The US is supplying N. Syrian Kurds with man-portable air defense weapons MANPADs to counter Turkish war threats. Tensions around northern Syria hit a new high on Tuesday, Jan. 16, when Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan threatened his army would invade the Kurdish region of Afrin – and then Kurdish-held Manbij – both of which abut on the Turkish border. Not a single “terrorist” would survive this operation, he declared, describing it as “imminent.” For “terrorists” in Erdogan speak, read fighters of the Kurdish YPG militia, American’s key ally in northern Syria. This militia, spearheaded the battle which drove ISIS out of Raqqa and the US is counting on it to provide the backbone of the new 30,000-strong “Syrian Border Guard.”
The Turkish president did not directly attack the US or the Trump administration, only tangentially. In his speech to parliament, he reproved NATO, saying, “You are duty-bound to strike a certain pose against anyone that harasses one of your partners.” He also sent Turkish chief of staff Gen. Hulusi Akar to Brussels, where he plans to call on Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Chiefs of Staff, and deliver Ankara’s final warning before going to war on the Kurds of northern Syria.
Ankara is not alone with a score to settle with Washington over its military moves in northern Syria; Moscow and Damascus view the Trump administration steps as an American military takeover of a section of northern Syria which stretches between Turkey and Iraq and covers some 28,000 sq. km. (compared with 20,770 sq. km of Israel), and splitting up the country.
The Pentagon, estimating that all three may first resort to air strikes against the Kurdish regions and the new US-backed Syrian Border Guard, is sending the YPG man-portable air defense systems – MANPADS – which are especially effective against low-flying jets and helicopters. It is the first time since the Syrian insurgency erupted against the Assad regime in 2011, that the Americans are supplying any rebel force with these weapons.