The Trump administration has announced plans to create a force of 30,000 troops to protect territory inside Syria now held by America’s Kurdish allies, and the president of NATO ally Turkey is, unsurprisingly, hopping mad about it. “A country we call an ally is insisting on forming a terror army on our borders,” responded Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “What can that terror army target but Turkey? Our mission is to strangle it before it’s even born.” Watch this story.
Erdogan’s fury centers mainly on his fear that Syrian Kurds will provide inspiration and tangible support for Kurdish separatists inside Turkey. But this US decision merely exacerbates Erdogan’s anger on other issues, such as the dispute over Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish preacher living in Pennsylvania whom Erdogan blames for fomenting unrest inside Turkey. The US refuses to extradite him. But the larger reason US-Turkish tensions will grow in 2018 is the prospect of early elections in Turkey later this year, which Erdogan intends to win in part by playing to anti-Western sentiment among his most reliable voters.