Category Archives: Turkey

British Parliament Examines Implications of Supporting “the Kurds” in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 11 February 2018

YPG check maps ahead of calling in an American airstrike, Hasaka, Syria (picture by Mauricio Lima for The New York Times)

The British Parliament has released a report today, entitled, “Kurdish aspirations and the interests of the UK”, which examines the implications for the United Kingdom of having supported various Kurdish groups and parties as part of the Coalition against the Islamic State (IS). Continue reading

America’s Kurdish Allies in Syria Can’t Counter Iran

Published at The Arab Weekly

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 11 February 2018

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid out the Trump administration’s vision for Syria, making clear that, contrary to the expectations of many, the United States will stay in Syria beyond the collapse of the Islamic State’s (ISIS) self-proclaimed caliphate, holding the jihadists at bay and establishing an order compatible with US interests.

Crucially, Tillerson—in a sharp break with US President Donald Trump’s predecessor—specified that countering Iranian influence within Syria was a central US objective. The problem with the strategy is that it seems to rely on repurposing the United States’ anti-ISIS Kurdish militia allies against the Iranian revolution. Continue reading

Turkey’s Afrin Offensive and Russia’s Policy in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 21 January 2018

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, threatened on Jan. 13 to begin a military operation “in about a week ” to evict Kurdish militants from Afrin in northwestern Syria. Erdoğan has repeatedly threatened to “cleanse ” Afrin of the fighters over the last two years. It turned out he really meant it this time: on Jan. 20 Turkey commenced Operation Olive Branch against Afrin.

Kurdish forces, affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), have constituted an important element of the Coalition’s ground force in Syria against the Islamic State (ISIS) since late 2014, expanding their “Rojava” statelet by capturing vast swathes of territory from ISIS in northern and eastern Syria that is connected to Afrin under a deal with the pro-regime coalition—Bashar al-Assad, Iran, and Russia.

Any Turkish government would see this situation as a threat, and be angry at the United States for supporting the Kurds. The PKK regards Rojava and the ruling Democratic Union Party (PYD) as strategic elements in its long war against the Turkish state. Indeed, Kurds in Rojava have already provided at least logistical support for PKK attacks inside Turkey. Continue reading

Russia’s Plans in Syria Falter, Opening Chance for the West

Originally posted at The Henry Jackson Society

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 29 December 2017

The Astana track of Syrian “peace” negotiations began on 23 January 2017, under Russian guidance in the Kazakh capital, with Iran and Turkey also invited as “guarantor countries” of the various sides in Syria. The process, initiated in the shadow of the savage conquest of Aleppo city in December 2016 that signalled the total strategic defeat of the insurrection against the Bashar al-Asad regime, was an attempt by Moscow to convert the military gains it had enabled by Asad and Iran on the ground into political facts that could then be imported into the internationally-recognized Geneva process. This “Astana-isation of Geneva” was Russia’s bid to take control of the political process and redefine it: rather than having Asad’s removal as its end-goal, it would set the terms of reintegration into the Asad state. Abetted by a purblind Western campaign against the Islamic State (IS) and a strategic reorientation in Turkey, the pro-Asad coalition has more or less had its way for the last year. But there are now signs that this approach is beginning to unravel. Continue reading

A Year In, Trump’s Syria Policy Looks A Lot Like Obama’s

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 18 December 2017

Nearly a year into Donald Trump’s administration, the president has followed the track laid down by his predecessors in Syria, accelerating it in some cases, and reinforcing the negative trends of Barack Obama’s defective policy that will undo even apparent successes, like the destruction of the Islamic State’s (ISIS) “caliphate”. Continue reading

Al-Qaeda Instructs the Islamic State’s Predecessor Not to Attack Iran

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 21 November 2017

Usama bin Ladin, Qassem Sulaymani

Among the documents recovered from Usama bin Ladin’s compound in Abbottabad was the “Letter to Karim”, dated 18 October 2007. The letter was released in 2015 by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). “Karim” likely refers to Abdul Munim al-Badawi (Abu Hamza al-Muhajir), the leader of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia (AQM), the predecessor organization to the Islamic State, after the group’s founder, Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi), was killed in June 2006. The letter is reproduced below with some interesting details highlighted in bold. Continue reading

Russia Takes Advantage of the Schism in NATO Between America and Turkey

Originally published at The International Business Times

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 9 October 2017

President Donald Trump meets Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House, 16 May 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Relations between Turkey and the United States hit a new low on Sunday 8 October. The U.S. State Department suspended “all non-immigrant visa services at all U.S. diplomatic facilities in Turkey”.

The Turkish government retaliated—citing concerns about the “commitment of the government of the United States to the security of the Turkish Mission facilities and personnel”—by “suspend[ing] all non-immigrant visa service[s] at all Turkish diplomatic facilities in the U.S..” Continue reading