The Kurdish conundrum. The new crux in the Syrian conflict

Last month the United States announced the creation of a new security force in the territories controlled by Kurdish Syrians along the Turkish border. Erdogan -Turkey’s president- promptly responded he would annihilate the new ‘Kurdish terror army’. Syria has yet again fallen into a never ending civil war.

Barin Kobane was a female Kurdish fighter, on the 28th of January she was killed during a fight against turkish forces. She was part of the YPG. Her body was filmed and published in a turkish propagandistic video.Her breasts were mutilated, her abdomen devastated, and her body exposed as a trophy, as she -a woman-  refused to adapt to the role ultra conservative Islam defines for them. “Barin did not surrender’. Amad kandal, spokesman for YPJ declares ‘‘She fought until death’, also reminding the public of her endeavours in Kobane, where she fought against ISIS in 2014.

However, to understand the circumstances, it is necessary to better grasp the current military chessboard. The Kurdish led syrian forces have reached the city of Tel Abyad on the Turkish border. The control exerted over the city by the Kurdish YGP and small syrian rebel groups highlights the power of Syrian Kurds, who now effectively control the turkish-syrian border.

Conversely, Turkey, has fought Kurdish forces for decades in the south-eastern part of the country. In specific, they are currently involved in a fight against the Kurdish Labor Party, or PKK, which supports separatist vision. The country considers the PKK a terrorist organisation and deems Kurdish armed forces to be an extension of the PKK. Syrian Kurds themselves describe their army, the YPG, as an independent organisation, without ties to the PKK. However, a link between the two is obvious as the two formations share a common long term objective: an independent Kurdish State. We shall not forget the Kurdish independence referendum on the 25th of September, which resulted in an overwhelming victory for the independence cause. The results were nevertheless opposed by the central government of Iraq, Iran, and Turkey.

As the threat on the borders grew, Turkey ultimately decided to launch a military attack in the north of Syria. The so called ‘ Operation Olive branch’ has seen Turkish ground troops crossing the border into Syria along with thousands of Syrian free Army (FSA) fighters. Furthermore, they have already announced more operations aimed at eliminating the remaining Kurdish led Syrian forces. Particularly, Erdogan, stated the operation in Afrin will be followed by a push into the southern city of Manbij, where both Kurdish fighters and American platoons are located.

A man inspects a site hit by what activists said were airstrikes by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, in the Douma neighborhood of Damascus, Syria November 7, 2015. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

It is incredible how the international community has already forgtten the eroic Kurdish military actions against the Islamic State, which prevented ISIS form north-eastern expansion. Yes, the United States and all allied military forces have used the Kurds to eliminate Daesh in eastern Syria. The US relied on the YPG as a fundamental ally in the was against the Islamic State, and have always supported the Kurdish militia on the southmost Turkish border.

Washington and Europe are now abandoning the Kurdish forces in favor of Turkey. The latter is a strategic powerhouse in the Middle East, a NATO ally- provided with the second largest alliance army- which controls the strait allowing russian naval access into the mediterranean. That is why Erdogan was welcomed with honours in Italy. The country is about to have nationwide electoral discussions on the topic of immigration.Turkey plays a pivotal role in the containment of migrants on the balkan route. Italy furthermore, needs Turkey to stabilize Libya, as well as for a number of energy related issues, the main of which is the gas duct TAP.

Also the Russians are supporting moderate approaches to the issue, meaning it is not in their intentions to stop the turks. The Russian intervention in 2015 has changed the direction of fate, in favour of president Bashar al-Assad. Thanks to their  involvement, by the end of 2016, the Syrian army was able to take Aleppo, one of the main battlefields in the Syrian conflict. Federal forces loyal to president Assad have then regained majority of the Syrian territory with exception of north-eastern Damascus, which is still under Kurdish control. The Damascus regime despises the presence of Turkish tanks. However, it  accepts Moscow’s non- interventionist policy, as it still depends from Russian and Iranian military support. Syrian Kurds have asked the government of Bashar al-Assad to send troops to defend them from Turkish attacks. They addressed the government they wanted to separate themselves from in the first place, and the action renders political equilibrium in the area even more arduous.

The sad truth is, the Syrian crisis seems to be never ending. The main players fight against and constantly betray each other. The reality is that every party involved has its own hidden agenda, and no one seems interested in reinstating security in the region. Nevertheless, to obtain long lasting peace, maybe we should start thinking about a geopolitical strategy to put this century-old crisis involving Kurds in Syria, Iraq and Turkey to an end.

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