August 1, 2015


Ascendant Kurds emerge from Syrian civil war as major power player (Martin Chulov, 1 August 2015, The Guardian)

Now though, with some kind of safe haven seemingly on the table, it is the Kurds, not Isis, who control much of the north. The YPG-Syrian Kurds allied to the PKK in Turkey have influence from just north-east of Aleppo to the Iraqi border. They also control Irfin in north-western Syria. Isis controls the area between the Kurds - and it is here that the Turks want to enforce a safe haven, one effect of which would be to deny the Kurds in the north-east to link up with the north-west.

"The Turks' move last week is not about Isis," said one senior Kurdish official in Irbil. "It's about us." As Syria has crumbled, Syria's Kurds have quietly built an arc of influence that Turkey believes advances the broader Kurdish project of an eventual sovereign state carved from north-eastern Syria, south-eastern Turkey, parts of western Iran and what is now Iraqi Kurdistan.

This has raised an unprecedented alarm in Ankara, which wants nothing less than an emboldened and spreading Kurdish enclave just across its border, which could link up with the semi-autonomous Kurdish north of Iraq.

Turkey's fear over the Kurds has led it to ignore its anger at what it sees as US prevarication in moving against Bashar al-Assad. It has done little to convince Washington, however, that it is serious about tackling Isis.

Turkey's approach to the group had until recently been to contain rather than confront. And, since the jihadist group gathered momentum, the US has been pressuring Turkey to seal its borders and to stop interactions with Isis officials, such as buying smuggled oil, which keep the terror organisation's economy rumbling.

Throughout the past four years, all stakeholders in the Syrian war, then the war against Isis in Iraq and Syria, have been trying to avoid one outcome - a breakdown of unitary borders that had bound together the centre of the region for much of the past century.

A de facto partition already exists in Iraq, where the Kurds of the north and the Sunnis of Anbar are drifting ever further from central government control. Now, with Syria's Kurds ascendant, hopes that the country as it is now may again be controlled from Damascus are also falling.

The creation of Kurdistan is a function of U.S. violence against internationally recognized regimes and a great achievement.

Posted by at August 1, 2015 9:36 AM

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