It is always possible of course (very likely in fact) that Turkey' President Erdogan was bluffing, when he said on Friday his troops will purge Manbij, Syria, of Kurdish fighters. The US backed Kurdish independence forces, alongside whom US troops are embedded. could be under fire by week’s end, and NATO engulfed in the worst crisis in its history.
Erdogan’s foreign minister demanded that the US ends its support of the Kurds, who now control the Syrian border with Turkey east of the Euphrates, all the way to Iraq. The Kurds, a trbibal nation which was overlooked when the British and French carved up the old Ottoman Empire after World War One, their people being spread across Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran, with enclaves in Azerbaijan and Armenia. They deserve their own state but nobody wants to give up territory for them. Added to that, Erdogan has long fancied grabbing the oil rich slice of Syria occupied by ethnic Kurds.
If the Turks attack Manbij, the US will face a choice: Stand by the Kurdish independence fighter, whose cause has long been supported by the governments of USA,UK, most EU member states and other economic powers and resist the Turks, or abandon the Kurds.
Should the US let the Turks drive the Kurds out of Manbij and the entire Syrian border area with Turkey, as Erdogan threatens, US credibility would suffer a blow from which it would not soon recover. To resist however might incur a hostile response from Russia. Vladimir Putin has never suggested he is a strong supporter of Kurrdish independence but his tolerance of US and NATO meddling in the internal politics of other states has been pushed to the limit.
And of course, Turkey is, somewhat illogically, a full member of NATO, while most NATO states support the Kurds. So if US ans NATO troops stand with the Kurds and oppose Erdogan’s forces, the ensuing shifts in alliegences could lead to a break up of NATO and loss of US bases inside Turkey, including the air base at Incirlik.
Turkey also sits astride the Dardanelles entrance to the Black Sea. NATO’s loss of Turkey would thus be a triumph for Vladimir Putin, who gave Ankara the green light to cleanse the Kurds from Afrin.
World politics and war