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The US leadership continues to comment on its decision to withdraw American troops from Syria. This decision affects not only the US position. In fact, the United States betrayed its closest allies in Syria – the Kurds. What fate does await the Syrian Kurds? What concessions will they have to make to Damascus?
The Arab newspaper Ash-Sharq al-Awsat reports that the Kurds had offered a settlement plan to Moscow and Damascus. It involves the transfer of control over the North-East region to the Syrian authorities in exchange for recognition of the Kurds’ right to self-government. In retaliation, the Assad troops must ensure the protection of the Syrian-Turkish border to save the Kurdish people. Russia must act as a guarantor of this agreement.
At the end of December 2018, Trump’s unexpected, emotional and seemingly not entirely logical decision on to withdraw American troops from Syria caught everyone off guard. Practically everybody was angry with Trump: liberals, conservatives, even pacifists and feminists (the Kurdish topic is a special conversation for them). The head of the Pentagon four-star general James Mattis resigned next day. The State Department, the CIA and the Pentagon kept quiet.
It is easy to understand the reaction of American politicians – the withdrawal of American troops will have a serious impact on the situation in the Syria Arab Republic.It will hit primarily the Kurds, who have recently been allies of the United States.
Before the beginning of the civil war in Syria, the Kurds were not in good position. For decades they suffered from harassment of Assad’s father. Many of them were deprived of citizenship and the right for private property. Some fled into the desert. The teaching of the national language was banned in schools.
The civil war gave the Kurds a chance. Over the time, they rose to their feet. The Kurds took control and influence on such cities as Manbij, Afrin, Hasaka, Rakka, Tabka, and Tell-Rifat.
The Kurds have indeed intensified. It seemed that they would not leave the natural range of their existence and protection of their areas. Gradually, their influence began to be felt in the provinces of Aleppo and Deirez-Zor.
About 2,000 American military advisers and marinesare currently stationed on the territory of Syrian Kurdistan (the province of Hasaka). US created there at least two military bases. American troops and advisers received the most modern weapons and equipment, which they transmitted to the Kurds. They trained Kurdish fighters. Over the time, the Kurdishunits became a serious power and expanded their territories to the South, West and North, up to the Syrian-Turkish border. The Kurds have made a major contribution on the liberation of the ISIS capital in Syrian – Raqqi. Now the city, and in general, some of the provinces of the same name are under the control of Kurdish units.
Naturally, Damascus saw this as separatism on an ethnic basis. The situation was intensified by the mutual historical and anthropological hostility of the Arabs and Kurds.
The Kurds conducted negotiations with Damascus. Assad demanded a strong easing of autonomy and access to oil facilities in the Northeast (they were under the control of the Kurds). Negotiations have failed. It seemed to Kurds that Assad demands too much. Moreover, there was not even a hint that the Americans could leave Syria.
The Kurds have no allies in the region. The Iranians historically dislike them. Moscow tries to keep a distance from the Kurds. Some years ago the delegation of Kurds headed by their leader Salih Muslim came to Moscow. But it had no result. Noteworthy that it has happened before the Americans started supporting the Kurds. By the way, in the middle of December 2018, the Kurdish delegation also visited Moscow. However, Russia advised them to ask for help from Damascus.
Turkey views the Kurds as a threat to national security. The desire of the Kurdish people to create a state center is an existential threat to Turkish statehood. Ankara fears the growing Kurdish factor, considering the Kurds of Syria as terrorists.
That is why the Turkish Army or at least the pro-Turkish groups, with the support of Ankara, can launch an offensive on the border cities in order to push the Kurds deeper into Syria. There is one more scenario: the airstrikes of the Turkish Air Force to the key logistics and infrastructure positions of the Kurds in the Northeast.
The withdrawal of US troops from Syria is a difficult matter in any case. Trump said: “We will leave Syria for a certain time. But we will continue to defend the Kurds”. According to various estimates, the process could take about four months.
The outcome is already closed. It will become clear where the Kurds will turnin a few months. Most likely, the turn will be in the direction of Damascus. This is probably the lesser of evils. The Kurds have already ceded control of some territories to Damascus – and they will have to make further concessions. Assad also has long required the integration of part of the Kurdish fighters in the regular Syrian Army and access to the oil fields in the Northeast.
There is no doubt that the US is betraying its former allies and using them in the light of its own interests. Americans need the Kurds only as an armed force opposing both Syrian and Turkish troops. In other words, the United States is simply playing the Kurdish cards, which should be useful at the right moment.
By Clement Kpeklitsu