Report

Turkey Clashes with Syrian Kurds as Tensions with U.S. Rise

Turkey summoned the U.S. ambassador in Ankara yesterday to protest U.S. coalition support being provided to Kurdish militias in Syria. The latest indication of the long-running tensions between the United States and Turkey over aid to Kurdish militias comes after U.S. officials met with Kurdish rebels in Syria last Sunday and in advance of a ...

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Turkey summoned the U.S. ambassador in Ankara yesterday to protest U.S. coalition support being provided to Kurdish militias in Syria. The latest indication of the long-running tensions between the United States and Turkey over aid to Kurdish militias comes after U.S. officials met with Kurdish rebels in Syria last Sunday and in advance of a summit of the military coalition fighting the Islamic State that’s set to begin in Brussels tomorrow. Today, hours after summoning the U.S. ambassador, Turkish officials reported that the military clashed with Syrian Kurdish fighters when they tried to cross into Turkey.

Those talks in Brussels are expected to include discussion of a potential escalation of the coalition’s strategy. “I don’t think anybody’s satisfied with the pace of the (campaign), that’s why we’re all looking to accelerate it,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said.

U.S. and Russia to Discuss New Round of Peace Talks for Syria

U.S. Secretary of State and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet at a ministerial conference in Munich on Thursday to discuss the potential to renew Syrian peace talks after the last round was suspended last week amid the Russian-backed assault on Aleppo. The groups are expected to discuss humanitarian access and the possibility of implementing a ceasefire, which rebel groups have said should be a precondition for talks. “We hope that when we meet in Munich in the next few days we’ll be in a position where we can make progress in that goal,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.

Headlines

  • Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said his government is prepared to step down to facilitate the formation of a unity government that would reconcile Fatah and Hamas; Hamdallah’s comments come after two days of talks between the factions in Doha.

 

  • Iranian Vice President Mohammad-Bagher Nobakht laid out Iran’s post-nuclear deal economic strategy this week, saying the country will prioritize foreign direct investment and technology; Nobakht said Iran will leave most of the country’s unfrozen assets in foreign banks to prevent inflationary pressure.

 

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed a “multi-year plan” to build security fences along Israel’s borders to prevent infiltration, including by tunnels; “In our neighbourhood, we need to protect ourselves from wild beasts,” Netanyahu said.

 

  • The U.S. Congress is holding a series of committee hearings on Iran this week and will consider new non-nuclear sanctions legislation that could complicate the Obama administration’s implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement.

 

  • Special forces from the Muslim-majority region of Chechnya are participating in Russia’s military efforts to bolster the Assad regime, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said in an interview this weekend.

Arguments and Analysis

Aleppo under siege” (Julien Barnes-Darcy, European Council on Foreign Relations)

“So, as so often in the Syrian civil war, events seem to be conspiring to deny all sides victory and keep the war going and going. A longer conflict will mean more destruction and more killing, and the ever-present possibility of escalation to an even wider conflict. And while some may hope that putting pressure on Russian forces opens a political solution, everything suggests that the Russians and their partners will be quite willing to in turn up the ante of their own, just as Moscow used the Turkish downing of one its fighter jets to claim even greater control of the skies over northern Syria. This pattern of escalation and counter-escalation may in the longer term finally yield a political deal but at that point both sides will be negotiating over an utter wasteland. All of which leaves you with the reality that although the political process is now on the ropes, these talks still ultimately remain the most likely means of escaping the futile logic that has driven the conflict for five years now. In the end, the moral dilemma is this: there is no politically acceptable military approach that offers a viable path towards securing the protection and humanitarian access the Syrian people desperately need without risking a wider war.”

 

Obama’s Tarnished Legacy in the Middle East” (Hisham Melhem, Cairo Review of Global Affairs)

“After the massive violence that followed the overthrow of the deeply flawed but legally elected Morsi, which was the worst in modern Egyptian history, the Obama administration dropped any pretense that Obama’s reform pledge was binding. In October 2013, in the aftermath of Morsi’s ouster, the Obama administration imposed an arms freeze on the delivery of certain heavy weapon systems prized by the Egyptian military that were in the pipeline, including F-16 aircraft, Harpoon missiles, and M1A1 Abrams tanks. But the Obama administration did not designate the overthrow of Morsi as a ‘coup,’ as that designation would have triggered an arms embargo under U.S. law. This decision sent multiple messages to the Egyptians, and the international community: that Obama’s decision is grounded solely in cold national security calculus, that not all fair elections are created equal, and that elections are not an integral component of Obama’s promotion of democracy in the Middle East. On March 31, 2015, President Obama called Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to inform him that ‘he will lift executive holds that have been in place since October 2013 on the delivery of F-16 aircraft, Harpoon missiles, and M1A1 tank kits.’ Obama’s retreat was now complete.”

-J. Dana Stuster

ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images

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