In Northern Syria, Sleepwalking into Conflict or Trump Bluff?

A Month of Confusion Between “Economic Threat” and “Cooperation” Among Allies.

Abdullah Ayasun

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Turkish soldiers in northern Syria. (Photo Credit: European Press Agency)

Over the past four years, Turkey and the U.S. mutually teetered on the collision course in northern Syria as they had competing agendas and divergent views of a Kurdish militia aligned with the U.S. troops. But they somehow managed to control the course of things from getting worse. This time, it may not be the case.

Last month, both countries unscrupulously showed signs of sleepwalking into a conflict that everybody would terribly regret. President Donald J. Trump threatened to slap Turkey with economic sanctions if the Turkish military targeted Kurdish-dominated Syrian Defense Forces (SDF). At the core of the contention lies Turkey’s push toward SDF-held Manbij where the U.S. special forces are currently deployed. But Trump’s earlier decision in December of last year to withdraw the U.S. troops was interpreted as ceding ground to rival forces, such as Russia and Iran, triggering an impassioned debate over the nature of U.S. military endeavor in Syria and potential perils rooted in its unexpected pullout.

The American withdrawal would also remove the checks on the Turkish forces who would now unrestrainedly push forward in its longstanding quest to crush…

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Abdullah Ayasun

Boston-based journalist and writer. Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. 2023 WHCA Scholar. On art, culture, politics and everything in between. X: @abyasun