Skip to main content

Can US calm Turkish nerves over arming Syrian Kurds?

The United States seems aware of Turkish sensitivities, but the Americans can't guarantee the arms given to Syrian Kurdish forces won't ultimately fall into hands hostile to Turkey.
U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during a National Day of Prayer event at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington D.C., U.S., May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria - RTS156JI

After President Donald Trump announced May 8 that the United States will directly arm the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its allies in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Washington has been busy trying to calm Turkish nerves. Turkey is angry because it considers the YPG an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been fighting Ankara for independence and autonomy since the 1980s.

The Turkish side has warned its US ally that there could be blowback from its decision to arm the YPG and SDF. Tellingly, while Turkey’s pro-government media outlets posted veiled threats in their May 11 headlines, hard-core secular opposition outlet Aydinlik called on the government to close Incirlik air base, a critical launch point for US-led air operations against the Islamic State in Syria, to NATO forces. Sozcu, another critic of the government, called for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to cancel his upcoming visit to Washington.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 for annual access.