A Turkish War of America’s Making
The Trump administration's muddled messaging to Turkey on US efforts to uproot ISIS in Syria has inflamed tensions between two NATO allies. But while Trump's actions have complicated a vital regional relationship, they are only the latest evidence of the incoherence that characterizes America's Syria policy.
ANKARA – As Turkey intensifies its military campaign against Syrian Kurdish fighters, it is tempting to blame the violence on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s strident jingoism and xenophobia. After all, Erdoğan has long warned that Turkey would never tolerate a Kurdish military presence on the country’s southern border; the recent offensive would seem to suggest that his words are being met with action.
And yet, while Erdoğan may have ordered “Operation Olive Branch,” the real culprit is the United States’ myopic focus on vanquishing regional jihadism. Bereft of a coherent Syria policy, successive US administrations have obsessed over targeting the Islamic State (ISIS) without considering the full ramifications of their actions. Turkey’s incursion into northwestern Syria is just one consequence.
In July 2012, when the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) took over a string of Syrian border towns, Turkey was alarmed. The PYD is the Syrian branch of the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a guerrilla-style war against Turkey’s government since 1984.