US plan to arm Kurdish militia casts shadow over Trump-Erdogan talks

Trump's earlier congratulatory message to Erdogan on "winning" a now widely disputed referendum that vastly extends his powers and his term of office comes immediately to mind.

"The question now is what the US can do to limit the damage to its relations with Turkey and how far the Turks will go in demonstrating their displeasure", said Howard Eissenstat, an associate professor at S.t Lawrence University in NY. "And I'm glad to see the president stands behind that". If Erdogan can accept that his expectations cannot be realized because of the constraints of USA law and national security interests but that he will be treated as an equal and there will be no interference or even harsh commentary regarding his domestic policies, these two birds of a feather should flock together for the mutual benefit of their respective national security interests. Turkey also permits American forces to use important military facilities in Turkey, raising the ante in this high-stakes game.

"If we engage the forces in the Middle East, that means there's less American boots on the ground there and that's exactly what we want", Ernst says.

But Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who met with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim last week in London, after the arming decision had been announced, described it as final.

Not only politics, but business also ties the United States to Turkey.

Another issue that Erdogan is expected to bring up in his meeting with Trump is Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric who has lived in self-exile in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania since 1999.

Reza Zarrab was arrested in the United States over a year ago and is being held in jail pending trial on charges of laundering money and violating the US's sanctions against Iran.

It is likely that the US's arming of Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) will likely be one of the most contentious issues on the agenda - especially if the Trump administration proves unwilling to revise its policy. The U.S. considers the YPG to be a separate organization, and as an effective fighting force against ISIS, too valuable an operational ally to exclude from the fight against ISIS.

Jakarta governor guilty of blasphemy for 'insulting Islam'
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the governor of Indonesia's capital city, Jakarta , was given a two-year prison sentence on Tuesday. They have planned a series of events on Tuesday and Wednesday to protest the verdict against the Chinese Christian governor.

"It is a slander of the Obama administration".

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is on a collision course with its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey, pushing ahead with arming Syrian Kurds after deciding the immediate objective of defeating Islamic State militants outweighs the potential damage to a partnership vital to US interests in the volatile Middle East.

Ankara maintains that the Syrian Kurds are affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Turkey views as a terrorist organization.

Trump also made a decision to arm a Kurdish militia, the YPG, that Turkey sees as a terrorist group affiliated with the major Kurdish separatist party, the PKK.

On Wednesday morning, the Turkish government denounced the U.S. decision. Erdogan will be looking for Trump to reverse that. This order changes that, and in so doing, broadens and deepens the relationship of the USA military with the SDF in a way that cuts Turkey out of the battle for Raqqa, and subsequent battles to come against ISIS throughout eastern Syria.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces plan to significantly expand the de facto autonomous region they administer in northern Syria once they liberate Raqqa, raising questions as to whether these ambitions would undermine Russia's peace-building efforts in the war-torn country. The prohibition against providing direct military assistance to Kurdish groups in the SDF, which are a large component of the SDF, was preventing the full actualization of the SDF to take Raqqa.

"They say it's a very hard decision ... they don't have any other alternatives, so on and so forth", the senior Turkish official said. We are in a vicious circle.

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