How the Kurdish Independence Bid Sent Turkey Running into Iran’s Arms

The US military command in Syria strongly suspects that the Turkish-backed rebels who opened fire on US forces in northern Syria Tuesday, Aug. 23 were acting on orders from the top, namely, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, to underline two points he was making during his meeting with US Secretary of Defense James Mattis in Ankara.
US troops returned the fire and there were no casualties on either side, but the US-led coalition delivered a demarche to Ankara the next day.
The two points, according to intelligence circles quizzed by DEBKA Weekly, are as follows:
1. Turkey will on no account stand for continued US support of Syria’s Kurds and their YPG militia, and is most vehemently against providing them with an American shield. Failure to heed this warning could bring US forces in Syria not just under the Ankara-backed Arab-Turkmen militia’s guns, but the Turkish army itself. The result: a duel between two NATO fighting forces in Syria
2. Although US officials persist in calling Turkey an ally, Erdogan is in full momentum for deepening Ankara’s ties with Iran and Moscow, at the expense of his relations with the US and Brussels. The Turkish president needed this clash of arms with the Americans ahead of his impending visit to Tehran, as evidence of good faith.
Ankara and Tehran are meanwhile consolidating their cooperation on the Kurdish question.
Iran’s Chief of Staff Gen. Mohammad Baqeri reported that his visit to Ankara last week ended in agreement to guarantee the Assad government’s reassertion of its control over northern Syria and thwart the declaration of autonomy declared by local Kurds, whom the US backs for fighting the Islamic State.
Baqeri called the US military presence in Syria’s Kurdish region “illegitimate.” He was quoted by Iran’s Tasnim news agency as saying that he hoped Turkey would work with Iran to dismantle the Kurdish autonomous state in northern Syria, which has meanwhile been named “Rojava”.
By branding US forces in Syria “illegitimate,” the Iranian general took the Iranian-Turkish plan for reasserting the Assad government’s control a step further. He meant nothing less than the removal of US forces from Syrian soil.
While the Trump administration’s policy is to stay out of involvement in the Syrian war, except for fighting ISIS, this policy does not entail quitting northern Syria altogether or abandoning the Kurds.
Meanwhile, leaders of the semiautonomous regional council of Iraq (KRG) are moving ahead with their plan for an independence referendum on Sept. 26, in the face of objections at every hand – from Washington to Baghdad.
Tuesday, Aug. 29, the Kirkuk Provincial Council voted in favor of the referendum. Although the leader of the Turkmen Front urged a boycott, the motion was carried by the Kurdish faction, two Turkmen, three Arabs and one Christian member. A Turkmen Front member abstained.
“Today marks a historical day,” Ahmad Askar, head of the Kurdish-led Brotherhood Council faction said, declaring, “Kirkuk is an inseparable part of Kurdistan.
Neither Ankara nor Tehran is expected to lie down for Kurdistan to claim this rich oil region, any more than Baghdad. DEBKA Weekly’s military sources therefore see a fight on the horizon in the run-up to the referendum vote.

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