Kurds in Syria

Discussion in 'World Events' started by mathman, Sep 18, 2018.

  1. mathman Valued Senior Member

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    In today's (NY Times) story about Syria, describing an agreement between Turkey and Russia establishing a buffer zone between government forces and Idlib rebel area in northwestern Syria, the article said this wast the last area in rebellion. I always understood that Kurds controlled much of northeastern Syria, with US backing, and these Kurds were not allied to the government. Are they rebels? If not, what are they within Syrian politics?
     
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  3. sculptor Valued Senior Member

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    It seems most likely that the Syrian Kurds will eventually work out an agreement with Syria wherein they would be semi-autonomous.

    Unless, of course(highly unlikely), Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran are willing to allow the creation of Kurdistan.
     
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  5. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    That's an error. (Not the first that the New York Times has made.)

    Sort of. They like to play ambiguous.

    They claim that they accept Assad's authority (provided that he doesn't try to exercise it in their turf). They insist that they aren't trying to break up Syria.

    I guess that they are aiming at establishing an autonomous area of some sort.

    I agree with Sculptor that Assad wouldn't accept Syria breaking up and Turkey would never accept an independent Kurdish state on their border. Both countries would probably go to war against the Syrian Kurds if they declared independence. And it's exceedingly unlikely that the US would go to war not only against Assad but against Turkey as well, to save the Kurds.

    So I don't see that th Kurds have much choice, longer term, besides making some kind of agreement with Assad. Presumably the terms of that arrangement are what's undecided at the moment.
     
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  7. CptBork Robbing the Shalebridge Cradle Valued Senior Member

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    If America abandons the Kurds to the mercies of Assad and Erdogan, they'll need more than a little luck finding local allies to help fight their wars on terror in the future. Therefore I hope the US stays at least until the Kurds need no longer fear any sort of retribution, with or without a deal.
     
  8. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Why doesn't Canada do what you ask? Why isn't it Canadian Forces in there defending the Kurds, even if it means Canada going to war with both Syria and Turkey? Why must it always be the United States? (While our ostensible "allies" insult us behind our backs and pretend to be superior and less militarist?)

    In real life, countries have interests. They seek allies in order to defend those interests. They engage in military adventures in order to advance those interests. Until the U.S. started pretending (in the 1990's?) to behave solely on the basis of higher ethical principle, it used to behave the same way.

    The Kurds are in a vulnerable exposed position with enemies on both sides. They will seek allies who can offer them military protection wherever they can find them. Stronger military powers will agree to that role, provided that they see some advantage in it for themselves. The Kurds will only reject an alliance with the US as you suggest, if they think that they have a better alternative. That's not looking very promising for them right now.

    Many of the other Arab countries are very concerned about the rise of Iran. Iran is very close to having nuclear weapons and it already has ballistic missiles capable of hitting its neighbors. They are developing the ability to close off the Persian Gulf to shipping and hence dry up petroleum exports to Europe and East Asia. With the prospect of Iran soon becoming a Shi'ite Islamic superpower, its neighbors feel a need to ally themselves with a strong military power capable of standing up to a rising Iran. That's what motivates them, it's their interest.

    They are going to have that interest regardless of what the US does. It's kind of inherent in their situation. The only question is whether the US is the best place to look for a protective alliance. China hasn't stepped into that role yet. Russia would like to, but with Syria already on their plate, they don't really have the means. The European Union has the economic and industrial clout to do it, but they have avoided developing their own military capabilities like the plague. They have always felt that it was their interest to off-shore their own military defense to the United States military (at US expense) while devoting their own funds to their own welfare-states.

    So when it comes to the role of 'potential military ally' for weaker countries that feel threatened, the US is just about the only game in town.

    The obvious question that arises then is what is in the United States' interest? Is it in the US interest to get into a ground war with Syria and Turkey? Probably not. The Kurds don't offer enough.
     
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  9. CptBork Robbing the Shalebridge Cradle Valued Senior Member

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    Frankly I wish Canada spent what it's supposed to be spending on national defense, and even more importantly I wish it were spent in an efficient way that achieved results; our annual military budget is already higher than Israel's, but I don't think anyone would think to give us the advantage if we engaged them anywhere outside Canada. But to our credit, we never told the Kurds that we'd protect them from everyone else if they support our fight against ISIS, whereas my understanding is the US did just that.

    You miss the point, it's not specifically just about the Kurds. Next time the US finds itself engaged in some sort of dispute or conflict and the smaller players find themselves having to choose a side, they will look at how the US treated the Kurds in their time of need and decide whether to cast their lot in with the US on that basis. If you declare yourself someone's ally, and accepting that alliance automatically makes your allies into someone else's enemy, you need to stick with those allies when their enemies come to punish them for taking your side. Unless the US plans on committing genocide in the Middle East and replacing the population with American settlers, you will need local allies to get anything done in the region.

    I'm fully in agreement with your position on Europe's failure to fund its militaries to implement the global policies they call for, and that's one reason the US isn't required to take their interests into account when deploying its own military to solve problems, just like it doesn't need to account for Canada's either. But you neglect here to mention America's own interest in the matter, which would be to prevent its trade partners in the Middle East from making a deal with Iran that amounts to surrender and blocks the US from doing business in the region, also to prevent Iran (with Russian and Chinese assistance) from dominating the region and aligning it against you, which are both clear Iranian goals.

    Israel doesn't need any help because it has enough nukes and other WMD's to trigger global armageddon in case no one else wants to defend it, or they could simply start annexing territory from anyone who threatens them while whiny foreign hypocrites complain, but if Americans don't come through on their commitments to allies in their times of need, Arab countries will either be allying with hostile powers, or building and purchasing their own nuclear arsenals just like Israel. If I were Ukrainian, I'd already see it as a critical historical blunder to dismantle their post-Soviet nuclear arsenal, based on the expectation that the US and Europe would go to war with Russia to protect them or at least enact crippling sanctions. So imagine what's going through the heads of every other US ally or would-be ally when they consider their options for self-defense, and ask yourself if it's in America's interests to see all these nations and militias freelancing.

    As I say, they can always whore themselves out to Iran, Russia and China if no one else will help defend them, and those are countries so obsessed with harming the US that sometimes they even harm their own interests in order to do so.

    ISIS was at the bottom of Assad's priority list (except when preaching to his KKK friends in the US), which is why America got directly involved in the region to begin with. Indeed, Assad used those same terrorists to kill over one million Iraqi civilians and keep American troops bogged down in Iraq for a decade. The Kurds offer you plenty, and you could at least threaten to give Turkey the boot from NATO and a lot of other exclusive clubs if they intervene. But as I've pointed out, it's not only about the Kurds, it's about having allies stick their necks out for you when you need them to do so, without them fearing that you'll abandon them as soon as Henry Kissinger thinks it's convenient.
     
  10. mathman Valued Senior Member

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    The current situation in Kurdish Syria seems to be the existence of US presence (air support mostly) seems to be enough to keep the situation stalemated. The short term US objective is to finish off the remnants of ISIS.
     
  11. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Hopefully that's true (it's up to Assad and Erdogan if it isn't), since it's relatively low-cost for the US and sustainable in the long-term. I expect that the US is prepared to engage Assad's air force in the sky if they attack the Kurds. (The Syrian air force is hugely degraded by years of civil war and wouldn't be a big challenge.) I'm less sure whether the US would fight the well-equipped Turkish air force if they did the same. Turkey is a NATO country and flies US equipment, even if they currently have more planes than pilots due to the mass purges after the coup attempt. (I'm sure there are those, the Russians and the Iranians for instance, that would love to see the US and Turkey get into a shooting war.)

    Yes. When we got involved fighting the ISIS 'caliphate', ISIS had the Kurds on the ropes. (Remember the siege of Kobani?) So the Kurds were overjoyed that the US was willing to help them fight ISIS. ISIS threatened the Kurds much more directly than they threatened the US. Hence an alliance to fight ISIS was in both the US and the Kurds interest.

    But given that ISIS is pretty much destroyed, no longer holds any territory and is reduced to small groups of militants mostly trying to escape, the question is where the US alliance with the Kurds goes from here. I don't think that it was ever envisioned (by the US anyway) as an open-ended absolute security guarantee against any and all threats.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2018
  12. CptBork Robbing the Shalebridge Cradle Valued Senior Member

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    Turkey doesn't want to see Idlib attacked and another wave of refugees created, nor does it want to be diplomatically isolated if Russia or its allies decide to attack their observation posts. That can surely be used as leverage for the time being to guarantee that Turkey leaves the Kurds alone and lets them have their autonomy, combined with other forms of diplomatic pressure unrelated to Idlib. Turkey really doesn't have many friends at the moment and Erdogan has even less; it would be a terrible idea for them to alienate whoever's left and wait for Putin to come twist their arms.

    If Russia and Assad eventually do choose to attack, there are plenty of options to retaliate that wouldn't be sufficient to spark WW3 against a rational opponent, and against an irrational opponent, war would be inevitable regardless. None of the players on that side of the conflict, Iran included, can afford to deploy overwhelming firepower against US forces, nor can they even get their existing forces into position without getting bombed enroute. Russia fears both the military and economic consequences of provoking a direct open clash, but if they decided to go for it anyway, you can be assured they were going to challenge US forces somewhere in the world at some point no matter what. If necessary, there are options for striking Assad without trying to outright topple him or occupy the country with ground troops, like bombing critical government and military infrastructure to paralyze his regime and force him to the negotiating table.

    Bottom line is ISIS can come back just like Assad allowed it to sprout and thrive the first time, and due to his deliberate destruction of the country, terrorism is a far more attractive prospect than ever before amongst those who remain in Syria and amongst homeless refugees. Beyond that, if the US acts like electing a new president entitles it to walk away from past commitments to its allies, not only will it not have committed allies to protect its "interests" in the future, but to leave Syria and abandon the Kurds at the slightest sign of Russian pressure will only encourage Russia to try its luck against the US elsewhere and on a larger scale.
     
  13. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    In real life, the interests of the "countries" overall are seldom primary motives for war.
    And the US has been pretending to high-minded ethical motivation for war since WWII at least, in every one of dozens of military ventures (As a rule of thumb, nothing significantly different or bad or dishonest in US politics started in the '90s.).
     
  14. mathman Valued Senior Member

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    US has had a long standing relationship with the Kurds in Iraq (starting from the Gulf war - 1991). It is possible the same will happen with the Syrian Kurds.
     
  15. CptBork Robbing the Shalebridge Cradle Valued Senior Member

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    What should really be happening is that Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria should all be taken to task for trying to gerrymander the Kurds out of existence. Between them, they have more people and territory than an average medium-sized country.
     
  16. mathman Valued Senior Member

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    The problem with the Kurds being spread out over four countries originated with the British and French after WW I, where they (and others) settled on how to split up the Ottoman empire, ignoring self determination for non-Europeans.
     
  17. CptBork Robbing the Shalebridge Cradle Valued Senior Member

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    Yup, but the dominant factions who've inherited or seized those territories since have been unwilling to give back what should have never been theirs in the first place.
     

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