The U.S. backed Kurdish PYD of Syria is one of the few militant groups that has been very effective in fighting the Islamic State, actually retaking territory and aggressively defending their areas of control in the north of the country. The have a tacit agreement not to engage with Syrian government forces. The PYD has collaborated with the Free Syrian Army to attack ISIS positions.
The problem is that Turkey, a member of NATO guarding the alliance’s southern flank, views PYD as an extension of the PKK, or Kurdish separatist movement, which Turkey, and the Western world, have proclaimed a terrorist organization. Turkey very much fears a new recognized Kurdish entity on its Syrian border, as they now have with Iraqi Kurdistan on the Iraq border.
Turkey has frequently warned the PYD People’s Protection Units (YPG) not to cross the Euphrates River in Syria in a bid to link up with other Kurdish units arrayed across the north as they engage ISIS. Recently, Turkey hit YPG units with air strikes twice as they defied Turkish warnings on the ground, as they attacked ISIS positions. So in reality, you had a NATO member nation, flying close air support missions against an American ally fighting the Islamic State in Syria.
Russia is now attempting to improve relations with the PYD in a bid to weaken American influence in the region and shore up the Assad regime. If Russia can work a deal to protect PYD areas from Turkish interference, in exchange for their support for Assad, America will have lost an ally and further destroyed its ability to influence events in the region.
This situation screams for leadership from the White House. Our remaining allies in the Middle East and elsewhere are watching.
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