Last Friday, April 1, President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan had his first encounter with a group of American Jewish leaders, at his request. The full details of its contents were hard to sort out because the Turkish translator censored his master’s words with a heavy hand to make them more acceptable to his audience. But Erdogan’s bottom line, DEBKAfile’s New York sources report, was a request for help in explaining to the Obama administration in Washington and the Netanyahu government in Jerusalem why they must on no account extend support to the Syrian Kurdish PYD and its YPG militia or recognize their bid for a separate state in northern Syria.
The Turkish president did not spell out his response to this step, but indicated that a Turkish invasion to confront the Kurdish separatists was under serious consideration in Ankara. His meaning was clear: He would go to war against the Kurds, even if this meant flying in the face of President Barack Obama’s expectation that Turkey would fight the Islamic State.
Relations between the Turkish and US presidents have slipped back another notch in the last two weeks. When he visited Washington for the nuclear summit, Erdogan was pointedly not invited to the White House and his request for a tete a tete with Obama was ruled out. The US president even refused to join Erdogan in ceremonially honoring a new mosque built outside Washington with Turkish government funding.
At odds between them is not just the Kurdish question, but Erdogan’s furious opposition to Obama’s collaboration with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the Syrian conflict, and the two presidents’ tacit accord to leave Bashar Assad in power indefinitely until a handover becomes manageable.
On Feb. 7, on his return for a Latin American tour, the Turkish president warned Obama that he must choose between Ankara and the Kurds, whom he called “terrorists.” By last week, the US president’s choice was clear. It was the Kurds.