Top military officials from the United States, Iraq, and Turkey are expected to meet in Ankara this week to discuss security threats facing the Middle East.
High on that list will be tensions over Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence efforts and America’s decision to continue backing Syrian Kurds to the dismay of Ankara.
In recent years, the war against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) has driven a wedge between NATO allies Turkey and the U.S.
America’s support for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed branch of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) that controls large swaths of northern Syria, has angered Turkey.
The U.S. considers the YPG to be vital fighters against ISIS, but Turkey has designated the Kurdish group as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Both the United States and Turkey consider the PKK a terrorist group.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is reportedly considering cutting off military aid to the Syrian Kurds, a move that is intended to help normalize America’s relationship with Turkey.
However, the Trump administration has yet to progress with that move.
Citing a statement, Rudaw notes that Iraqi Army Chief of Staff Othman al-Ghanimi, his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar, the leader of U.S. European Command (EUCOM) Curtis Scaparrotti, and the chief of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) Joseph Votel are expected to meet this week.
The United States, Turkey, Baghdad, Iran, and Syria have all come out against northern Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Governments (KRG) independence efforts, which have sparked animosity between the Kurds and their neighbors.
After the Kurds approved an independence referendum back in September, neighboring countries — Iraq, Iran, and Turkey — threatened to use military force to pressure the KRG into abandoning its ambition to become a sovereign state.
Rudaw points out:
The Iraqi and Turkish militaries began joint military operations on the Turkish side of the border with the Kurdistan Region in late September, and Iraqi officials have repeatedly expressed a desire to take control of all international border crossings including those manned by Kurdistan Region security forces.
U.S. officials have also urged the KRG to cancel the outcome of its independence vote.
The meeting between the United States, Iraq, and Turkey comes less than a week after Baghdad declared that the war against the Islamic State in Iraq is over.