The US is considering a new plan for Syria - and the Kurds 'will not be happy about it'
The request, which reportedly came just one week before an ISIS-linked suicide bomber killed 10 people in Istanbul, is evidently an attempt to seal a vulnerable stretch of the Turkish-Syrian border that continues to serve as a transit point for foreign fighters and weapons.It is also an attempt to appease Turkey, which has expressed concern to Washington that the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) - a militia linked to Turkey's longtime enemy, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) - is taking advantage of its anti-ISIS partnership with the US to gain power and territory along the Turkish-Syrian border.
That, in turn, would allow the US-led anti-ISIS coalition to stem the YPG's advances - a primary concern for Turkey - without sacrificing ongoing efforts to seal off Turkey's southern border to jihadists."Whether the YPG will actually listen to the US is a different story. But the US is effectively telling the YPG to observe Turkey's red line," Stein said, referring to the Turkish leadership's insistence that the Kurds remain east of the Euphrates.
It is true that the Kurds have relied on their partnership with the US to foment a degree of legitimacy that they have been denied in the past. But the entry of Russia into the Syrian conflict has presented the Kurds with a new option, should the US attempt to halt the YPG's momentum and empower Arab forces."We welcome a strategic relationship with both the US and Russia," Sherzad Yazidi, a representative of the Rojava administration living in Sulimaniya, told Politico in November. "One wouldn't be at the expense of the other."
Still, Turkey is already beginning to worry about the "nightmare scenario" of Russia supporting the Kurds in Syria and facilitating their expansion westward - especially since Russia is still looking for ways to retaliate against Turkey for shooting down its warplane in November.
Indeed, the Turkish pro-government daily newspaper The Daily Sabah reported in early December that Russia was delivering weapons and heavy armor to the YPG while instructing them to attack opposition groups, many of whom are backed by Turkey. REUTERS/Rodi Said
"I don't think the Kurds will think much about it," he said. "They're completely self-interested actors who are moving to establish an independent structure inside Syria, known as Rojava. Above all, they are intent on realizing that goal."That said, however, the program itself is at least partially aimed at curbing Kurdish ambitions. As such, if it were to pan out, the plan could feasibly reduce the Kurds' confidence that their battlefield victories will one day yield political recognition from the US. This, in turn, might lead them to look for new partners.
Van Wilgenburg put it bluntly."Russia would be happy were any problems to arise between the Kurds and the US," he said.
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