Behind the moves by the USA to strengthen its support for the Kurds is the intention to draw the Kurds further into the tension and conflict.
In contrast to the temporary compromise agreements made by Obama to continue USA’s regional (Middle East) domination, it is becoming clear that Trump’s strategy is based on escalating tension and conflict. This strategy can be seen in the move to denounce Iran as the “main enemy”, bring to the fore discussions on a potential “Sunni NATO”, apply blockades on Qatar for not aligning itself with this group and finally attacking Syrian soldiers in Syria. This strategy which rests on Saudi Arabia and Israel (both representing opposite ends of the regressive regimes in the region) aims to stop the growing Russian-Iranian influence in the region and draw millions of dollars from the Gulf States into the USA’s budget. In essence, Trump is continuing a policy akin to that of Bush, one that we are all too familiar with.
SO, WHAT DOES THIS STRATEGY DO FOR THE KURDS?
It is no secret that the USA collaborated with the Iraqi Kurds in the Mosul operation and with the Syrian Kurds (Democratic Syrian Forces) in the Raqqa operation. It is evident that Trump – who had been increasing attacks on Syria and making moves to increase the conflict by bringing the Kurds up against the regime and Iran more often – wishes go beyond this by making the Kurds one of the foundations on which to continue his strategy of increasing tensions and conflict. As such behind the moves by the USA to strengthen its support for the Kurds is the intention to draw the Kurds further into the tension and conflict – a political strategy which puts at risk all the gains made by the Kurds so far.
Firstly we should say this: It is obvious from the Trump administration’s rejection of an “independence referendum” on 25 September in Iraqi Kurdistan, on the pretext that it would be “diverting us from our priorities” shows that the USA is not concerned for the Kurds and that its sole concern is its own interests in the region. This is because what the American representative refers to as “our priorities”, is nothing more than the protection of the arrangements it is has made in Iraq, i.e. the protection of its own interests.
Trump’s first move, based on the allegation that the regime had used chemical weapons in Idlib, was to launch an airstrike on the Syrian regime’s Shayrat Air Base in April. This move was interpreted as one way of getting the American public opinion to recognise his legitimacy. However, the USA and Coalition forces went on to attack the Syrian regime twice as it approached the Iraqi border in the region of Tenef. Following this, the American forces downed a Syrian plane on the pretext that they had attacked the Democratic Syrian Forces in Northern Raqqa in the area of Tabka. In response to this, Russia set aside its “air security agreement” with the USA. Thereafter came the long-range missile attack by Iran on ISIS forces in Deyr-ez Zor. It is clear that the long-range missile attack by Iran was a message to the USA.
Despite counter accusations between the Syrian regime and the Kurds (Democratic Syrian Forces) about the numerous attacks that have taken place, the sticking point comes in the USA’s ambition to settle in the strategically significant Tabka base in the south of Raqqa. Fehim Taştekin, in his article ‘What if the Euphrates turns red’ published in Gazeteduvar earlier this week, revealed that he had been informed by an unnamed YPG commander that YPG representatives and the Russians had met at the Himeymim base in Lazkiye. At this meeting, the Russians said that they did not want the USA to create a base in Tabka and that if the Democratic Syrian Forces want to undertake an operation against ISIS that they would like to see this happen with the Syrian military. Taştekin goes on to say that the Kurds are ready to work in partnership with the Russians but that until their democratic rights are guaranteed they will not work with the Syrian military.
This meeting allows us to see better what the circumstances on the ground are.
Firstly, the USA, through their collaboration with the Kurds, want to expand their dominance in Syria and want a bigger say in Syria’s future. Of course, their effectiveness is not just important for their aspirations Syria, but also for the future of their dominance in Iraq and the region more broadly. On this basis, it is pursuing a political stance which will bring the Kurds (Democratic Syrian Forces) into more frequent conflict with the Syrian regime and Iran.
Russia, on the other hand, wants to stabilise the oversight it has gained over Syria and is ready to both works with the Kurds and aims to broker an agreement between the Kurds and the Syrian regime. As such, it wants to stop the USA and secure stability in Syria under its own supervision.
The Kurds, however, owe their gains so far to the fact that they have never been highly dependent on any larger power. Instead, they used the polarisation and power dynamics in the region as a rationale to establish their own democratic system. In the current circumstances if the Kurds continue to apply Trump’s strategy they will find themselves increasing clashing with the Syrian regime and Iran, and as the conflict goes on they will become more and more dependent on the USA’s strategy. And this situation will prevent the Kurds from protecting the political position they have so far maintained in Syria and the gains made by the Kurds will face a new threat.
Today it might appear that Trump’s strategy doesn’t pose problems for Kurds, however, in the future, it can leave Kurds facing all sorts of problems. We are of course not dismissing Syrian Kurds and DSF’s democratic struggle gains. It must not be forgotten that, based on the Kurd’s recent history, when the USA no longer requires the support of the Kurds for its own interests, it will leave them to face the regressive forces in the region alone.