The American and Russian governments are up-in-arms today after the government of Turkey launched an attack on US-backed Syrian and Iraqi-Kurdish rebels, killing at least 30.
Dozens of fighters were also wounded in the strikes. Both officials said there were no U.S. troops among the fighters who were hit.
“This is very serious,” said one outraged U.S. official.
U.S. and Russian troops in the areas of the attacks were warned about an hour before 24 Turkish jets and two Turkish drones bombed locations in northern Iraq and northeast Syria. Senior Russian officials contacted U.S. counterparts to try to get Turkey to back off the strikes, but those pleas were ignored by the Turks, officials said.
State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner told reporters Tuesday the U.S. was concerned Turkey conducted the strikes without proper coordination and emphasized the importance of respecting Iraq’s borders and sovereignty. Toner said U.S. officials had directly shared their concerns with Turkey.
While Turkey claims that the fighters had been funneling arms into Turkey to use against their government, the USA argues that the fighters are focused on defeating ISIS and the current Syrian government.
The American government and the Turkish government have very different views on the rebel fighters (the Americans consider them allies in the war on terror, while Turkey considers them terrorists), and there is greater concern than ever that the tension between Turkey and the West could escalate. If Turkey continues to hammer America’s allies in the region, America (or Russia) may feel the need to respond in defense of the rebel groups.
The situation is made even more complex by the fact that the United States uses Turkish airfields to launch airstrikes against ISIS, making us allies of two opposing forces.
Events on the ground continue to unfold rapidly and there is concern in Washington, D.C. that Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan could use the situation to tighten his grip further on the nation.