Following Wednesday’s unexpected and dramatic full and “immediate” withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Syria, Turkey has announced it will not play ball on Iran sanctions. According to a translation of the Turkish president’s words on Thursday during a previously planned summit with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Ankara, journalist Abdullah Bozkurt reports, “Turkish president Erdogan says Turkey won’t support U.S. sanctions on Iran which he claims puts regional security and stability at risk, vows to take all measures to minimize impact of sanctions on trade between the two countries, pledges support to Iran in difficult times.”
This is huge given that the complete U.S. reversal in policy comes following a phone call last week between President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wherein Erdogan is reported to have pressed the Kurdish problem and presence of U.S. troops. The United States needs Turkey as a key regional economy if it hopes to effectively strangle Iran through sanctions. Without Erdogan, analysts believe, Iran will be able to weather the storm long term.
For the past week Erdogan has threatened to launch a full-scale cross border assault on U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria, which Turkey has long considered a terrorist extension of the outlawed PKK. Currently Turkey’s military is reportedly mustering forces and tanks along deployment points at the Syrian border. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said the military is “intensely” preparing for a major operation against Syrian Kurds in Manbij, Aleppo Governorate, and to the east of the Euphrates. Turkish Anadolu Agency reported the defense minister promised to “bury” the Syrian Kurds.
Prior to Trump’s announced Syria pullout, the promised large-scale assault and ongoing future operations would have eventually brought American troops and advisers under fire, who’ve found themselves in the awkward position since entering Syria of training Syrian Kurdish militias on the one hand and coordinating broadly with NATO ally Turkey on the other.