Kurds at the centre of Washington and Ankara's tug-of-war – analysis

The ongoing tug-of-war between the United States and Turkey is over Washington’s support of its Kurdish allies, which has long frustrated its NATO partner in Ankara, wrote author Neville Teller for independent journal Eurasia Review. 

Kurdish Pershmerga troops have successfully led the U.S. war on the Islamic State (ISIS), which is why the US-led coalition owes them a debt of gratitude, Teller said.

However, the  semi-autonomous self-governing region known as Rojava in the north-eastern region of Syria, which has always been a Kurdish-occupied, is posing a serious problem for Turkey, which has brought Washington and Ankara to loggerheads.

Turkey maintains that Syria’s U.S.-backed People’s Protection Units (YPG) is an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has been fighting for self-rule in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast for more than three decades and sees the group as a threat to Turkish territory.

Ankara has for months been threatening to send troops across its southern border into predominantly Kurdish northeastern Syria. 

The Kurd-occupied region of Syria, about 25 percent of the old Syria, is now an integrated territory formally designated the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS), the article said, adding that its is not a sovereign state nor does it seemingly aspire to be one. 

However, Erdoğan asserts that the DFNS is a challenge to Turkey’s national interests and strongly objects to Peshmerga forces being positioned along the Syrian- Turkish border, it added.

Pointing out that Turkey’s strongman is intent on reducing the size and the influence of Rojava, Teller said the prospect of a Syrian Kurdistan emerging from the current peace negotiations being led by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin pose a nightmare scenario of Erdoğan.

Ankara and Washington last week hammered out an agreement on the creation of a safe zone along the Turkish-Syrian border, which will be controlled by Turkey, which is looking to force fighters from the YPG from the region.

There are however serious question marks surrounding just how long Turkey’s new agreement with the United States will hold, the article said.