Turkey’s for­eign

min­is­ter called on the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­place Brett McGurk, the U.S. en­voy to the anti-Is­lamic State coali­tion, as ten­sions mount over the Syria war strat­egy.

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY KA­REEM FAHIM ka­reem.fahim@washpost.com Carol Morello in Wash­ing­ton con­tributed to this re­port.

IS­TAN­BUL — Turkey’s for­eign min­is­ter on Thurs­day called on the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­place its en­voy to the anti-Is­lamic State coali­tion — the lat­est sign of Turk­ish frus­tra­tion with the U.S. war strat­egy in Syria amid mount­ing ten­sions be­tween the two NATO al­lies.

Turkey has force­fully protested the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ci­sion to arm a Syr­ian Kur­dish force for an as­sault on the Is­lamic State-held city of Raqqa. Turkey re­gards the force as an arm of the Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Party, or PKK, which Ankara and Wash­ing­ton have both listed as a ter­ror­ist group.

In an in­ter­view with Turk­ish broad­caster NTV, For­eign Min­is­ter Mev­lut Cavu­soglu ac­cused U.S. en­voy Brett McGurk of “pro­vid­ing sup­port” for the PKK and the Syr­ian Kur­dish force, known as the Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units, or YPG. “It would be ben­e­fi­cial for this per­son to change,” Cavu­soglu said, re­fer­ring to McGurk, adding that Turkey “would not med­dle in the do­mes­tic is­sues of an­other coun­try.”

The un­usu­ally pointed Turk­ish at­tack on an Amer­i­can of­fi­cial came days af­ter Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan made a trip to Wash­ing­ton that was dom­i­nated by is­sues di­vid­ing the two coun­tries and that de­liv­ered mixed div­i­dends, at best, for the Turk­ish leader.

While Pres­i­dent Trump’s in­vi­ta­tion to Er­do­gan — and his lav­ish praise for Turkey dur­ing the visit — were widely seen as hav­ing en­hanced Er­do­gan’s stature at home, the U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion did not ap­pear to budge on any of Er­do­gan’s most press­ing re­quests, in­clud­ing the de­mand not to arm the YPG.

The visit was also marred by a vi­o­lent coda — an at­tack on pro­test­ers out­side the Turk­ish am­bas­sador’s res­i­dence in Wash­ing­ton on Tues­day that U.S. of­fi­cials said was car­ried out by Er­do­gan’s pres­i­den­tial guards. Footage of the as­sault show­ing pro­test­ers be­ing kicked, choked and stomped drew wide­spread out­rage as it was cir­cu­lated on so­cial me­dia. A video re­leased by Voice of Amer­ica showed Er­do­gan watch­ing the pro­test­ers be­ing at­tacked.

A State De­part­ment of­fi­cial said Thurs­day that two mem­bers of Er­do­gan’s se­cu­rity de­tail were ar­rested and re­leased. Un­der in­ter­na­tional law, for­eign of­fi­cials and their trav­el­ing de­tail can­not be de­tained.

The in­ci­dent was con­sid­ered se­ri­ous enough that Turkey’s am­bas­sador to the United States was sum­moned to the State De­part­ment on Wed­nes­day to dis­cuss it with Un­der­sec­re­tary Tom Shan­non, the of­fi­cial said.

The Turk­ish Em­bassy re­leased a state­ment Wed­nes­day that made no men­tion of any role played by the pres­i­den­tial guards but said that a group of Turk­ish Amer­i­can cit­i­zens who had gath­ered to greet Er­do­gan “re­sponded in self-de­fense” to a “provoca­tive demon­stra­tion.”

On Thurs­day, in re­sponse to the clash out­side the res­i­dence, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called for the ex­pul­sion of Turkey’s am­bas­sador to the United States. “This kind of thing can­not go un­re­sponded to diplo­mat­i­cally,” the se­na­tor said in an in­ter­view with MSNBC. “We should throw their am­bas­sador the hell out of the United States of Amer­ica.”

In Turkey’s vig­or­ous but so far fal­ter­ing at­tempts to shift U.S. pol­icy, the gov­ern­ment has in­creas­ingly taken to blam­ing dis­agree­ments with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion over Syria on Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and, specif­i­cally, holdovers from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­clud­ing McGurk, who has served as en­voy to the anti-Is­lamic State coali­tion since Novem­ber 2015.

A State De­part­ment spokes­woman, Heather Nauert, said in a state­ment Thurs­day that McGurk had the “full sup­port and back­ing” of Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son and the White House.

“Turkey is a key NATO ally that faces le­git­i­mate do­mes­tic se­cu­rity con­cerns em­a­nat­ing from ISIS, PKK, and other des­ig­nated ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions,” Nauert said. “We re­spect those con­cerns, and con­tinue reg­u­lar con­sul­ta­tions with our NATO ally on this and other top­ics of mu­tual im­por­tance.” ISIS is an acro­nym for the Is­lamic State.

U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cials in the Trump and Obama ad­min­is­tra­tions have con­cluded that there is no ef­fec­tive al­ter­na­tive to the mil­i­tary plan that re­lies on the Kur­dish fighters — de­spite Turkey’s in­sis­tence that it could muster an equally ef­fec­tive force with Syr­ian Arab fighters.

Last week, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced that it would arm the YPG — as a del­e­ga­tion of high-level Turk­ish mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials were vis­it­ing Wash­ing­ton in ad­vance of Er­do­gan’s meet­ing with Trump. In re­sponse, Turk­ish of­fi­cials told their U.S. coun­ter­parts that they re­served the right to step up mil­i­tary ac­tion against the YPG in Syria.

On Thurs­day, Er­do­gan, speak­ing in Is­tan­bul, re­it­er­ated the warn­ing, say­ing that “we won’t dis­cuss it or con­sult with any­one,” ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­ated Press.

Cavu­soglu said Thurs­day that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion “did not show any re­ac­tion” to the Turk­ish warn­ing.

“They wel­comed it with un­der­stand­ing,” he said.

BRAM JANSSEN/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Brett McGurk, spe­cial en­voy for the global coali­tion against the Is­lamic State, vis­its a wa­ter treat­ment plant south of Mo­sul, Iraq, on Mon­day. McGurk has served as the U.S. en­voy since Novem­ber 2015.

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