It was revealed that Turkey is no longer looking for the interests of the United States in the Syrian war.
Turkey is now bringing its military force to bear not only against its old enemy the Syrian Kurds, but also an allied formation that is a US creation from the get-go.
In Syria US has always had two problems. The first problem was that whichever non-jihadi “Free Syrian Army” groups it created, trained and equipped these as a rule were quickly pressured by Al Nusra to disband and their weapons and fighters incorporated into the rebel military structure controlled by Al Nusra. Try as it might – except in the south on the border with Jordan – US could not establish a meaningful Syrian rebel network of its own (and eventually “got around” the problem by simply funneling resources into the one controlled by Al Qaeda).
Secondly, in its slow motion war against ISIS it found that having shunned Assad the only forces who could possibly act as its boots on the ground were the Kurds. However, the usefulness of Kurds is limited firstly because they are not necessarily interested in dying en masse to eject ISIS from areas they can not hope to ever make part of their Syrian Kurdistan region. And secondly, because Syria’s majority Sunni Arabs are not necessarily thrilled to see the Kurdish YPG take over military control of more of the country.
The SDF thus hypothetically offers the US a way out of its two major conundrums in Syria. Under Kurdish protection US-trained FSA formations can actually survive and their survival in turn makes the SDF something else than a solely Kurdish outfit thus hopefully making its gains into majority Arab-populated regions less offensive to Arab Syrians, and also the group itself more willing to bleed to capture such areas (eg Raqqah) from ISIS.
The strategy has had some success. A number of non-Kurdish militias in north-eastern Syria have signed up for the enterprise – the major reason for this is probably because the Assad government has only a very weak presence there and can therefore not offer meaningful logistical support. However, by signing up for the SDF and flying FSA flags, the assorted anti-ISIS Arab, Assyrian and Armenian outfits can receive arms from the United States.
So far so good – except for one little detail – Turkey is doing its utmost to stall and rebuke the SDF advance, including pounding it with artillery. So here is the situation we have: the US comes up with an idea on how to finally create a proxy army for itself in Syria that is neither ISIS, nor Nusra, nor Assad (nor overtly Kurdish nationalist) and the Turks do everything in their power to blow it the hell up.
It’s clear why the Turks are doing so – SDF advances complicate their Kurdish issue and they certainly don’t want the retardation of their Al Nusra proxies in Syria. Ideally they would destroy SDF as a viable US proxy army in Syria and force Washington back into putting its weight (solely) behind the Al Qaeda-controlled rebellion which they are backing themselves.
However, the fact that Turkey has different interests in Syria than the US is not new. Neither is the fact that Turkey will always put its interests above those of the US. What is new, however, is that in pursuit of its own interests Ankara is willing to wage a veritable proxy war against the US in Syria.
Now it is true that Turkey does so, not to defeat the US in Syria, but merely to get it to shift its policies, however, any other self-respecting global hegemon would have been able to explain to its very junior allies that blasting its assets is not an acceptable way of going about that. In some ways US is the most powerful empire the world has ever seen, but in others it is constantly ridden roughshod over – not by its enemies, but by its allies; Israel, Saudi Arabia, and now Turkey.