In their White House meeting May 16, President Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan of course pledged cooperation in the fight against terrorism. But what is signficant is that Trump, probably none too sophistcated about the complexities of factional politics in the region, was sure to mention the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) by name: "We support Turkey in the first fight against terror and terror groups like ISIS and the PKK, and ensure they have no safe quarter. We also appreciate Turkey's leadership in seeking an end to the horrific killing in Syria."
Right, but apparently not the horrific killing in eastern Turkey, where Erdogan is waging his own counterinsurgency campaign against the PKK, with horrific atroctieis and thousands displaced. This was obviously a script handed to Trump, and intended as compensation for his new plan to arm the Syrian Kurds against ISIS. The UPI account of the meeting tellingly points out that neither Trump nor Erdogan mentioned the YPG—the Syrian Kurdish militia (closely allied with the PKK) that will be receiving US arms under the plan.
Trump's words were of course regurgitating Turkey's cynical propaganda game of conflating the secular-democratic Kurdish forces and ISIS as equally "terrorist." This irony is all the more perverse given that Turkey has itself been conniving with ISIS against the Kurds for much of the war.
The US has been walking a tightrope in northern Syria—backing the Kurds as the most effective force on the ground against ISIS, while still appeasing NATO ally Turkey. This is political schizophrenia in action, and sooner or later something will have to give. Surely the Syrian Kurdish leadership is cognizant of the risk that they will be kicked overboard and betrayed to Turkish aggression as soon as ISIS has been routed…