- Emphasis mine:
- A Direct Turkey-Russia Clash Is Growing Risk on Syria Border
by Selcan Hacaoglu, http://www.bloomberg.com/, 17 Feb 2016
* Turkey is bombing Syrian Kurdish group backed by Russia, U.S.* Assad-Russia front gains upper hand vs Turkey-backed rebels
There’s only one major group of combatants in the Syrian war that’s backed by both Russia and the U.S. — and now Turkey is attacking it. For a fourth day on Tuesday, Turkey unleashed its 155-millimeter heavy guns across the border with Syria. The targets were Kurdish forces, whose recent advance is a key part of the Russian plan to restore President Bashar al-Assad’s control over Syria.
Syria’s five-year war has turned into a tangled web of proxy conflicts between global and regional powers, with a growing risk that some of them could clash directly. Right now the most dangerous flashpoint is between Russia and NATO member Turkey, which shot down a Russian plane in November. Since then tensions have steadily built as the Assad-Russia alliance — with help from the Kurds — threatens to surround Turkish-backed rebels in Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city.
“Both Russia and Turkey are looking to position for strategic advantage,” Tim Ash, head of emerging-market strategy at Nomura in London, said by e-mail on Monday. “The risk is of an actual Russo-Turkish military clash, which would then threaten to draw in NATO.”
The irony is that even while Turkey faces off against NATO foe Russia, its policies are also putting it at odds with leaders of the Western coalition. The U.S. shares Turkey’s desire to halt the Assad advance, and its suspicion of Russian intentions. But on the subject of Syria’s Kurds, there’s a sharp difference.
Turkey says the main Kurdish fighting unit, the YPG, is a terrorist group that’s in league with autonomy-seeking militants inside Turkey. The U.S. views the Syrian Kurds as a proven battlefield ally against Islamic State. Two weeks before Turkey started shelling them, President Barack Obama’s envoy for the coalition against Islamic State, Brett McGurk, was visiting YPG fighters in Syria to congratulate them.