The ink on a road map for the Syrian town of Manbij announced Monday between Turkey and the United States has barely dried. But differences in interpretation as to its actual substance are already casting a shadow over the latest stab at salvaging US-Turkish ties and rekindling trust between the two countries. They could result in things getting worse, not better, some analysts warn as Washington grapples to balance ties with Turkey, a critical NATO ally, and its Syrian Kurdish partners in the fight against the Islamic State.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis underscored the difficulties, telling reporters en route to Brussels today that Syria is the “most complex battle space” he has ever seen. “We are working with Turkey to try and address their concerns — at the same time defeat [IS]. And it’s a very difficult job, I’ll be the first to admit. … We’re working it, and we’re ranking it with Turkey, not against Turkey.”