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America’s Fling With the Kurds Could Cause Turkey and NATO to Split

Earlier last week, before Donald Trump ordered airstrikes on Syrian chemical weapons facilities, a senior Pentagon official looked down at his coffee and shook his head. “Do you remember that thing our parents used to get us?” he asked. “You know, it was a cylinder and you turned it and all of the colors at the end changed.” He thought for a moment. “Oh yeah, a kaleidoscope” he said. “That’s what it was called.” He smiled and continued: “Well, that’s Syria.”

His analogy seems apt, except that one crucial issue has been lost in the kaleidoscope’s colors—the under-the-radar struggle between Eucom, the U.S. military’s European Command, and the U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for the Middle East. At issue between the two is the looming cost and potential consequence of Centcom’s marriage of convenience with the YPG militia (the Kurdish People’s Defense Units) that the U.S. has used to fight ISIS in Syria. The difficulty for the U.S. is that while the YPG’s battle-hardened cadres have notched a series of crucial victories over ISIS, including the most recent one at Manbij, a Syrian town on the Euphrates River, the militia is an arm of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (the PKK), which has been designated as a terrorist group by the U.S., EU, and Turkey. PKK attacks have killed thousands of Turks since the movement was founded in 1978.

So it is that while Turkey has always looked askance at the U.S.-YPG partnership in northern Syria, it was willing to tolerate it on the basis of American assurances that the marriage was one of convenience: it was essential, but short-term—it was “temporary, tactical and transactional.” That, it seems, is no longer the case. For Turkey, several senior Pentagon officials and military officers say, the U.S.-supported YPG victory at Manbij (made possible by air cover provided by the U.S. Central Command) was the last straw for the Ankara government. Why? “It put Kurdish fighters within spitting distance,” as a former senior military officer described it to me, of Turkish army units in the Syrian city of Afrin, some 70 miles away.

“The U.S.-YPG alliance has poisoned U.S.-Turkish relations,” a senior Turkish official told TAC last week, “and you can’t just pass it off. All right, so you needed the YPG to defeat ISIS, fine. Mission accomplished. So now, get the YPG out of Manbij. Good God, you’re digging trenches for these people.”

How badly “poisoned” is the U.S.-Turkey relationship? In fact, Centcom’s dependence on the YPG to carry the fight to ISIS (which includes 2,000 U.S. soldiers deployed in Syria) has so roiled Turkey that a host of influential military officers and their civilian counterparts in NATO have recently warned Secretary of Defense James Mattis that America’s support for the YPG is endangering their alliance’s unity. That’s especially bad because NATO is facing off against a resurgent Russia—a far more formidable adversary, they argue, now that ISIS is nearly tamed. Among the critics is General Curtis Scaparrotti, the head of the European Command and the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. While the bespectacled Scaparrotti looks more like an Oxford professor than a combat commander, he’s one of the most respected officers in his service. “I saw him in Iraq,” one of his colleagues notes, “and he was as cool as ice, as tough as they come. Combat never bothered him. He just didn’t give a shit.”  

During a trip to Washington in March, Scaparrotti huddled with Mattis to express his worries over the growing tensions in U.S.-Turkish relations, worries that the European commander has also expressed in several meetings with General Joseph Votel, his counterpart as head of Centcom. NATO partisans speculate that Scaparrotti told Mattis what he’d emphasized to Votel: that Turkey had inked a 2016 agreement with the EU that, in exchange for closer ties to their Western European counterparts (and just over $8 billion), it would harbor some 3 million Syrian refugees who have fled Syria. If Turkey feels it is being ignored, Scaparrotti undoubtedly suggested, those refugees could end up on the streets of Hamburg.

Just as crucially (as Scaparrotti also likely reminded Mattis), Turkey has been sidling up to Russia, agreeing to purchase two S-400 surface-to-air missile batteries from Russia for $2.5 billion. The purchase went forward despite U.S. protests that the batteries were not interoperable with NATO systems, a signal from the Turkish government that the U.S. is not the only arms game in town. “No one benefits more from the U.S.-Turkey rift than Russia,” a NATO partisan and Scaparrotti colleague says. “I think Scap has made it clear: the U.S.-Turkey disagreement could well be the greatest political threat to the alliance since France withdrew from the military chain-of-command, back in the ‘60s.” That Russia has been courting Turkey successfully is one of the most significant, if unintended, results of the U.S.-YPG relationship, former Syrian diplomat Bassam Baradandi adds. “Turkey wants its southern border secure from terrorist organizations,” Barabandi says, “and Russia has played well on this sensitive issue. Historically, Turkey has never been a friend to either Russia or Iran, but Turkey’s mistrust of U.S. actions and their alliance with the YPG have pushed them in that direction, there’s no doubt.”

Perhaps as crucially, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signaled his displeasure with the U.S.-YPG marriage by making it clear that some American officials are simply not welcome in Ankara, including Brett McGurk, America’s special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. “Erdogan hates McGurk,” a Turkish government official noted to TAC, “and he doesn’t like Votel either. It’s getting ugly.”

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In fact, just how “ugly” the relationship has become is fast becoming a matter of public debate. During his March visit, Scaparrotti appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee to give testimony on the challenges facing his command. While most members focused on Russia and cyberwar issues, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine explored the U.S.-Turkey dust-up, hinting that it might be time for the U.S. to dampen its YPG ties. Scaparrotti didn’t disagree, while soft-pedaling the disagreements over the issue that he’s had with Votel and Centcom. “Where do we want to be in a year, two years and five years?” he asked. “With a close NATO ally like Turkey, we know that we want to maintain and strengthen our relationship. So that’s the long-term objective and if we look at the long-term objective, it can begin to inform what we’re doing today with respect to NATO.” The senior military officer with whom I spoke proved a willing translator: “What Scaparrotti is saying is that the real marriage here is between the U.S. and Turkey. The YPG is just a fling.”

But convincing James Mattis of that is proving difficult, in part because Scaparrotti is outgunned. Every defense secretary surrounds himself with people he can count on and who he listens to. But for Mattis almost all of them have had experience in the Middle East—and at Centcom. There’s Mattis himself (a former Centcom commander), JCS Chairman Joseph Dunford (who served with Mattis in Iraq), Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, Jr. (a Marine who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq), retired Rear Admiral Kevin M. Sweeney (the former Centcom executive officer), Rear Admiral Craig S. Faller (a Mattis advisor, and a Navy commander during both the Afghan and Iraq wars), and current Centcom commander General Joseph Votel—the former commander of the U.S. Special Operation Command (“a trigger puller,” as he was described to me by a currently serving officer). Votel is the most outspoken YPG supporter of any of them, and because he’s the combatant commander, his support carries weight.

“This is clientism,” the senior military officer with whom I spoke explains. “All of these guys have served together and trust each other. And, you know, this is the way it works. The U.S. Central Command has the Middle East as a client and the European Command has the Europeans and Turkey as clients. But if you take a look at Mattis and the people around him, well, you know, it’s all Centcom. So Scaparrotti is worried, and he ought to be. We don’t want to be sitting around 30 years from now reading historical pieces with titles like ‘Who Lost Turkey?’”

Even someone as careful in his public utterances as Admiral James Stavridis, who once held Scaparrotti’s command and is now the dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University, is raising concerns. While he waves off the “who lost Turkey” formulation as “a trope that is moving around the Internet,” he told me in an email exchange that “it would be a mistake of epic proportions to allow Turkey to drift out of the transatlantic orbit”—a repeat of the warning issued by Scaparrotti to Mattis in March. But like Scaparrotti, Staviridis is slow-rolling his disagreement. “This is a distinction without a difference,” the senior officer and NATO partisan with whom we spoke says. “By drifting out of NATO, Stavridis means leaving. He’s as worried as anyone else.”

Concerns over Turkey are probably a surprise in the White House, given its almost daily crisis over the looming Russia-gate investigation, but they shouldn’t be. The president has had extended telephone exchanges with Turkish President Tayyip Erodogan twice in the last three weeks. While the White House has refused to give details of these conversations, the Turkish official with whom we spoke told TAC that in both conversations (on March 23 and again on April 11), Erdogan emphasized three growing concerns he has that America’s temporary and “transactional” support for the YPG is becoming permanent. This same official went on to note that, in his opinion, it’s not a coincidence that Trump floated the idea of withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria (“I want to get out,” he said. “I want to bring our troops home”)—a suggestion that did not go over well with Centcom partisans at the Pentagon. On April 3, the same day Trump issued his let’s-get-out statement, Joseph Votel and Brett McGurk appeared at the U.S. Institute of Peace, arguing that the U.S. needed to stay in. “The hard part, I think, is in front of us,” Votel said, “and that is stabilizing these areas, consolidating our gains, getting back to their homes. There is a military role in this,” he went on to say. “Certainly in the stabilization phase.”

The Votel appearance was exasperating for those worried about NATO’s future, and for those concerned that the endless conflicts in the region are draining the defense budget of badly needed funds to rebuild U.S. military readiness. For them, a group that now includes a growing number of very senior and influential military officers, “stabilization” is not only a codeword for “nation building,” it signals support for a mission that is endangering the future of NATO, the institution that has guaranteed peace in Europe for three generations.

“It’s not worth it,” the senior military commander who spoke with TAC concludes. “On top of everything else, it puts us on the wrong side of the political equation. This whole thing about how the enemy of my enemy is my friend is a bunch of bullshit. The enemy of my enemy is now making an enemy of our friend. I don’t know who we think we’re fooling, but it sure as hell isn’t Turkey. And it isn’t the American people either.”

Mark Perry is a foreign policy analyst, a contributing editor to The American Conservative, and the author of The Pentagon’s Wars [1] (2017).

45 Comments (Open | Close)

45 Comments To "America’s Fling With the Kurds Could Cause Turkey and NATO to Split"

#1 Comment By Jefferson On April 16, 2018 @ 10:29 pm

Your analysis is oversimplifying a very complex situation. It isnt just the relationship of US with YPG that is driving Turkey away from NATO. If that ws it it would have been solved. here is the short list of factors
1. Turkish islamism (Moslem Brotherhood)
2. Relationship of Turkey with Israel
3. relationship of Turkey to EU
4. Neo-ottoman aspirations – Turkey requests infuence ofver Syria & Iraq
5. Turkey thinks is a superpower (LOL)
6. Turkey wasnts influence over Balkans
7. Turkey wants Est Med hydrocarbons
8. Turkey ants to expand the Moslem Brotherhood to Middle Est
9. Fetulla Gullen (FETO) still vacationing at Poconos

How do I know more than you about Turkey?

#2 Comment By Interguru On April 16, 2018 @ 11:04 pm

The Kurds have as much claim to victimhood as the Palestinians. I awaiting BDS taking up their cause. I am not holding my breath.

#3 Comment By Aj On April 16, 2018 @ 11:06 pm

With allies like Turkey, who needs enemies.

#4 Comment By William Dalton On April 16, 2018 @ 11:31 pm

The greatest concern in U.S.-Turkish relations today is the jailing of Presbyterian minister, Andrew Brunson. If he isn’t freed pending trial on trumped up charges, relations will only grow worse.

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#5 Comment By catbird On April 16, 2018 @ 11:51 pm

I’m no expert, but this sounds like great reporting to me. Thank you for laying it out.

#6 Comment By mbor On April 17, 2018 @ 12:59 am

This whole YPG/PKK terrorist alliance thing is not for US or NATO interests at all by any means, but this as a work of Zionist lobby who controls US deep state, and gives no damn to US tax payer interests.

#7 Comment By Daniel Baker On April 17, 2018 @ 1:17 am

Mark Perry is either dangerously deluded or deliberately deceptive. It’s ridiculous to pretend that growing tensions between Turkey and the U.S. are largely about YPG, much less all about it. In 15 paragraphs of “analysis,” Perry somehow never mentions once that *Trump has already frozen all funding to the YPG*. So much for the claim that “the support for the YPG is becoming permanent.”

Meanwhile, Perry ignores everything else that is ramping up U.S.-Turkey tensions, such as Turkey’s arming of ISIS to fight the Kurds, and Erdogan’s imprisonment of the journalists who caught him doing it; America’s prosecution of Reza Zarrab, who is expected to implicate Turkish AKP officials in his circumvention of sanctions on Iran; America’s refusal to extradite Fethullah Gulen, which has led to the conviction of one American citizen and the imminent conviction of another on transparently trumped-up charges, with Erdogan not even bothering to hide the fact that the prosecutions are judicial revenge for not turning Gulen over; Turkey’s ordering protesters beaten up on the streets of Washington DC; Erdogan;s becoming a dictator in all but name after stealing a constitutional referendum that gives him unprecedented powers; and that AKP has found it politically useful to blame the July 15, 2016 coup on a conspiracy between its former allies in the Hizmet movement and the CIA. Add all this up, and it is obvious that Turkey and America are going their separate ways no matter what America’s Kurdish policy may be. Erdogan’s deciding to embrace Russia is about as smart as a groundhog’s deciding to embrace a bear; Russia has coveted the Bosporus and Dardanelles for 400 years, and Putin’s reactionary traditionalism will mix with Erdogan’s neo-Ottomanism like fire and gunpowder. But there isn’t much of anything America can do about it. No one can save Turkey but the Turks.

As for the Kurds, Perry could at least have acknowledged that they have been by far the most reliable Muslim allies America has had in the Middle East since our ridiculous invasion in 2003. It was the Kurdish Peshmerga that first stopped ISIS after the 2014 fall of Mosul, when people on TAC’s very pages were confidently predicting that all of Iraq would soon be in the Wahhabists’ hands. Maybe it is in America’s best interests to betray and abandon our best friends in the region, but a serious analysis would at least have considered what the likely consequences of that act would be. It especially should have pondered to whom the Kurds will turn when we abandon them, what they will offer in exchange for their own survival, and what their behavior toward America would be afterward.

#8 Comment By LouisM On April 17, 2018 @ 1:40 am

I look forward to NATO losing Turkey as an ally to Russia.
-Turkey is threatening war with Greece
-Turkey stands against our other Mideast ally the Kurds who are far more reliable allies against Iran, Syria and a future hostile Turkey.
-Turkey under Erdogan is not a friend to any western nation. It is becoming more Islamic.
-Turkey purposely provided a path for the great waves of African and muslim migrants to Europe
-Turkey uses nationalism and Islam to radicalize Turks in the EU. It should not take much to remember the protests and riots and threats against the Dutch and Belgian governments when those nations refused to let Erdogan stage political rallies for expats living in the EU but could still vote in Turkish elections.
-Erdogan has been planning a shift away from the West ever since full membership in the EU and Shengen was denied. The shift might happen on Trumps administration but the shift has been in process for decades.

WITHOUT TURKEY, THE EU CAN SERIOUSLY CRACK DOWN ON AFRICAN AND MUSLIM MIGRANTS INTO EUROPE, AS WELL AS, ISLAM AS A WHOLE IN EUROPE.

WITHOUT TURKEY, THE EU CAN STAND AGAINST ISLAM IN ALBANIA AND BOSNIA HERZAGOVINIA IF NECESSARY.

ALLOWING TURKEY TO HAVE CLOSER RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA MIGHT ACTUALLY BE A BLESSING FOR A GRAND BARGAIN. IF RUSSIA HAS BASES IN SYRIA, SAFE PASSAGE THRU TURKISH STRAIGHT OF BOSPHORUS AND PERMANENT ANNEXATION OF CRIMEA THEN RUSSIA HAS WHAT IT NEEDS TO PROTECT ITS INTERESTS WHICH MIGHT ALLOW A RETHINK OF UKRAINE INTO A MUTUALLY AGREEABLE SETTLEMENT BETWEEN RUSSIA AND THE EU AND THE US.

#9 Comment By Stephen On April 17, 2018 @ 1:43 am

Turkish president Erdogan is not exactly the most sympathetic feature right now. He’s a thin-skinned authoritarian who throws people in jail for making fun of him and is surrounded by thuggish bodyguards who have twice now brazenly beaten up American citizens in Washington DC no less.

Why SHOULD Washington take Turkey’s side over the Kurds? Just because Turkey is in NATO?

Cozying up to would-be dictators would be hardly new. Washington has done it in the past with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein the past (how well did hat work out?), just about every Egyptian president ever hatched, and the Shah of Iran.

At one point DC even counted Osama bin Laden as a friendly jihadist it could do business with!

But maybe it is time to stop pandering to dictators. and would-be dictators. It never seems to work out in the longer term. Sooner or later the break happens anyway. Or, as in Iran, the tyrant gets overthrown and suddenly the American patron of the former tyrant becomes persona non grata.

#10 Comment By polistra On April 17, 2018 @ 3:19 am

Not especially new. Erdogan has been playing both sides for a LONG time. Some of his moves make sense in terms of Turkey’s self-interest, some don’t make sense. Russia has been treating him cautiously, partly because of centuries of Ottoman aggression against Russia.

This is no longer the right time for coquettish games. This is a time to pick a side. I don’t know if Erdogan realizes the importance.

#11 Comment By Billy Francis On April 17, 2018 @ 4:26 am

Dinosaur opinions from the wrong era. Turkey is an Islamist power; what do you really think Washington is supposed to do about that? Islamic fundamentalists and democrats are not natural allies. Appeasement is the last policy we should be pursuing here.
Get Turkey out of NATO, now. They’re a dead weight.

#12 Comment By Ankaras Aweigh? On April 17, 2018 @ 7:24 am

“We don’t want to be sitting around 30 years from now reading historical pieces with titles like ‘Who Lost Turkey?’” “

I doubt we will. We aren’t that strategically stupid. Yes, we let pipsqueak client states like Israel and Saudi Arabia effectively call far too many shots in the Middle East, but in the end Turkey is too important. Netanyahu and MBS can buy or intimidate all the congressmen and senators they like, but they won’t make us force Turkey out of NATO for the Kurds.

“the real marriage here is between the U.S. and Turkey. The YPG is just a fling.” “

That’s a polite way of putting it. It’s hard not to feel pity for the Kurds, who have been blatantly lied to and manipulated by US neoconservative and interventionist policy makers with the strong encouragement of Israel and Saudi Arabia for a very long time. Nonetheless, anyone who can read a map could see how this was likely to end.

#13 Comment By Patrick On April 17, 2018 @ 8:45 am

Another perspective may be that Turkey’s membership in NATO is more of a liability than an asset and Turkey has taken many actions hostile to US interests.

I think many are somewhat skeptical regarding much of the rhetoric coming from Turkey and while the U.S. the E.U and Turkey may have designated the PKK as a terrorist organization; it is also true that the Kurds in Turkey are treated very harshly by the Turkish government and it seems that the recently the conflict between a fraction of the most radical political groups has inflicted less damage to the Turkish government than what the Turkish government has inflicted upon the general Kurdish population in Turkey and Syria.

Perhaps the State Department needs to be more engaged with solving this problem rather than Generals, military force should be an extension of politics rather than the other way around and there are greater interests to the US than pacifying an unreliable NATO ally.

Although the Syrian government is bombed because of President Trump’s rage against (allegations) of chemical weapons use, Turkey is bombing and firing artillery into civilian populated areas and blocking relief efforts. It is also driving innocent civilians from homes and replacing them with those brought in by Turkey. If this had been done by Syria would we would likely consider this ethnic cleansing.

There also seems to be evidence that a major route of foreign ISIS fighters and its logistics flowed from Turkey into Northern Syria, while ISIS sold oil and transported it through Turkey.

Turkey shot down a Russian warplane over Syria for a 12 second violation of Turkish air space, while it regularly violates Greek air space and occupies part of the Greek Island of Cyprus.

Turkey treats its Christian citizens as second-class citizens discouraging church building and maintenance and considers conversion of participation in the conversion of a Muslim to Christianity as a crime. We are also seeing many Turkish military personnel and journalists arrested after the coup and again there is little credible evidence that many of these were involved in the Coup.

Turkey has arrested an American Minister who is being held in prison for supporting the recent coup but has presented no credible evidence. This arrest occurred shortly after Turkey demanded the extradition of one of a cleric living in the U.S. who it accuses of participating in the coup but has not presented and credible evidence. Perhaps this American Minister is being held as a hostage.
Recently we saw the Turkish President’s bodyguards cross a street and violently assault peaceful protestors, many of these victims were young women.

Even with the Syrian Civil War winding down, this remains a very dangerous region and if Turkey decide to annex a portion of Syria this could provoke a response of other nations who oppose this action, or want these areas itself. Turkeys NATO membership could draw the U.S. into a conflict that our nation does not want to or need to be part of.

#14 Comment By Ivan On April 17, 2018 @ 9:22 am

I am disgusted. Erdogan is acting as a new sultan, the killer of democracy in Turkey. After so many imprisoned journalists, so many fired professors, so many tortured Kurds seeking nothing but freedom and rights for the largest nation in the world without their state, you are selling us this short sighted hypocrisy??? What made Hitler strong was nothing but reluctance of democratic world to act against the evil the moment it showed its ugly face.

#15 Comment By Black Helmet On April 17, 2018 @ 9:49 am

“The Kurds have as much claim to victimhood as the Palestinians. I awaiting BDS taking up their cause. I am not holding my breath. “

No, don’t. And don’t hold your breath waiting for the Western media to cover for Turkey the way it covers for Israel or Saudi Arabia, either.

#16 Comment By roger On April 17, 2018 @ 9:56 am

Turkey supported ISIS wholeheartedly, gave them weapons and military support, and allowed them to use Turkish soil as a sanctuary from U.S. airstrikes.

Besides, the Kurds are “terrorists” in the sense that Hamas are “terrorists”; they’re being genocided in their own land by Western-backed occupiers and their attacks are a form of self-defense.

For someone whose Wikipedia bio is all about “engaging with Islamist movements” and who’s written a book titled Talking to Terrorists, you sure don’t want to talk to the Kurds. Then again, you appear on Al-Jazeera quite frequently. Have you a hard-on for Sunnis over Shia?

#17 Comment By Locksley On April 17, 2018 @ 10:15 am

The American “fling” with the Kurds can produce a corresponding Turkish “fling” with Russia, but hardly anything more than that. The Turks know in their hearts that the end goal of Russia, Greece, and the rest of the Orthodox world is to see the Cross gleam once more atop Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.

#18 Comment By Michael Kenny On April 17, 2018 @ 10:29 am

Hope springs eternal for Putin’s American supporters, but I don’t see Turkey splitting with NATO. Erdogan approved the recent missile strike against Syria. That hardly sounds like someone who is snuggling up to “resurgent” (sic) Russia.

#19 Comment By snapper On April 17, 2018 @ 10:32 am

The sooner we kick Turkey out of NATO the better. They showed their true colors when they refused US troops access to their territory for the Iraq Invasion. They’re no ally.

The Kurds have been horribly oppressed by the Turks, and deserve their own state. Plus, they actually like the US. They’d be a real ally in the region.

#20 Comment By Johann On April 17, 2018 @ 10:47 am

Time to dump Turkey. Ataturk set the system up to guard against an Islamic government by making the Army the guardian of secularism. When Turkey was making overtures to join the EU, the EU chided them about having a system where the military had political power. The Economist magazine claimed that Erdogan’s political party was “mildly Islamic” and should be allowed. Ataturk understood his country. The EU not so much. But its too late now. That cat’s out of the bag. Turkey is on its way to a theocracy. Time for NATO to dump Turkey.

#21 Comment By Kthor On April 17, 2018 @ 12:15 pm

Turkey only in Nato ’cause they can’t deal with Russia ..Kurds are better allies!

#22 Comment By Alan On April 17, 2018 @ 12:25 pm

The author is correct we should concentrate much more and support the real marriage.

Turkey is and will always be a strategic partner with US. Of course as in real marriages some conflict and disagreements will happen but it should never weaken the alliance. Thing are done for local political reason etc. but the overall path together should never be impacted.

As history have shown USA, Israel and Turkey always have been in alliance. Most people cannot see beyond the religious label a country have therefore cannot see this alliance. Throughout the Ottoman history Jews were protected by the Ottoman empire and Jews chose to move and live in Istanbul. Turkey fought shoulder to shoulder with USA in the Korean war which most people properly forgotten.

The founder of Turkey, Ataturk always embraced modernism for its people which is the base framework we have to support and work on. Just as George Washington did for America. End of the day both peoples are sharing the same values. Don’t just believe the hype.

When it comes to minority’s issues, I think every country has similar problems. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

#23 Comment By Charlotte Crusader On April 17, 2018 @ 12:48 pm

“Turkey’s membership in NATO is more of a liability than an asset and Turkey has taken many actions hostile to US interests. “

Turkey is feeding and housing millions of Middle Eastern refugees, which keeps them from flooding into Europe and America.

For that reason alone they are the most valuable ally we have in the region. No one else comes close. We ought to keep our mouths shut about what Turkey does to Kurdish terrorists and be thankful. Turkey does more for NATO than NATO ever did for Turkey. That was true fifty years ago and it’s true today.

#24 Comment By EarlyBird On April 17, 2018 @ 1:52 pm

Our relationship with the Kurds, however large it looms between us the Turks, is just a part of the rift. Nonetheless, it is still correct for us to help the Kurds defend themselves in that nest of vipers, against the Turks, ISIS or anyone else.

The bigger issue here is that the Turks are getting their Islam on again, big time. They are attempting to throw over the Ataturk tradition of separation of mosque and state, and are becoming aggressive to their neighbors. Of course they would get close to Russia, who extends its claw to any regional actor who would thwart American interests.

If Turkey leaves “NATO,” which should always be understood as a 90% American military venture with some lil’ helpers attempting to make it look like a serious international operation, ends up kicking Turkey out, then good riddance.

#25 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 17, 2018 @ 2:32 pm

“The Kurds have as much claim to victimhood as the Palestinians.”

No. While I sympathize with the Kurdish dilemma, it is one of their choosing. I would love to be on the Kurdish love. peace and understanding bandwagon, however, there are a few convenient realities being left out here.

There have been attempts to give the Kurds a homeland. Those attempts failed because the Kurds could not get along and the enterprise collapsed, solely because of the Kurds.

Subsequently the Kurds have managed to find countries willing to accept them. In the case of Iran and Iraq, both offered safe haven from the Turks. The Kurds have done themselves no favors by engaging warfare with the Turks, in the name of who knows what complaint.

Now if a nation is willing to give you safe haven from your enemies, it probably not a good idea to betray they safety by siding the host country’s enemies in wartime. The Kurds in Iraq betrayed that trust twice.

a. When they sided with Iran in the war with Iraq and

b. when they attempted to overthrow the government of Iraq after or during the first gulf war.

c. they did so again during the second invasion and then proceeded to overstep the freedoms granted by the new Iraqi government.

But then I am someone who thought our adventures in Iraq were unwise, and damaging in the long term. But before I sing the praises of the Kurds, I want to be mindful that they are opportunists and there’s no guarantee that any provision we provide will be treated as a solid contract they won’t change at will — there will, for their purposes.

#26 Comment By Cratylus On April 17, 2018 @ 2:57 pm

TAC moves ever closer to an interventionist imperial position.
This stuff sounds like the kind of insider mush that is pushed in one’s face by the NYT, NPR, ETC. The style and content go together.
How different from the estimable Pat Buchanan or Bill Kauffman.
TAC, quo vadis?

#27 Comment By fabian On April 17, 2018 @ 2:59 pm

Besides, wasn’t the US behind the coup to dethrone Erdogan?

#28 Comment By Dale McNamee On April 17, 2018 @ 3:36 pm

Let’s swap the Kurds with Turkey in NATO… I think that they may be more of an ally than Turkey…

Also, Turkey is holding an American Christian pastor on “trumped up” charges that will lead him to a life sentence and his death…

And it’s reported that the assualting, raping, and selling Yazidi and Christian women and girls by ISIS is going on in Turkey with Erdogan’s knowledge, if not approval…

We can do better than Turkey…

#29 Comment By Ivo Olavo Castro da Silva On April 17, 2018 @ 4:58 pm

Erdogan is a virtual dictator and is working hard to establish Turkey as the controlling regional power in the Middle East. But to alienate a country that for almost two centuries has been a rock-solid barrier to Russian-Soviet expansion in the Middle East and the Mediterranean Sea is utter foolishness. The YPG is just an arm of the PKK, which is a communist terrorist organization that passes as a Kurdish nationalist militant group. The long-suffering Kurdish people certainly deserve their country, but not under PKK domination. It might be forgiven that the USA used them as cannon fodder against the Islamic State, but it is time to end this flawed alliance. The YPG is now oppressing arabs on lands that the Kurds were never a majority. Their success is largely owed to massive American air bombing that obliterated many Syrian and Iraqi towns and cities. On that account the USA has not been any better than the Assad regime, which is certainly genocidal. Small wonder that America is hated by a large majority in the Arab-Moslem world. The establishment media keep downplaying this terrible fact and keep pushing propaganda such as “they hate us because we are free”. It is time to put real American interest above those with other (zionist) agendas.

#30 Comment By Trinity site On April 17, 2018 @ 6:15 pm

U guys all live behind the moon since u seem to have not the slicest idea what the Turks already did committed and came away with. The moment US and Europe don’t serve their interests they will,go,after your neck like they did with all their keyallies in history. And if u even gave them kurdish troops with 100 billion on top their aim is clear. World domination ????????

#31 Comment By The Bloody Angle On April 17, 2018 @ 6:40 pm

“Let’s swap the Kurds with Turkey in NATO… I think that they may be more of an ally than Turkey…”

That would be an interesting move. It would certainly baffle the “reality-based community”. Seeing that NATO members get to call in fellow NATO countries when they’re under attack, let’s exchange Turkey, a strong country that takes care of itself, for a hypothetical “Kurdistan”, a weak, landlocked country that would almost immediately find itself under siege by Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey.

Naturally, no one in their right mind would do it, but I wouldn’t put it past John Bolton to try.

On the other hand, you’re wise to suggest that our regional alliances need a radical overhaul. A thorough review would almost certainly disclose that Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Egypt are totally useless parasites, a perpetual drain on our treasury and on our military and foreign policy focus.

#32 Comment By Some Wag On April 17, 2018 @ 6:47 pm

Ivo Olavo Castro da Silva:
” The YPG is now oppressing arabs on lands that the Kurds were never a majority.”
My God, now they’re infringing on Turkey’s racket!

#33 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 17, 2018 @ 8:38 pm

” Their success is largely owed to massive American air bombing that obliterated many Syrian and Iraqi towns and cities. On that account the USA has not been any better than the Assad regime, which is certainly genocidal.”

I would like to see the case for this. The excuses for intervening in the affairs of other states never ends.

#34 Comment By Miguel On April 17, 2018 @ 11:06 pm

To my knowledge, Turkey has the second biggest army in NATO. That must mean something, disregarding its internal policy. Besides, it feels like if Western Asia were an area too complex for the US policy’s makers to understand -not that I can make a much better work on that- because any movement done seems to go in the opposite direction of what seems to be US’ interest.

Like when Saddam Hussein was overthrown since he was claimed to have links with Al-Qaeda. All that I knew about is was said by a spanish journalist who claimed, after the war end, that Hussein had been a regional enemy of Al-Qaeda. A network which, according to many, has its craddel in Saudi Arabia, which hasn’t stopped to be a US’ ally.

Or the war in Syria. Yes, may be Al-Assad is as evil as they say, but never attacked US or EU. So, what is looking for the US in Western Asia? To create mor wars to sell more weapons until Russia accepts to become the second USSR for the second Cold War? Or they don’t know really, and simply make noise and death and destruction for the noble causes of democracy, liberty and human rights? Too much blindness for not to have stopped yet.

#35 Comment By Plug Backy On April 17, 2018 @ 11:36 pm

Yeah, free us of the sick Israel and Saudi Arabia fixations before you start talking about kicking Turkey out of NATO. At least Turkey does the real work of an alliance member, deploying its military, taking in an incredible number of the refugees caused by our wars, providing bases (at least until recently), keeping an eye on all kinds of people in the region, including Putin, and helping to bottle up the Russians in the Black Sea.

#36 Comment By greenlibertarian On April 18, 2018 @ 12:39 am

Kurdish leaders are turning rather thuggish:

“The Kurds have always been able to blame others for their oppression. Where Iraqi Kurds were concerned, that oppression will always be associated with Saddam Hussein’s military strongman image. After the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, Baghdad and other majority-Arab parts of Iraq were engulfed in war and sectarian violence. For a time, Iraq’s northern region, Kurdistan, tried to disassociate itself from the rest of the country and represent itself as a new country, promoting the idea of Kurdistan as “The Other Iraq.” Kurdish politicians spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying in the US and among the international community to project an image of their region as a place of peaceful coexistence and democracy. But the face of Kurdish oppression has changed; it’s closer to home, more familiar.

Today, the Kurds’ oppressors are themselves Kurdish—the two ruling families, Barzani and Talabani. And so that new “Other Iraq” is more and more coming to resemble the old Iraq, a one-party totalitarian state ruled by terror. We are not there yet; we have not yet sunk to the depths of 1980s Ba’athist brutality and the depravities of Saddam’s Mukhabarat. But if the Kurdish ruling parties keep silencing opposition and protest with knives, brass knuckles, and guns, then—to borrow Iraqi-British writer Kanan Makiya’s memorable phrase—Iraqi Kurdistan will soon become another “republic of fear.””
[3]

#37 Comment By cka2nd On April 18, 2018 @ 3:44 am

Fascinating back and forth, and I think I learned a lot from both sides, but for this one-time adolescent “fan” of the Byzantine Empire, the single most mind-blowing matter here is the idea that Russia could have an ally in control of the route from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. That just seems…kind of world-historic to me in its implications.

#38 Comment By Nathan On April 18, 2018 @ 10:01 am

Excellent article and just as excellent comment dialogue here. My opinions have been covered by many in here so this is just a comment to say cheers to you all. It is refreshing to see that there are Americans (assumed) that are as aware and analytical as me. “Woke” as many now say?
Keep it up TAC and TAC community.

#39 Comment By repulsewarrior On April 18, 2018 @ 12:10 pm

…wow, the comments more interesting than the article itself. Glad to see readers, and Americans, who are not apologists for what is the terror that exists in Erdogan’s Turkey, and in his external affairs.

Indeed, Erdogan is no friend to America while Turkey is; interesting times.

#40 Comment By Mark Thomason On April 18, 2018 @ 1:06 pm

“was the last straw for the Ankara government. Why?”

The US made an agreement with Turkey, and then broke the agreement. “Not across that river” was the deal, and then the US supported Kurds WAY over that river. And expected the Turks to just suck it up. Well, no, they didn’t. That’s why.

#41 Comment By Mark Thomason On April 18, 2018 @ 1:16 pm

“it would be a mistake of epic proportions to allow Turkey to drift out of the transatlantic orbit”

That was a major factor in both world wars.

In WW1 it was badly bungled, and led to the deaths of millions and the serious Western defeat at Gallipoli which still shapes ANZAC.

In WW2 it was handled better, to the great advantage of the West, just by keeping Turkey not-hostile.

Turkey is important, and always has been.

#42 Comment By up from scenery On April 18, 2018 @ 1:28 pm

cka2nd : “the single most mind-blowing matter here is the idea that Russia could have an ally in control of the route from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. That just seems…kind of world-historic to me in its implications.”

Bingo.

Now tack on the 3.5 million refugees Turkey is estimated to be feeding and housing, recalling that back in 2015, one million refugees nearly brought down the German government and the EU with it.

#43 Comment By Ft. McHenry On April 18, 2018 @ 1:45 pm

The sooner we kick Turkey out of NATO the better. They showed their true colors when they refused US troops access to their territory for the Iraq Invasion. They’re no ally.

Is that really true? In fact, isn’t it exactly the opposite? After all, the Turks fought by our side in Afghanistan. But Iraq was a little different, wasn’t it? Wasn’t Turkey the wise friend who tried to discourage us from making the worst foreign policy error in our recent history, a mistake that could and did lead to a massive, ever-ramifying catastrophe right on Turkey’s doorstep?

Wasn’t Turkey the “good” friend, the one who says “no, buddy … you had a few too many drinks and I’m not helping you find your car keys …” Didn’t Angela Merkel say essentially the same thing? Afghanistan? Yes, we’re with you. But Iraq? No.

History has already judged that one. The “allies” we should dump are the ones who encouraged and enabled the disaster in Iraq. Not those who openly counseled “no” or who stood back quietly shaking their heads.

#44 Comment By John P. On April 22, 2018 @ 4:01 am

Turkey is no longer a viable ally or asset to NATO & the West, if in fact it ever really was. Erdogan is a dictator and card-carrying member of the Muslim Brotherhood and the mountain of evidence showing the level of support and complicitly with ISIS has been being swept under the rug and largely ignored for far too long already. Kick Turkey to the curb and let them continue to regress as the wannabe Sultan Erdogan leads them closer to Golem’s New Ottoman Empire/Caliphate as it has already been how Turkey is viewed by the foreign ISIS fighters whose journeys began and end in Turkey which now enlists former ISIS Jihadi fighters for $300 per month and sends them back to Syria to attack YPG/SDF Kurdish allies and carry out Erdogan’s genocide against the Kurdish populations wherever they are able to get away with it. Turkey under Erdogan is no friend to the USA/EU/NATO and it’s personally a relief to see honestly written articles depicting Turkey’s true colors and value as a so-called “ally” and/or “friend” to the West. Goodbye and good riddance Golem! ✌

#45 Comment By Starting Gun On April 22, 2018 @ 8:48 pm

I hope Turkey continues to fight the terrorists on its borders, which helps to keep them out of Europe and the West, and that Turkey continues to be able to cope with the refugee floods caused by our own failed policies in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan.

We are fortunate to have Turkey as an ally. No country in the region does as much real, quantifiable good for NATO or the US as Turkey does. No matter what one thinks of Erdogan and his authoritarian tendencies, only an enemy of the West would claim that Turkey has not been crucially useful and important, both in the past and very much in the present.