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Syria's Kurds Take the Offensive

August 22, 2013 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

If the Syrian civil war wasn’t already murky and complex enough, the country’s Kurdish minority has added a new element of instability in recent weeks. Kurdish militias have launched offensives against Syrian rebel forces operating in the northeast and have scored significant victories. That development sets off alarm bells with both the Obama administration and the government of Turkey. The Kurdish agenda in Syria is increasingly clear: to establish a de facto independent state in northeastern Syria similar to the self-governing Kurdish region in northern Iraq. Since the authority of Bashar al-Assad’s regime is now nearly nonexistent in northeastern Syria, the militia victories over Syrian rebel forces brings the realization of that goal tantalizingly close.

Turkish leaders consider such a prospect anathema. Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has long been a thorn in Ankara’s side, and Turkish officials see the KRG as being an inspiration to secessionist Kurdish forces inside Turkey. Indeed, the Turkish military has conducted several offensives inside KRG territory in recent years to root out insurgent forces that established sanctuaries there. The last thing that the government of Prime Minister Erdogan wants to see established is an equivalent of the KRG in Syria. Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc stated bluntly that his country supports Syria’s territorial integrity and will not tolerate the creation of another autonomous Kurdish entity on Turkey’s border.

Washington’s policies in Iraq and Syria are a mess.”

Indeed, Turkey worries that a Syrian Kurdish region would soon merge with its Iraqi counterpart, creating an even larger and more powerful de facto state. That is not paranoia. Massoud Barzani, president of the KRG, recently issued a statement that his forces would not stand idly by while Syrian Kurds were brutalized. Iraqi Kurdistan, he pledged, “will make use of all of its capabilities to defend the Kurdish women, children and citizens in western Kurdistan.” Even his use of the term “western Kurdistan” was likely to foment worries in Ankara and other capitals, since it implies the existence of a larger, unified Kurdish entity.

All of this places the United States in a very awkward position. The Obama administration has gradually but inexorably increased its support for the Syrian insurgents trying to topple Assad’s regime. However, Washington shares Ankara’s goal of keeping Syria intact in a post-Assad era. U.S. officials also fret that the insurgents include some unsavory Islamist elements allied with …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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