Tamping down the crisis in Turkey
The U.S. is underestimating the consequences of its deteriorating relationship with Turkey. The current war between Turkey and America’s main partner in Syria, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), is an urgent problem. It is not the only or the most important issue, however. The U.S.-Turkey rift weakens NATO, drives Turkey to an expansionist foreign policy, and strengthens jihadists. American policymakers must confront these problems head on.
The tactical problems to fix are clear. Turkey’s war in Syria places U.S. forces at risk and undermines the stabilization of areas recaptured from ISIS. The YPG is the cornerstone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which the U.S. built in order to continue operations into majority Arab areas where YPG forces could not fight alone. ISIS will resurge in these Arab areas first.
Turkey’s war against the YPG also emboldens Russia, Iran, and the Bashar al Assad regime to try to expel the U.S. from Syria. Russian military contractors led a new attack against a joint U.S.–SDF base on Feb. 7, 2018. The U.S. has beat back such attacks, but it failed to deter them.