Turkey is waging a two-front war. Some worry it’s only making things worse

The New York Times reports: The Turkish deal with the United States sets up an “ISIS-free” bombardment zone along a 60-mile strip of the border region [of Syria] that features another exclusion: At Turkey’s request, it is also explicitly a zone free of the Kurdish militia, even though the Kurds had begun advancing toward the area to start battling the Islamic State there.

Despite cooperating with American forces for months, the Syrian Kurds are now starting to worry that their success might not outweigh Turkey’s importance to the United States.

“There is only one group that has consistently and effectively battled ISIS in Syria, and that is the Y.P.G.,” said Redur Khalil, a spokesman for the militia who says it has grown to include 35,000 soldiers, about 11 years after its start as a self-defense force in a single town. “Opening another front in the region — as Turkey has by attacking the P.K.K. — will make the forces fighting ISIS weaker,” Mr. Khalil said. “Which in turn makes ISIS stronger.”

Cale Salih, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and the author of numerous articles on Kurdish affairs, summed up the unease over the deal with Turkey this way: “If it comes at the price of the relationship with one of the few effective partners on the ground in Syria, it doesn’t seem to make sense.” [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports: Turkey’s decision to move against the Kurds is likely to do more to destabilize the region, some analysts say.

The police dragnet has fostered resentment against authorities in places such as Suruc, where Kurdish families have relatives living on both sides of the border. The United States has looked the other way as Turkey has hit the PKK in Iraq. The U.S. silence on the Turkish operations may hurt its burgeoning alliance with the YPG, whose fighters have proved to be the most effective ground force battling the Islamic State.

“It’s not smart for Turkey to do this,” Aaron Stein, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, said of Turkey’s twin military campaigns.

“Opening a two-front air war against insurgents you can’t defeat by air power alone is not smart strategically,” he said. Indeed, the U.S. military says it has launched more than 5,600 strikes on the Islamic State since last August, but the raids have not dislodged the group from its major strongholds. [Continue reading…]

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