Turks celebrate 1964 napalm bombing of Cyprus

Cyprus is Turkish, after all. Turks can do whatever they want there. They can even celebrate dropping napalm on Greeks and slaughtering them. 

Israel National News, by Uzay Bulut, Aug. 15, 2017:

On August 8, Muslim Turkish Cypriots and illegal settlers from Turkey celebrated the 53rd anniversary of Turkey’s napalm bombing of Greek Cypriot civilians in the Turkish-occupied enclave of Kokkina in Cyprus. Mustafa Akıncı, the president of the self-styled “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (TRNC), which is recognized only by Turkey, also participated in the celebrations.

In August 1964, Turkish warplanes dropped napalm bombs on Kokkina in the Tillyria peninsula, hitting residential areas and a hospital, and killing more than 50 people, including 19 civilians. Ten years later, in 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus and has occupied almost 40 percent of the island ever since.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece issued a note of condemnation regarding the celebrations:

“We are dismayed to note the celebrations of the Turkish Cypriot leadership, including Mr. Akinci himself, of the 53rd anniversary of the use of chemical weapons and dropping of napalm bombs by the Turkish air force on the Tillyria peninsula. This was the first use of banned chemical weapons in the history of our planet.

“Today, when the whole planet bows to the victims of wars and such hostile acts, the holding of and participation in such celebrations is an affront to international law, to the memory of the fallen, and to the whole of humanity.”

The Republic of Cyprus declared independence in 1960. Afterwards, Turkey escalated its preparations to invade the island, which included but were not limited to establishing a bridgehead at Kokkina in 1964 and smuggling arms and fighters from Turkey into the area in order to strengthen Turkish positions there.

According to the High Commission of the Republic of Cyprus in London,
“When in August 1964 the [Cypriot] Government attempted to contain the Kokkina bridgehead, Turkey’s air force bombed the National Guard and neighboring Greek villages with napalm and threatened to invade. The other major purpose served by the enclaves was the political and physical separation of the two communities.”

Another preparation for the occupation by Turkey was its disguised violent attacks against Turkish Cypriots to further escalate inter-communal conflicts and alienate Turkish-speaking Cypriots from Greek Cypriots.

General Sabri Yirmibeşoğlu, a Turkish army officer, for example, said in televised comments in 2010 that Turkey burned a ‎mosque during the Cyprus conflict “in order to foster civil resistance” against Greeks on the islandand that “The Turkish special warfare department has a rule to engage in acts of sabotage against respected values [of Turks] made to look as if they ‎were carried out by the enemy.”

The deadly military assault against Kokkina in 1964 is celebrated by many Turkish Cypriots and settlers from Turkey as the “8 August Erenköy Resistance Day.” Turks now call Kokkina “Erenköy,” Turkish for “the village of the [Islamic] saints.”

In 2014, for example, the community leader of Kato Pyrgos, Costas Michaelides, condemned the formal Turkish celebrations in Kokkina, describing them as a “disgrace.” “The memories are alive because the victims, those who survived, are here. The crosses [on the graves] are here. However, many years pass, 50 or 150, we will see this in our daily lives, because they remind us of this cowardly attack against the unarmed people of Tylliria,” he said.

The Turkish narrative does not deny the smuggling of arms and fighters to Cyprus in 1964; the problem is Turks do not view these acts as illegal activities or crimes against the Republic of Cyprus. They see them as “heroism.”

During the celebrations on August 8, Mehmet Kadı, the mayor of Yeni Erenköy (Yialousa), said:
“53 days ago, today, in August 1964, the villagers, students and our mujahedeen [jihadists] struggled together, fought for this land and did not allow the enemy to enter here.”

The enemy that Kadı referred to is the Republic of Cyprus and Greek Cypriots, the natives of the island who still comprised the majority in the northern part of Cyprus back then.

The Turkish Cypriot Minister of Economy and Energy, Sunat Atun, also issued a statement regarding “the Erenkoy resistance” and referred to it as “an act of heroism.”

“Turkish Cypriot people engaged in powerful and honorable resistance in the face of the inhumane attacks by the dual of the Rum [ethnic Greeks] and Greece. About 500 students from Anatolia and a group of Turkish Cypriots from Britain started landing in Cyprus to defend their homeland when attacks against Turkish Cypriots escalated in 1964.”

Mustafa Arıkan, the head of the Erenköy Mujahedeen [Jihadists] Association, also announced that during the commemoration, “for the first time, family members of 28 martyrs were given plaques.”

On July 20, 1974, Turkey mounted a bloody invasion of the island. The second Turkish offensive, codenamed Attila 2, took place between August 14-18. The invasion was accompanied by the mass murder of Greek Cypriot civilians, including women, and infants, unlawful arrests and torture of Greek Cypriots, and rapes of Greek Cypriot children and women, among other atrocities.

Zenon Rossides, the then-Cyprus representative to the United Nations, sent a letter on 6 December 1974 to the UN Secretary General, which said in part that Turkey “launched a full scale aggressive attack against Cyprus, a small non-aligned and virtually defenseless country, possessing no air force, no navy and no army except for a small national guard. Thus, Turkey’s overwhelming military machine embarked upon an armed attack including napalm bombing of open towns and villages, wreaking destruction, setting forests on fire and spreading indiscriminate death and human suffering to the civilian population of the island.”

The greatest consequence of the invasion was that Turkey changed the demographic structure of the northern part of the island, terrorizing around 200,000 indigenous Greek Cypriot majority population (more than one-third of the population) into fleeing to the southern part of the island.  It is estimated that more than 100,000 Turkish settlers have been implanted in northern Cyprus since then. Lands and houses belonging to Greek Cypriots were then distributed to Turkish Cypriots and to Turks brought from Turkey to settle in those areas.

Turkish supremacists act so blatantly in Cyprus because they claim Cyprus is a Turkish island. Thus, bringing in Turkish fighters to Cyprus to kill Greek Cypriots, importing tens of thousands of settlers from Turkey, deploying around 40,000 Turkish soldiers there, forcibly changing the demographics of the island, seizing the homes and other property of Greek Cypriots, and wiping out the island’s historic Hellenic and Christian identity through the destruction of its cultural heritage are all legitimate acts according to the Turkish narrative.

Cyprus is Turkish, after all. Turks can do whatever they want there. They can even celebrate dropping napalm on and slaughtering Greeks.
Employing Orwellian rhetoric, Turkey calls the military invasion of Cyprus “a peace operation.” In 1974, Kemalists and Islamists of all political parties supported the invasion of Cyprus. Moreover, Turkey does not recognize Cyprus as a Greek island or even as “a nation.”

According to the official website of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Cyprus has never been a Greek Island. It is both useful and important to keep in mind that there has never been in Cyprus a ‘Cypriot nation’ due to the distinct national, religious and cultural characteristics of each ethnic people who, in addition, speak different languages.”

The Turkish ministry cannot be more wrong. Never until the Turkish invasion in 1974 did the northern part of the island have a Turkish majority. Both the north and south of the island were majority-Greek and majority-Christian until 1974. “Cyprus has been a part of the Greek world as far back as can be attested by recorded history,” writes the author Constantine Tzanos.

“After the collapse of the Byzantine Empire and the defeat of the Venetians, it fell to Ottoman rule from 1571 to 1878. In 1878 it was placed under British administration, was annexed by Britain in 1914, and in 1925 became a British colony.”

However, the Cyprus question has been one of the key aspects of the Turkish foreign policy for a very long time. Actually, Cyprus has never ceased to be a “national cause” for Turks ever since the Ottomans first invaded it in 1571. A Muslim sovereign is not allowed to relinquish land once it has been conquered. And they can even celebrate their war crimes and murders.

Showing no regard for the sufferings of Greek Cypriots, many Turkish Cypriots and their leaders – including Mustafa Akıncı – have celebrated the deadly assaults on their Greek neighbors. But a community leader who genuinely aims for a peaceful resolution and coexistence in Cyprus would condemn the use of napalm bombs on unarmed civilians and the destruction of that part of the island, and would commemorate the Greek Cypriot victims as well.

Sadly, Turkish Cypriots’ celebrations of the brutal warfare against Greek Cypriot civilians have discredited all of their erstwhile statements that they support a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the island and justice for all its inhabitants.

Is Turkey Preparing for War with America?

Front Page Magazine, by Daniel Greenfield, July 25, 2017:

Turkey is an Islamist Venezuela with money. Its slow transformation into a Sunni Iran complete with terror backing and suppression of domestic dissent, the latest via a fake coup, was aided and abetted by the left-wing diplomatic corps.

Despite its latest information leaks revealing the presence of US forces to its Jihadist allies, it remains a member of NATO. The question is for how long.

Turkey has made progress in plans to procure an S-400 missile defense system from Russia and signatures have been signed, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday.

“Steps have been taken and signatures signed with Russia concerning the S-400s. Allah willing we will see the S-400s in our country,” Erdogan told lawmakers from his ruling AK Party at a party meeting in parliament.

That would give Turkey something else in common with Iran.

Why would a NATO member want the S-400? Why, for that matter, does Turkey need it all? Whom is it expecting a possible attack from. Iran wanted Russian air defense systems to ward off an attempt to take out its nuclear weapons program by either America or Israel. Turkey isn’t seriously expecting a strike by Israel. That leaves America or some European countries. The latter is also less likely.

The S-400 won’t integrate into NATO so Turkey isn’t counting on long-term membership. Erdogan may announce a departure from NATO. Even if he doesn’t, he’s making it clear that he views potential enemies as being either in NATO or American allies, whether it’s Israel or America. But the most obvious message here is to the United States. And the message has multiple levels.

Erdogan is telegraphing that he’s going to begin moving Turkey into territory that would involve the risk of an air strike. That will mean an intensification of the current tyranny. It will mean increasing backing for Islamic terrorists. And possibly, WMD programs.

Those Hillary high fives with Erdogan’s minion really look good now. And Obama’s lectures about how Turkey ought to be a model for moderate Islamic rule even better.

Turkey Exposed US Base Locations to ISIS

Front Page Magazine, by Daniel Greenfield, July 19, 2017:

The latest case for why the United States cannot and should not be a member of any military alliance that includes an Islamic terror state. In this case, we have one Islamic terror state passing information to another Islamic terror state against an infidel enemy.

Our “Turkish allies” against Islamic terror are as trustworthy as our “Pakistani allies” were. 

In the latest display of Turkish anger at U.S. policy in Syria, the state news agency has divulged the locations of 10 U.S. military bases and outposts in northern Syria where the U.S. is leading an operation to destroy the so-called Islamic State in its self-styled capital of Raqqa.

The list published by the Anadolu news agency points to a U.S. presence from one end to the other of the Kurdish self-administration region—a distance of more than 200 miles. The Anadolu news agency even listed the number of U.S. troops in several locations and in two instances stipulated the presence of French special forces.

Although Turkey’s powerful president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, regularly vents his anger at the U.S., it is still highly unusual for a NATO ally to reveal details of a U.S. military deployment during active operations in a war zone.

The publication is certain to spark ire in the U.S. military, which is leading the operation against ISIS.

Spokesmen for Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS, and for the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida, asked The Daily Beast not to publish the detailed information reported by Anadolu.

“The discussion of specific troop numbers and locations would provide sensitive tactical information to the enemy which could endanger Coalition and partner forces,” wrote Col. Joe Scrocca, coalition director of public affairs.

“Publishing this type of information would be professionally irresponsible and we respectively [sic] request that you refrain from disseminating any information that would put Coalition lives in jeopardy.”

But that was Turkey’s goal.

Once upon a time, Turkey had a free press. Successive crackdowns by the Islamic terror regime of Erdogan has eliminated a free press. The Anadolu Agency these days churns out Erdogan’s Great Leader propaganda. It’s part of the government media and it’s highly likely that this would not have been published without government prompting.

The United States should take steps to punish Turkey for endangering our national security. The question is can such measures get past Tillerson and McMaster? Or will we keep mouthing empty nonsense that the Turkish Islamic terror state is our ally.

Red Lines in Syria

Front Page Magazine, by Kenneth  R. Timmerman, July 19, 2017:

Suleymania, Iraq – With Saturday’s bombing of Afrin, a town controlled by America’s Kurdish allies in northern Syria, Turkey appears to have crossed a line.

Turkish artillery pounded the Ashrafiyeh neighborhood near the city center as well as surrounding villages. Reports from the region said the Turkish attack killed five civilians, including an entire family that was buried alive in their own home, and damaged dozens of homes.

“This is considered the first targeting of the city since the start of Turkish preparations” to expand military operations in Northwest Syria last month, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Turkish attacks were not directed against ISIS or against any other Islamist group. The Turks targeted Afrin because it has become a key political hub for the Democratic Union Party of Syria, the YPD, which Turkey accuses of being part of the PKK.

I spoke with Asya Abdallah Osman, the co-president of the YPD, on the sidelines of a conference both of us were attending in Iraqi Kurdistan. She was visibly shaken when she called home and learned details about the civilian casualties in Afrin.

“We have been fighting [ISIS] because we as women do not want to be subjected to their inhumanity. But we need your help,” she said, meaning the United States. “We need no other. This is war and people are dying. It won’t be resolved by politics, only by hard power.”

She swept aside the Turkish allegations that the regional government of the YPD, and its associated militia, known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG), were controlled by the PKK, or that the PKK was using YPD territory to launch attacks into Turkey.

“We are an independent political party that belongs to Syria and to the Kurds. If the PKK has come to Syria, it’s because Turkey has forced them to come,” she said.

Turkey has long accused the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK, or fighting a terrorist war against it, but also has been willing to negotiate with PKK leaders when it felt it could reach a deal to curtail the violence.

After Turkey violated a 2013 truce negotiated in Oslo that called for the PKK to remove its fighters from Turkey into northern Iraq, the PKK relocated remaining fighters into the Kurdish areas in Syria, known as Rojava.

Like most Kurds, Ms. Osman believes Turkey and its allies in the region do not want to see a successful democratic self-governing region in northern Syria, because it would encourage their own Kurds to seek greater autonomy.

“They accuse us of not being democratic, but we have allowed all political and ethnic groups to have representatives in the regional government. Our project is for all of Syria, not just Kurds,” she told me.

Ms. Osman traveled to Northern Iraq in a group of 65 Syrian Kurdish activists, representing nearly twenty political groups.

Normally, they would have entered Iraq via a pontoon bridge over the Tigris River at Semalka, in an area that has escaped the current fighting.

But the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq closed the border recently, forcing the Syrian pro-democracy delegates to make a dangerous 16-hour trek by foot across the only other border crossing into Iraq near Mount Sinjar, which is controlled by Iranian-backed Shiite militias.

“There is no Kurdish Regional Government,” Ms. Osman said dismissively. “There is only the KDP,” the Kurdish Democratic Party, dominated by President Massoud Barzani and his family.

She and other Kurdish activists at the weekend conference believe that Turkey pressured the Barzanis to close the Semalka border crossing in order to further isolate them. “Semulka is our only gate to the outside world,” she said. “When it is shut, we are closed off.”

She attributed claims that the YPD and its militia were controlled by the PKK to Turkish propaganda. “Of course, we have dialogue with other Kurdish parties, including the PKK. So do most Kurdish groups in the region. But we run our party and our administration ourselves. We elect our own officials and they take orders from no one.”

Indeed, I only learned after the conference that a member of the PKK central committee had attended the weekend event, sponsored by the Kurdistan National Congress, where three hundred delegates from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey strategized over a future Kurdish state or confederation.

There were few references to the PKK by the speakers, and the PKK central committeeman himself never spoke. The final declaration of the conference makes no mention of the PKK.

Both President Trump and Secretary of Defense Mattis have warned Turkey not to attack America’s Kurdish allies in Syria. Turkey has blithely ignored those admonishments until now.

Less than a month after President Trump at the White House personally rejected Erdogan’s demand that the U.S. drop support for the Syrian Kurds, Turkey began moving troops to encircle Afrin, the political capital of the Syrian Kurdish region, and other Kurdish controlled areas.

After Turkey started to attack YPG positions in late June, Secretary of Defense James Mattis upped the ante by declaring that the United States might allow the Kurdish group to keep U.S. supplied weapons after the battle for Raqqa to smash ISIS was over.

Some of Erdogan’s erstwhile political allies believe he Erdogan is playing a dangerous game.

Even before the Turkish attacks on civilians over the weekend, former Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis, who helped found Erdogan’s ruling AKP party, counseled against attacking the Syrian Kurds.

“The best course would be to negotiate a deal with the Syrian Kurds, persuade them not to attempt to change the ethnic composition of the region, and establish – preferably in cooperation with the Syrian government – a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional democratic administration,” Yakis wrote in a column for Arab News.

That is precisely the project Ms. Osman and the YPD have been proposing.

Erdogan showed his arrogance in Washington when he calmly observed his bodyguards cross a Capitol Police barrier in May to viciously bludgeon opposition protestors with truncheons.

But by putting his forces in a position where they could potentially clash with U.S. military units assisting the YPG and the Syrian Democratic Forces, Erdogan has shown a reckless side as well.

Turkey has been warned twice. Will Afrin prove to be the third strike for Erdogan in Syria?

A Disappointing Silence on Erdogan’s Excesses

IPT NewsMay 18, 2017:

The man with the bullhorn already had been knocked to the ground, repeatedly kicked and beaten. Then the man with a mustache, wearing a sharp suit and a handgun on his hip, raced up and launched a fierce kick, hitting the man with the bullhorn square in the face.

The man with the bullhorn was protesting visiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The man with the mustache is an Erdogan bodyguard. This beat-down, captured on video by the Voice of America, took place Tuesday, just 1.4 miles from the White House, where Erdogan met with President Trump.

Nine people were injured, including two who required hospitalization. A similar, but smaller brawl broke out last year when Erdogan was greeted by protesters outside a speech at the Brookings Institution.

The State Department issued a statement Wednesday saying it would tell the Turkish government that it is “concerned by the violent incidents …. Violence is never an appropriate response to free speech, and we support the rights of people everywhere to free expression and peaceful protest.”

It’s difficult these days for stories outside the White House’s struggle to contain the Russia investigation to gain much traction.

But events in and near the White House Tuesday should not get lost in the shuffle. Even without the violence by Erdogan’s goon squad, his White House visit should concern those who expected the Trump administration to follow through on its tough talk about confronting radical Islam.

For all the talk about naming radical Islamic terrorism where it exists, there appears to have been no mention of Turkey’s ongoing support for the Muslim Brotherhood and its terrorist offshoot Hamas. Rather, President Trump publicly lauded Erdogan, saying it was an honor to host him and that he looked forward to working together to create Middle East peace.

Erdogan is a favorite of U.S.-based Islamists, especially those with Muslim Brotherhood links, like Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Executive Director Nihad Awad. That may be due, at least in part, to his view that Hamas is not a terrorist group, but a national liberation movement.

Erdogan provided a safe haven for Hamas operative Salah Arouri even after Arouri was implicated in the deadly kidnapping of three Israeli teens that led to the summer 2014 war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. In that conflict, Erdogan predicted that Israel would “drown in the blood that they shed,” and likened the Jewish state to Adolph Hitler: “Just like Hitler tried to create a pure Aryan race in Germany, the State of Israel is pursuing the same goals right now.”

Arouri was asked to leave Turkey only last year, as part of an effort to restore diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey – relations Erdogan severed in 2010.

But that doesn’t mean Erdogan has turned a corner. In February, Turkey hosted a meeting of Hamas officials and affiliates. Last week, Erdogan repeated the baseless claim that Israel is an apartheid state, asking, “What’s the difference in Israel’s current practices from the racist and discriminatory policies implemented towards the blacks in America in the past, and in South Africa more recently?”

The ignorant talking point ignores the equal voting rights enjoyed by Israeli Arabs. The International Committee of the Red Cross rejected Erdogan’s rhetoric outright: “There isn’t a regime here that is based on the superiority of one race over another; there is no disenfranchisement of basic human rights based on so-called racial inferiority.”

In addition, Erdogan was slow to stem the tide of foreign fighters crossing his border in order to join ISIS in Syria. When he does act, he often targets U.S.-backed Kurdish forces fighting ISIS – a stateless minority Turkey oppresses.

While Erdogan and Trump praised each other publicly, ABC reports that “they made little progress to deal with their sharp differences on issues like terrorism and Syria.”

Erdogan, meanwhile, has purged tens of thousands of government employees, teachers and jailed scores of journalists in a clamp-down on any potential opposition. His crackdown is not limited to his own borders, as European critics have been targeted for arrest and surveillance.

Under his rule, Turkey’s secular education system has been weakened as religious training schools known as imam hatip grew more than 15 times in enrollment since 2003. His radical Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) wants Turkey to be governed by an Islamist authority that demands adherence to strict religious tenets.

The White House meeting lasted about 20 minutes, McClatchy reports. Beforehand, 81 members of Congress issued a statement urging the president to raise Erdogan’s human rights abuses in the meeting.

“Erdogan and his allies have mounted an assault on the rule of law, particularly using sweeping state of emergency authorities to stifle fundamental rights including free speech, undermine the independence of the judiciary, and quash any opposition to their undemocratic actions,” they wrote.

There is no indication whether that topic was discussed. After the meeting, Erdogan expressed appreciation for the president’s hospitality. That’s fine, but the failure to openly challenge Erdogan’s increasingly Islamist, authoritarian direction is disappointing. Turkey’s help is needed in the fight against ISIS. But if the United States intends to confront radical Islam, it missed a golden opportunity on Tuesday.

President Trump did ask that Turkey release jailed American pastor Andrew Brunson, the White House readout of the meeting said. The two leaders also plan to meet again next week during the president’s first official international trip.

Unless he challenges Erdogan then, the lasting images of this will be the unprovoked violence Erdogan’s armed bodyguards inflicted on peaceful demonstrators in the heart of the nation’s capital instead of a direct and honest challenge to Erdogan’s ongoing and egregious support for Islamist terrorists.

Also see:

Trump Defies Turkey, Approves Heavy Weapons for Syrian Kurds

AFP

Breitbart, by John Hayward May 9, 2017:

In a decision bound to infuriate Turkey, a senior Trump administration official said that heavier weapons would be approved for Syrian Kurdish forces as they close in on the Islamic State capital of Raqqa.

The anonymous senior official was quoted by the Associated Press as part of its coverage of Defense Secretary James Mattis’ meetings on Syria. NBC News published similar quotes by two unnamed defense officials, who said the Kurds could receive rifles, ammunition, armor, communications gear, and engineering equipment, delivered by ground convoys and air drops. NBC’s sources did not go into detail about what type of heavy weapons might be sent to the Kurds.

Military Times reported over the weekend that elite YPG fighters are already armed with advanced American combat gear, including night-vision goggles, digital camouflage, body armor, and the type of rifles used by American special operations forces. Photos of YPG commandos with American gear began appearing online during the battle to capture the strategic town of Tabqa, west of Raqqa, in late March.

U.S. military officials have only acknowledged supplying the YPG with Russian-made weapons, such as the ubiquitous AK-47 rifle. Officials “offered only ambiguous responses” when asked how the Kurdish fighters acquired American gear. Military Times anticipated Turkey would be “infuriated.”

Dana White, chief spokeswoman for the Defense Department, issued a statement on Tuesday formally acknowledging President Trump’s decision:

Yesterday, the president authorized the Department of Defense to equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS in Raqqa, Syria.

The SDF, partnered with enabling support from U.S. and coalition forces, are the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future.

We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey. We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the U.S. is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally.

The U.S. continues to prioritize our support for Arab elements of the SDF. Raqqa and all liberated territory should return to the governance of local Syrian Arabs.

The fight for Raqqa will be long and difficult, but will ultimately be yet another defeat for ISIS, and another step toward eliminating the ISIS threat to peace and security in the region and the world.

Turkey’s response will largely depend on whether they acknowledge a significant difference between the Kurdish YPG militia and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an umbrella group of Arabs, Assyrians, and other groups led by the Kurds against ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Syrian regime.

American analysts have expressed a high degree of confidence in the training, discipline, and fighting ability of the SDF. The U.S. military has such a good relationship with the SDF that some American soldiers participated in an SDF ceremony recently at which some 250 female veterans of the YPG militia were inducted into Syrian Democratic Forces ranks.

The U.S. Central Command reportedly sent Mattis a request last week asking to arm the Kurds. Defense officials and analysts said Mattis and President Trump were likely to approve the plan, which envisioned a mixed Kurdish and Arab force supported by American artillery and airstrikes to push ISIS out of Raqqa. The Obama administration also believed Kurdish troops would be key to recapturing the city, but President Barack Obama was said to be reluctant to approve the plan for Raqqa so close to Trump taking office.

Reuters described Mattis as “upbeat” after meeting with a Turkish official in Copenhagen, Denmark on Tuesday. Mattis said the administration intended to “work with the Turks, alongside one another, to take Raqqa down, and we’re going to sort it out and we’ll figure out how we’re going to do it.”

However, U.S. officials said Mattis was not signaling a new agreement with Turkey about the battle plan for Raqqa, and maintained the Trump administration is skeptical of Turkey’s claims that it can manage the liberation of Raqqa without Kurdish help.

Turkey adamantly insists that the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia is allied with the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey, a Kurdish separatist organization that both Turkey and the United States classify as terrorist in nature. On the other hand, the U.S. views the YPG as an invaluable battlefield ally against the Islamic State, and quietly rejects Turkish characterizations of the Syrian Kurdish militia as an offshoot of the PKK.

Turkey has not merely been critical of the YPG – it has attacked Kurdish positions in Syria, prompting military responses from the Kurds. One of Turkey’s professed strategic goals in Syria is preventing the Kurds from annexing all or part of Raqqa. Kurdish leaders have said that if the people of Raqqa wish to join their autonomous “democratic federal” system after the Islamic State is defeated, that would be fine with them.

The U.S. military has been patrolling the Turkey-Syria border to discourage further Turkish attacks on the Kurds. Turkish officials have suggested they might not care if American troops get in the way during their next operation against the YPG.

Mattis also said that he was reviewing the Russian proposal to create “safe zones” for refugees in Syria, a proposal co-sponsored by Turkey and Iran.

“It’s all in process right now,” Mattis said en route to Copenhagen Monday. “Who is going to be ensuring they’re safe? Who is signing up for it? Who is specifically to be kept out of them? All these details are to be worked out and we’re engaged.”

Mattis said another important consideration was whether the safe zone proposal would affect the battle against the Islamic State – a distinct possibility, since the safe zones are supposed to be no-fly zones for all military aircraft, including those belonging to the United States and its anti-ISIS coalition partners.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump on May 16. Erdogan has already suggested the American alliance with Syrian Kurds would be the top item on the agenda.

Also see:

U.S. forces in buffer zone to block Turk-Kurdish fighting

This Saturday, April. 29, 2017 still taken from video, shows an American soldier standing on an armored vehicle in the northern village of Darbasiyah, Syria. U.S. moved troops and armored vehicles through several Syrian cities and towns on Friday and Saturday in a show of force apparently intended to dissuade Turkey and Syrian Kurdish forces from attacking each other. (AP Photo via APTV)

Washington Times, by Carlo Munoz, May 1, 2017:

The distinctive green and gold banner of the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the YPG flew alongside the Stars and Stripes this week, as U.S. troops and Kurdish paramilitaries took up positions in northern Syria’s enclave of Rojava.

The combination marked a dramatic show of solidarity by the Pentagon for the Kurdish force, amid Turkish airstrikes targeting those U.S.-backed forces there.

Images of Army Strykers and YPG vehicles rolling into Kurdish-held territory in Syria flooded social media on Sunday, as American commanders deployed the Army units into Rojava, near the Turkish-Syrian border, with the U.S. military staking out what could become a buffer zone to quell fighting between the militias and Turkish forces that threatens to derail the fight against Islamic State.

The move comes a week after Turkey, a NATO ally, launched a new round of airstrikes against YPG elements along the border region. Ankara characterized the strikes, which killed upwards of 70 Kurdish fighters, as a “counterterrorism” operation targeting members of the YPG, which Turkey charges has links to a Kurdish separatist movement inside Turkey that has long battled the government.

Members of the YPG are also part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the constellation of Arab and Kurdish militias who are preparing for the large-scale assault on Raqqa, the self-styled capital of Islamic State.

On Monday, SDF forces recaptured the town surrounding the strategically vital Tabqa Dam, roughly 30 miles west of Raqqa. Securing the dam, along with the surrounding town and adjacent airfield, will provide Syrian and coalition forces with a prime launching point for future operations on Raqqa.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday vowed to carry out more strikes against Kurdish targets in northern Syria, telling reporters in Istanbul he was “saddened” by the images of the American and YPG flags flying in tandem.

Mr. Erdogan said he plans to raise the issue with President Trump during a White House meeting tentatively scheduled for mid-May.

Since the Obama administration rebuffed Turkey’s offer of support to retake the Syrian city of Manbij from ISIS control last year, Ankara has conducted unilateral operations in northern Syria. Turkish forces pushed as far south as the Syrian city of al Bab as part of Operation Euphrates Shield, which officially ended last month.

Since then, Turkey has been lobbying U.S. and coalition commanders for a role in the upcoming Raqqa operation, while simultaneously taking out YPG and other Kurdish militia targets via airstrikes. The most recent round of strikes prompted militia commanders to renew calls for a U.S.-enforced no-fly zone in northern Syria.

A no-fly zone “is the only solution for the lives of millions of Syrian people to be put under protection against future Turkish attacks,” YPG commanders said in a statement released Sunday, reported by Kurdish news outlet Rudaw. A safe zone patrolled by American and allied aircraft “will help keep millions alive and a stable north Syria is a stable regional situation,” they added.

The Trump White House has expressed support for Syrian no-fly zones, saying the measure could be vital to the thousands of Syrian civilians caught between the coalition offensive against ISIS and the Syrian civil war between anti-government forces and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The no-fly zone established by the U.S. over northern Iraq’s Kurdish region required a resolution by the United Nations Security Council. Any move to create such a zone by the council would likely be blocked by Russia, which is backing Mr. Assad’s forces with air power and heavy artillery.

But regional experts, as well as current and former Turkish government officials warn that Mr. Assad would be the biggest beneficiary of any new no-fly or “safe zones,” arguing the Assad regime could use the zones as a haven and incubator for the YPG or other Kurdish elements deemed an enemy of Turkey — a haven protected by U.S. and coalition air power.

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