Turkey and Russia are aggressively conspiring against U.S. interests in Syria.
That's my takeaway from the joint press conference on Thursday, between Presidents Erdogan and Putin in Turkey.
First off, on Syria, Putin stated that Turkey and Russia have agreed to a cease-fire in Syria's north-eastern Idlib province. That statement might sound positive, but with Idlib the last major holdout of the Sunni rebellion fighting the Assad-Putin-Iran axis, Putin's words suggest that Erdogan is about to cut-off the rebel supply lines from Turkey. As I warned last December, Russia's endgame has always been the annihilation of the rebels in Idlib. But now that Erdogan has rendered himself Putin's supplicant puppet, and the U.S. has withdrawn support for most rebel groups, all the ingredients are set for a final purge of Idlib by Russia, Assad, and Iran.
Prepare for an Aleppo-style slaughter. Take a look at the map from Syria Live Maps.
What we're about to see is the red suffocating the green. As I explained earlier this week, the U.S. must not abandon those few moderate-Sunni rebels we remain aligned with. If we do, the sectarian hatreds born of ISIS and Iran, and Russia (via weakening U.S. credibility) will be the only beneficiaries.
In further bad news, Erdogan and Putin also hinted that they are about to smash the Kurds. Erdogan lamented this week's Kurdish referendum as sparking a "regional crisis" and pledged, "We have to prevent steps that could cause further, greater mistakes by Kurdish regional authorities."
What might "prevent" entail?
Putin offered an unpleasant hint. The former KGB Lieutenant Colonel stated, "We have agreed to continue closely working together through our foreign ministries, our defense ministries, and our intelligence services on the Syrian conflict and other regional issues."
Let's be clear, when Putin brings up his intelligence services, it means brutality or violence is on the cards. The risks of a Turkish-Russian axis assault on Kurdish-held territories (in yellow on the map) are now significant.
Unfortunately, these challenges are only symptoms of a broader problem in U.S.-Turkish relations. Namely, the fact that the leader of one of America's top NATO allies, Turkey, has now firmly aligned itself under Vladimir Putin. Throughout their press conference, Erdogan titillatingly noted that he and Putin "often talk on the phone," and repeatedly referred to Putin as "my friend" and "my dear friend." Stroking his master's ego, Erdogan ended the meeting by thanking Putin in Russian.
As the Washington Examiner explained last week, President Trump must handle his Turkish opposite more cautiously.