Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton’s consideration of arming the Kurds at Sunday night’s debate, is drawing major criticism from NATO ally Turkey.
Clinton’s proposal is “unethical” and undermined a fellow a NATO ally, Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told Reuters Tuesday.
“I would also consider arming the Kurds. The Kurds have been our best partners in Syria, as well as Iraq,” Clinton said at the debate Sunday. The U.S. resisted directly arming Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria for the exact reason that it could alienate Turkey.
Yildirim’s comments come amid concerns that Turkey is slowly being pulled into Russia’s orbit of influence.
Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin met Monday to sign an energy trade deal, signaling the high point in Turkish-Russian relations since November, 2015. Turkey shot down a Russian jet that invaded Turkish airspace in November, raising fears that it could spark a NATO-Russian confrontation.
“I am a firm believer that the normalization process between Turkey and Russia will go ahead full steam,” Erdogan told reporters at the signing statement.
Turkey regards Kurdish fighters in Syria as much of a threat to its existence as the Islamic State. Turkey battled a Kurdish insurgency inside its own borders for decades, and fears that increased U.S. assistance to Kurdish rebels will create a de-facto Kurdish state inside Syria. Turkey recently invaded parts of northern Syria, specifically to ensure towns liberated from ISIS did not fall under Kurdish control.
“I know there’s a lot of concern about that in some circles, but I think they should have the equipment they need so that Kurdish and Arab fighters on the ground are the principal way that we take Raqqa after pushing ISIS out of Iraq,” Clinton said in her statements, acknowledging likely Turkish resistance.
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