS. So, the US is at war with Ankara in that regard.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.