Turkey

US President Donald J. Trump is weighing his options as he decides how to respond to an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria. He has not ruled out military strikes.

In a tweet on April 11, Trump warned Russia that missiles targeting its ally, Syria, "will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!'"

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Turkey’s cross-border intervention in Afrin, the Kurdish-controlled enclave in northwestern Syria separated from other Kurdish territory in northeastern Syria, has advanced to the outskirts of Afrin city. The offensive began on January 20th, 2018, with the intention of ousting the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) from the territory it controls in the northwest. After breaking YPG defenses surrounding the city, Turkish ground forces have moved swiftly to besiege the city and, presumably, will begin urban combat operations in the next few days.

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US support for a Kurdish militia in Syria has become a point of contention in the US-Turkey relationship.

Who are the Kurds and why is US support so contentious?

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The US military continues to support a Kurdish militia in Syria that Turkey considers a terrorist organization, and Ankara has had enough.

Now, as the Turkish military threatens to advance on Manbij, a town in northeastern Syria held by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces that includes the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), Ankara is “going to try to force a showdown to gain concessions from the United States,” said Aaron Stein, a resident fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

However, he added, “I just don’t see a willingness from the United States to give the types of concessions that Turkey wants.”

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The recent downturn in US-Turkish relations following the Turkish military’s cross-border military operation in Kurdish-held Afrin, dubbed Operation Olive Branch, should prompt a re-evaluation of American interests in Syria. Afrin is an enclave under the control of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its militia, the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG). The PYD is the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an insurgent group active in Turkey since the early 1980s. The YPG is also the main-militia in the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, the multi-ethnic grouping of militias that has done the bulk of the fighting against Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) east of the Euphrates River.

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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s current trip to the Middle East reportedly seeks to attempt to restore stability in the region following the virtual destruction of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) by US and coalition forces. What is his way forward with the Turks and how should Washington manage its differences with Ankara on Syria? 

Given the raft of other problems in the relationship—the fate of the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, the detention of American Consulate staff in Adana and Istanbul, disagreement about the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Ankara’s dalliance with Moscow and Tehran, and the difficulty of dealing with an increasingly authoritarian and erratic ally—how much can Tillerson actually achieve?

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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s trip to the Middle East this week comes amid escalating tensions between NATO allies Turkey and the United States as their forces stare down one another in war-ravaged northern Syria.

While Tillerson’s agenda is notably missing a stop in Israel, the secretary will meet with leaders in Turkey, as well as Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, and Lebanon.

The Turkey stop on his tour will surely be wrought with tension considering the standoff currently playing out between their respective armies.

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Turkey’s ties with the United States could become casualty of latest offensive

Turkey’s military offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria will eventually push the United States to choose between two clashing allies, and “Ankara may not like where US policy ends up,” according to the Atlantic Council’s Aaron Stein.

The Turkish operation has deepened the existing divide between the United States and Turkey, a NATO ally, over Washington’s support for the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia and part of the US-led coalition in Syria. When asked how the situation can be resolved, Stein, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, said: “It can’t.”

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Twin billion dollar tenders in 2017 showcase Turkey’s renewable energy potential

In 2017 Turkey has made tremendous strides in the development of its renewable energy sector, notably the allocation of over two billion dollars for the production of wind and solar energy. These sources of funding, or tenders, are part of Ankara’s ambitious plans for the future of renewables, outlined and set forth in the context of its 2023 goals—a holistic set of economic growth targets to commemorate the Republic of Turkey’s centennial.

To analyze Turkey’s plans for increasing its renewable energy sources, it is necessary to understand its motives in the context of the larger energy strategy. Ankara primarily aims to achieve greater energy independence and security and decrease the economic burden of energy imports which make up around half of Turkey’s total trade deficit. The increased sustainability and environmental benefits of using renewable resources are secondary bonuses.

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While the Kurdistani people may have voted for independence, the practical application of the referendum, which was rejected by the Kurdistan region’s neighbors, remains uncertain. Depending on the fallout in the days, weeks, and months to come, the referendum could either prove an opportunity to improve regional relations, or leave a bitter aftertaste for all parties involved.

September 25, 2017, was a historic day for the Kurds. In a referendum, close to 93 percent voted in favor of independence, a long-held dream for most Kurds. However, while many people in Kurdistan celebrated the outcome, the referendum was opposed by Iraq, its neighbors, and the international community. Further, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran responded by threatening to sanction the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq militarily or economically.

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