The good news, I suppose, is that we’ll be working with the Saudis to increase military aid to Syrian rebels currently being decimated by Russian attacks, following a weekend meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi King Salman:
The U.S. diplomat and Saudi monarch also coordinated on their countries’ joint efforts to fight the Islamic State terrorist organization that has gained control over large sections of Syrian and Iraqi territory in recent months.
“The secretary thanked the king for Saudi Arabia’s support to multilateral efforts to pursue a political transition in Syria…and reaffirmed our mutual goal of achieving a unified, pluralistic and stable country for all Syrians,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said after Mr. Kerry’s meeting on Saturday night with the Saudi monarch.
Mr. Kerry also had a dinner meeting Saturday with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Mr. Kirby said.
But the Russians may prove to be the least sticky part of a multilayered sticky situation, according to this Reuters report:
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accused Kurdish groups on Saturday of trying to grab control of northern Syria, saying Ankara would not allow this to happen.
In a speech in southeast Turkey, Erdogan also blasted Russia’s President Vladimir Putin for hosting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad earlier this week, in comments that were his most critical yet towards his Russian counterpart.
On northern Syria, Erdogan denounced the merging of the Syrian town of Tel Abyad last week into an autonomous political structure created by the Kurds.
“All they want is to seize northern Syria entirely,” Erdogan said. “We will under no circumstances allow northern Syria to become a victim of their scheming. Because this constitutes a threat for us, and it is not possible for us as Turkey to say ‘yes’ to this threat.”
Tel Abyad, on the border with Turkey, was captured in June from Islamic State by Kurdish YPG militia with help from U.S.-led air strikes.
The Kurds are certainly our most effective allies in fighting ISIS. If they aren’t already our most effective allies in fighting Assad, then they may soon be, if the Russians and Syrians succeed in smashing the Free Syrian Army at Aleppo. Take the FSA out of the equation, as Putin is trying to do, and our choices go from Bad to Bleak — we can risk rupturing NATO’s southern flank by allowing the Kurds enough power to take northern Syria, or we can go with ISIS as our main anti-Assad “ally.” Alternately, we can give up on the notion of removing Assad from power, effectively giving Putin exactly what we wants.
But mostly likely we’ll try to muddle through an impossible middle course of giving the various rebel factions enough support to topple Assad without angering the Turks or provoking the Russians, while hoping that the nicest rebel faction is in the end the clear winner.
This is what the President likes to think of as “nuance.”