Turkey Threatens U.S. Troops in Syria; Tillerson Tosses Human Rights; Russia’s Race to The Arctic

 

With Adam Rawnsley

Action, reaction. American forces raced for the Syria/Turkish border last week after Turkish warplanes bombed Kurdish fighters allied with Washington in the fight against the Islamic State. The move angered Ankara, which considers the Kurdish YPG to be a terrorist group, and placed Washington in the uncomfortable position of defending one non-state ally against a longtime NATO partner. It’s also put U.S. forces in the middle of a shooting war, in the role of a human buffer in armored vehicles.

On Wednesday, a top aide to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a radio program that those troops aren’t safe: “we won’t be considering the fact that there are armored American vehicles…All of a sudden, by accident, a few rockets can hit them.”

Strangeways. “The U.S. show of force is a very public reminder of American support for the Kurds, who make up a majority of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a 50,000-strong collection of local militias currently moving on the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa,” FP’s Paul McLeary reports. U.S. military commanders have said repeatedly that the Kurds are the only viable military option to defeat ISIS on the ground in Syria.

On his way. The threats come about two weeks before Erdogan is due in Washington to meet with president Trump. On Wednesday, the Turkish leader met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, where the two talked about creating “safe zones” in Syria for civilians. Russia pushed the idea at peace talks in Kazakhstan between the moderate Syrian opposition, the Syrian regime, Russia, Iran, and Turkey Wednesday, but representatives of the opposition walked out of the talks over continued Syrian government bombing of hospitals and civilian targets, and the role Iran is playing in the Syrian civil war.

The opposition returned to the table Thursday, and the Russians hope to sign a memorandum calling for the safe zones by the end of the day. Damascus appears to be a fan of the idea,…

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