Jul 20, 2022 - World

Israel asked U.S. to press Turkey to not launch new incursion in Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images

Israel quietly lobbied the Biden administration in recent weeks to press Turkey not to invade northern Syria for another military operation against Kurdish fighters there, two Israeli officials told me.

Why it matters: It's a sensitive moment for Turkey and Israel, which are in the process of normalizing relations.

  • Israel sees the Syrian Kurds as allies against growing Iranian influence in Syria and has been supporting them for several years both diplomatically and in other means.

Behind the scenes: Israeli national security adviser Eyal Hulata told his U.S. counterpart Jake Sullivan that a new Turkish incursion in northern Syria would dramatically harm the Kurds and could benefit Iran in the long run, the Israeli officials said.

  • This message was conveyed to the U.S. by several other Israeli officials.

State of play: On the sidelines of the NATO summit in late June, President Biden warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan against launching a new operation against the Kurds in Syria.

  • After the meeting, Erdoğan appeared to have put the brakes on a possible operation, but he has put it back on the table in recent days.

Driving the news: Erdoğan discussed Syria with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Tehran yesterday.

  • “Turkey can’t be expected to sit idly by while the terror organizations threaten its security," Erdoğan said, stressing he expects Russia and Iran to support Turkey in its fight against the Kurds.
  • Before the trilateral meeting, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warned Erdoğan against launching such an offensive, according to his office.

What they're saying: A senior Biden administration official said a Turkish incursion anywhere into northern Syria "would have devastating humanitarian consequences and pose a serious risk to our counter-ISIS campaign." 

  • The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment.
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