By Pier Francesco Zarcone*
ROME (IDN) – The U.S. decision to train about 30,000 men of a Kurdish militia on the Turkish-Syrian border was considered a reckless initiative with catastrophic consequences – and that immediately turned out to be the case – but, paradoxically, it is also understandable in the global Syrian situation. Let us leave aside the issue of violation of the sovereignty of the Syrian state, given that the United States makes and undoes international law as it pleases and the media present this as if it were normal.
The reasons for judging the U.S. move as reckless can be easily identified. The lesser of these lies in the notorious unreliability of Kurdish political-military organisations, accompanied by bungling opportunism and yet constantly exploited and betrayed by their allies of the moment.
Given that the initiative in question means strengthening the Kurdish presence in northern Syrian north, that is below the Turkish border, it was also obvious that the Ankara government would never have let pass such a precedent in favour of an armed nucleus which it considers affiliated to the PKK in Turkey.
If we want to be really realistic, even at the cost of seeming brutal, it is now clearly established that exclusively in the presence of particular historical conditions – as happened in Iraq – it is possible for a Kurdish population to achieve forms of autonomy within the State in which it resides. But independence is not going to happen: this was seen with the miserable end of the Kurdish-Iraqi independence referendum which was completely disregarded by the immediate blockade imposed by the governments of Baghdad, Ankara and Tehran.
It was not therefore difficult to predict that for the Syrian Kurds a positive response to U.S. pandering would have exposed them to Turkish reaction. And it does not seem that Washington is helping them, just as it remained silent when the Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum provoked the aforementioned reactions.
A further example of recklessness (and harmful conduct for the Kurds), if indeed the United States thought of strengthening Kurdish autonomy in northern Syria, concerns the fact that – even apart from the inevitable Turkish reaction – the hostility of Damascus, Ankara and Baghdad in the face of this initiative imposed by Washington would have once again led to a military and economic block on the area in question, which could not have survived for long.
Moreover – and not unimportantly – it should be noted that once again the United States has prepared a beautiful gift for Russian foreign policy. Turkey may well be a NATO ally, but it has long taken care of its own political and economic interests.
Specifically today, there is the fact that the Turkish military reaction is a real challenge to the United States, which currently has five military bases in the area controlled by the Syrian Kurds (so much for the government in Damascus!), especially since Washington had urged the Turkish government not to engage in armed intervention against Kurdish militias.
Perhaps Ankara would have turned a blind eye to the mere U.S. project of using the Syrian areas controlled by the Kurds as a starting point for further action in Syria and Iraq, but militarily reinforcing this enclave also means creating a base of support for Kurdish separatists in Turkey – and under a US umbrella.
Meanwhile, it is reported that during a telephone call with his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Major-General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, asked for guarantees on Syrian territorial integrity and safeguarding of the peace talks in Astana.
That Damascus should protest the Turkish action is more than natural, but it is probable that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Valdimir Putin will remain watching the course of events: after all, Erdoğan also works for them. Not only does the deterioration in relations between Ankara and Washington go down well in Damascus and Moscow but, above all, if Turkey were to crush Syrian Kurdish militias the consequence would be the need for the United States to withdraw physically from Syria.
Tehran would also gloat, because in this case the U.S.-Israeli plan against Iran would be greatly weakened. Once again, we will see, but if Turkey were able to deliver heavy blows to Washington’s Kurdish allies in Syria, Trump & Co. would receive a hard blow to their image. Meanwhile, Ankara quietly continues to cooperate with Moscow in the preparation of the Congress for the Syrian National Dialogue (between government and opposition representatives), expected in Sochi between January 29 and 30.
We are facing an initiative that is both desperate and understandable at the same time. In fact, in the situation brought about by decided and decisive Russian intervention, all that now remains for the United States is to “stick to the Kurds” if it wants to maintain a physical presence in Syria.
The choice of favouring a phantom Syrian Free Army had proved a failure due to the military and political inconsistency of this opposition – moreover “pseudo-moderate” – rapidly overwhelmed by jihadists of various tendencies and finally by ISIS; and also the legitimation of an-Nusra affiliated to al-Qaida!) has come to nothing, with its militias having been badly bruised by the action of al-Assad’s army and the shots of ISIS.
Abstractly speaking, the convergence towards the Kurds could have been a usable card, undoubtedly dangerous, but not without some utility if played wisely, that is to say without overdoing it. This is not how it turned out and, once again, the United States has behaved as if only it existed in the world.
* Pier Francesco Zarcone, with a degree in canonical law, is a historian of the labour movement and a scholar of Islam, among others. He is a member of Utopia Red (Red Utopia), an international association working for the unity of revolutionary movements around the world in a new International: La Quinta (The Fifth). This article was originally published in Italian under the title La Milizia Curda di Trump in Siria in Red Utopia. Translated by Phil Harris. [IDN-InDepthNews – 23 January 2018]
Photo: A US military officer and YPG and YPJ commanders tour an area hit by Turkish airstrikes in April 2017. YPG, the People’s Protection Units, is a mainly-Kurdish militia in Syria and the primary component of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria’s Syrian Democratic Forces. YPJ, The YPJ is an acronym whose translation means Women’s Protection Units. It is the all-female brigade of the YPG. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
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