“Kurds have no friends but the mountains.” - Saying
Turkey’s operation in Afrin against the Kurds is yet another dramatic turn in Syria, the proxy battleground of the Middle East. The war has shifted in dramatic ways over time and last year the end came in sight with the defeat of ISIS and Syrian government troops conquering most of the territory. Managing the post-war mess was always going to be the most complicated task because of the conflicting visions of the large regional players regarding the country’s future. Those who are almost certain to lose appear to be the USA and Israel, who backed the most able and most despised fighters: the Kurds.
None of the 4 countries with Kurdish populations are interested in seeing the establishment of an independent Kurdish state. Turkey’s operation is thus nothing less than the logical consequence of its internal policies. The Kurds have managed to charm the Western audiences with their claims of democracy and promotion of values close to Western ones but in the Middle East they are a minority with little political power. Aligning with them was a safe and effective way to fight ISIS, but their usefulness is decreasing by the day as the threat from ISIS dissipates and the large neighboring countries weight in.
The USA’s initial support for the creation of a Kurdish ‘border force‘ in Northern and Eastern Syria was particularly badly welcomed by its neighbors. Turkey chose to focus on the isolated Kurdish outpost of Afrin, most probably to send a message to the Kurds and its backers, who control a large part of North Eastern Syria. The Syrian government is definitely against partition of its land or foreign intervention from its despised neighbor, but doesn’t have the power to counter any of the two. As a result, supplies continue to flow to support Afrin through governmental lines.
Yet Turkey sent a force smaller than required to quickly and decisively destroy the Kurds in Afrin. It has sent modern tanks but its forces must still fight with battle hardened veterans and high tech weapons (especially ATGM, which have now become ubiquitous throughout the region’s warzones). Turkey knows it is treading on eggshells by taking on a US’ ally in a foreign country. The fast moving situation continues to evolve in surprising ways, though we can already foresee that the Kurds will be the biggest loser.
Meanwhile, the USA and Israel now have to face the consequence of their alignment with the Kurds and their (unholy) alliances with Jihadists. The recent attack on Syrian government forces in Eastern Syria is suspicious and a reminder that the US vigorously continues to fight Syria’s legitimate government and sovereignty. And Israel’s loss of a fighter plane to Syria’s air defenses shows that it cannot continue to operate unhindered in its weakened neighbor. Both countries are fighting rearguard actions and rapidly losing goodwill in the region and throughout the world, and when they will have to realign, the first allies to be thrown out will be the Kurds… As usual.
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Picture of the week: Canyon in Kurdistan
About Carlito Riego
"Great perfection may appear imperfect, but its usefulness is inexhaustible. Great abundance may appear empty, but its usefulness cannot be exhausted. Great correctness may appear twisted, great skills appear crude, great eloquence appear awkward. Activity conquers cold; inactivity conquers heat. Clear serenity governs the world." - Lao Zi