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Noah Feldman

Turkey's Attack on the Kurds Is a Betrayal of the U.S.

President Erdogan thinks he can spurn American interests without consequence. How long can such an alliance last?
Turkish troops shell a YPG position.

Turkish troops shell a YPG position.

Photographer: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. needs to start imagining NATO without Turkey. The latest reason is Turkey’s assault against the Syrian Kurds. The same Kurds who, with U.S. training and support, have borne the brunt of the fighting against Islamic State. Turkey is coordinating its attacks with Iran and Russia -- the very countries the North Atlantic Treaty Organization exists to oppose. U.S. interests appear nowhere in the equation. That’s a long-term strategic problem, which goes beyond the moral outrage every American should feel as our Kurdish allies are murdered from the air by F-16s we sold to Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan clearly thinks he can contravene U.S. interests without consequence. His insurance policy is the country’s geographical location. Throughout the Cold War, Turkey’s proximity to the Soviet Union made it a great base for NATO troops and missiles. The later U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan assured that the air base at Incirlik remained crucial to American military efforts.