Oct. 18, 2019
The End of Kurdish Autonomy in Syria? – Jonathan Spyer
In the early years of the revolt against his regime, Assad was desperately short of loyal manpower and unilaterally withdrew his forces from Syria’s northeast in June-July 2012. The Kurds had to fight for their lives from the beginning as the jihadists of Jabhat al-Nusra attempted to wipe them out.
Islamic State then sought to destroy the Kurdish enclave of Rojava in mid-2014. The jihadi forces swallowed up village after village as they headed toward the town of Kobani. Just a few hundred YPG fighters remained in the town, prepared to fight the jihadists to the death. But ISIS never took Kobani. A new partnership with U.S. air power, the artillery of Masoud Barzani’s Peshmerga from Kurdistan in Iraq, and the grit, courage and self-sacrifice of the YPG stopped them. It took another four years of fighting and 11,000 dead from the ranks of the YPG and its allies (now the SDF) to destroy the ISIS caliphate.
I worked a lot in the SDF areas during this campaign and remember the faces and the names of many friends and acquaintances killed in those years. The Kurdish fighters maintained an odd sort of fatalism. If you were there, it was reasoned, you were ready to die and willing for it.
After the caliphate was destroyed, the most common predictions were that the Americans would leave at some point, given the limited nature of their commitment. If that happened, there would be a need for a rapid deal with the Syrian regime to prevent a Turkish/Sunni Islamist rampage. The writer is director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis. (Jerusalem Post)
Turkey’s Syria Offensive Puts Alliance with U.S. near Breaking Point – Soner Cagaptay
The war in Iraq solidified the views of many in the U.S. that Turkey wasn’t a reliable ally, and in Turkey that the U.S. was a faraway power that creates chaos and civil war that Turkey then has to deal with. A decade later, Turkey turned a blind eye to radicals crossing into Syria in its push to oust Bashar al-Assad. These radicals morphed into ISIS.
Resentment over the 4 million Syrian refugees that Turkey has taken in has been intensified by an economic downturn. It’s forcing Erdogan to make it look like he’s doing something to address the refugee problem. And that something will be to repatriate some refugees into Syria.
Turkey’s offensive is focused on an Arab-majority corridor where Turkish troops will, by and large, be welcomed. If Turkey goes maximalist and expands its reach into solidly Kurdish areas, then it will face an insurgency. The writer is director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)