US move to arm Syrian Kurds causes consternation.

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Ending years of a hands-off approach, the United States is stepping up its involvement in the deadly conflict in Syria by supplying heavy weapons to Syrian Kurds for an offensive against the Islamic State (IS), writes Thomas Seibert.

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Ending years of a hands-off approach, the United States is stepping up its involvement in the deadly conflict in Syria by supplying heavy weapons to Syrian Kurds for an offensive against the Islamic State (IS), writes Thomas Seibert.

The move is provoking a crisis in relations with NATO ally Turkey. US military support, which includes heavy machine guns, mortars, anti-tank weapons and armoured vehicles, is designed to boost the firepower of the People's Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia in Syria seen by Washington as a close ally in the fight against ISIS.

Trump has authorised the Department of Defence "to equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS" in Raqqa, seat of the jihadists' self-styled caliphate, the Pentagon said. The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is a Kurdish-Arab fighting force that includes the YPG.

Since taking office nearly four months ago, Trump has demonstrated a willingness to use military power in the Middle East, ordering a missile attack on a Syrian airbase last month.

Arming the Kurds signals a deeper US involvement in the conflict. Erdogan, who met with Trump on May 16, was incensed by the move, which Ankara says would strengthen a dangerous enemy. It views the YPG as the Syrian arm of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey and the United States.

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Although the meeting between President Trump and PM Erdogan went ahead as planned, the US move has caused a rift in relations between the two nations

"It is unthinkable to have a decision in the Middle East taken without...

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