Close US contacts with Kurdish groups in Syria can not but disturb the Turkish authorities. Some experts and politicians argue that US contacts with the Kurdish factions have led to a crisis in relations between Ankara and Washington. We asked the independent analyst and consultant Barın Kayaoğlu to comment on this issue.
I’m not sure if at the moment the U.S. partnership with Syrian Kurds is as big a “crisis” for U.S.-Turkish ties as it was, say, 6 months ago. I think the United States and Turkey have reached a point where they agree to disagree on their priorities in Syria. Add to that Turkey’s slowly improving relations with Russia, I think it’s fair to say that the “crisis” is over, though the bitterness is probably still there.
To be sure, the Turkish side can’t be too happy about U.S.-PYD affairs but, in the final analysis, this situation is also the AKP government’s fault. The AKP government had more than 5 years after the start of the Syrian revolution to raise proper guerilla forces to take on the Assad regime, yet President Erdogan’s Turkey has failed in that regard. A way to avoid that weakness would’ve been to resolve Turkey’s own Kurdish and PKK questions, which might have enabled Ankara to turn the PYD more effectively against Assad while barring the rise of groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra or Daesh.
As for whether the United States would sacrifice its ties with Turkey for the sake of supporting Kurdish groups, absolutely not. Turkey is simply too large and too powerful to be tossed aside by the United States.
Apparently Washington has gotten Turkish approval to have YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces to participate in the liberation of Manbij in return for pledging that U.S. special forces will also take part in the operation.