Iraq: Turkish air-strikes heighten contradictions

The Turkish military carried out air-strikes overnight on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) forces both in Iraq's Sinjar mountains and in northeastern Syria, ostensibly to prevent these regions from being used as a staging ground for attacks within Turkey. "To destroy these terror hubs which threaten the security, unity and integrity of our country and our nation and as part of our rights based on international law, air-strikes have been carried out….and terrorist targets have been struck with success," the Turkish army said in a statement. (Reuters) US State Department spokesman Mark Toner responded: "We are very concerned, deeply concerned that Turkey conducted air-strikes earlier today in northern Syria as well as northern Iraq without proper co-ordination either with the United States or the broader global coalition to defeat IS…. We have expressed those concerns to the government of Turkey directly." The US continues to back the YPG Kurdish-led militia in Syria, which is allied with the PKK guerillas in Turkey—placing Washington in an increasingly contradictory position. (BBC News)

President Trump’s congratulatory call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following the April 16 referendum to give Turkey's presidency expanded powers may have only served to heighten differences over US support for the YPG. Interestingly, the US State Department had been hesitant to congratulate Erdogan on the vote, based on reports from an observer group dispatched by the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe and Council of Europe. The group's statement said that "fundamental freedoms essential to a genuinely democratic process were curtailed. The dismissal or detention of thousands of citizens negatively affected the political environment." The head of the delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe added: "The referendum did not live up to Council of Europe standards. The legal framework was inadequate for the holding of a genuinely democratic process."

The Turkish Foreign Ministry predictably slammed the OSCE report as "politically motivated and accusatory," and reflecting a "biased and prejudiced approach." (Al-Monitor)

If we had little faith that Obama could make this hard choice, we have zero that Trump is capable of it. But with Turkey sliding into dictatorship it is more obvious than ever that the US must ultimately choose between its old NATO ally and an effective campaign to destroy ISIS.