Tillerson’s Turkey Visit to Be Tense as Erdogan Demands US Split With Kurds

Tillerson Denies US Ever Gave Kurdish Forces 'Heavy Arms' in the First Place

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Turkey for very high-profile meetings, which are also likely to be very tense, with Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria’s Afrin District bring the two NATO member nations ever-closer to direct conflict.

Tillerson and Turkey’s President Erdogan

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded that the US cut ties with the Kurdish YPG in Syria, and to expel them outright from the anti-ISIS alliance. The US has so far rejected that, but it’s certain that it’ll be a matter pushed again on Tillerson.

The US has struggled to find a consistent narrative on its relationship with the YPG, at least one that will satisfy the Turks. At one point the US publicly vowed the Kurds wouldn’t keep Manbij, but now, years later, US forces are in Manbij, with the Kurds, preparing for a Turkish invasion.

Even more recently, US arms for the YPG for its anti-ISIS push came with US officials very publicly assuring Turkey that the US would take everything back as soon as ISIS was defeated. Tillerson is now saying the US never gave the Kurds anything that counted, and that there is “nothing to take back.”

This claim comes off spurious, with the Kurds awash in arms, some gotten from the US, some bought off smugglers, but the forces clearly enough to give Turkey a lot more trouble than they bargained for in the invasion.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.