The US has no other choice but to replace its “moderate terrorists” with the YPG and pay the price for it – even if the price includes a cooling down of Washington-Ankara relations.
The United States is likely to support the Kurds as a substitution for Syrian “moderate rebels who have lost their fighting capabilities due to Russian airstrikes. The People’s Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, YPG) are an obvious choice for the USA who is seeking anti-Assad allies inside Syria. The move, however, is surely set to worsen relations between Washington and Ankara.
Just one week was enough for Russian Air Force to change ratio of forces and resources on the Syrian theater of war. The USA-supported so-called “liberal opposition” suffered heavy infrastructural damage and losses of weapon depots after Russian airstrikes, while the Syrian government prepares for full-scale offensive ground operations. If Moscow continues its airstrikes, the near future of Syrian CIA-trained “moderate rebels” is easily predictable.
The US in this case will surely need some controlled force in Syria as alternative to Assad in order to prevent him from regaining full control over the country. The only turnkey candidate for this role is the Kurds. The United States will most likely try to influence their activities in order to oppose Assad.
This alliance is unacceptable for Turkey, especially if the US supports the Kurds in an attack on Raqqa (Islamic State headquarter in Syria). President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan apparently sees the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as the main threat for Turkey, much more dangerous than Islamic State. Turkey stood aside from supporting YPG during the last ISIS offensive, basically because Ankara prefers bordering with the Islamic State, not with a Kurdish state like formation.
Earlier in 2015 Ankara, Riyadh and Doha agreed on approaches of interaction between armed groups controlled by each of the three countries. As a result pro-Saudi combatants stormed Idlib, while groups supported by Qatar and Turkey acquired footholds in northern Aleppo.
The Offensive of the Kurds on Raqqa changed the picture, and a possible American effort to help the YPG will change it even more, ruining Ankara’s plans. The scenario Erdogan played together with Qatar was about maintaining a hidden stream of help through buffer zones to Islamic State and pro-Turkey groups in Syria while taking advantage of trading Iraqi oil smuggled by Islamic State. A potential loss of Raqqa does not fit into this draft. It rather eliminates the whole plan.
Anyway, the US has no other choice but to replace its “moderate rebels” with the YPG and pay the price for it – even if the price includes a cooling down of Washington-Ankara relations. It seems like this is the reason why Washington showed so much excitement for the violations of Turkish air space by Russian warplanes. But these intentions to sugar the pill for Erdogan will not have great effect. A recent lease of the Turkish Incirlik Air Base for the US air force will remain an outstanding decision – a further deepening of collaboration is unlikely.