Alwaght – The Syrian crisis has highly led to appearance of strategic differences among the main actors, leading to each of them having its own understanding of the threat sources and the reasons behind continuation of the war.
Such a division is even existing among the old allies, like the US and Turkey, the two strategic partners in West Asia that saw their views conflicting over an array of cases associated with the crisis in Syria.
In recent years, the most divisive issue between Ankara and Washington giving rise to different approaches has been Syria’s Kurdish militant factions operating on the ground within a bloc called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The recent years saw the US intervention in the war-ravaged Syria. This trend even expanded after Donald Trump’s election as US president who under the cover of battling terrorism but with the real intention of countering the growing Iranian influence in the region and also putting strains on Russia stepped up the war against ISIS terrorist group in Syria.
But the American officials faced limitations for direct presence in the crisis-hit country largely because of a set of roadblocks including the Russian and Iranian opposition and the American public opinion’s decline to show green light for such an intervention. This pushed the US administration to turn head to the Kurds on the strength of whom it could pursue its Syria military strategy.
But the American officials even in this case have their own opponents. Washington’s heading to the Kurdish forces for recapture of the Raqqa, the stronghold of ISIS in Syria, and its arming of them with heavy weapons has drawn strong objection of the Turkish leaders who view the Kurdish militants of Syria as affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which is labeled by Ankara a terrorist group.
The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly voiced concern over US arms support for the Kurds, asserting that the US provision of weapons for the Kurdish fighters was in conflict with the strategic Washington-Ankara relations.
“We want to believe that our allies will prefer to side with us, not with a terrorist organization,” Erdogan told a conference in Ankara in May.
As the Turkish voice of protest against American-Kurdish relations rose, the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis assured that the US was committed to protection of Turkey. The Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik last week said that the American defense secretary in a letter told them that the US will update Turkey every month with a list of weapons supplied to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). He further said that weapons will not remain in hands of the Kurdish fighters.
“The United States has told Turkey it will take back weapons supplied to the Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria after the defeat of ISIS”, Ankara said on Thursday.
But questions remain standing about how much the Americans will keep their promises or if they can take back their weapons from the Kurdish militias.
Kurdish opposition to disarming after ISIS
At first place, the Americans will need to get the Kurdish approval for any plan to disarm them. The Kurds, in practice, have denied that the US intends to take its arms back once the fight is over. Nouri Mohamad, the spokesman to the YPG, has told a press conference that the Turkish claims of returning the weapons in post-ISIS time were invalid and “baseless”. The analysts understand Nouri’s comments as a Kurdish statement of stance against any disarming process, rather than an attempt to make clarifications on the alleged US promise to the Turks.
The Kurds have so far sustained huge casualties in their push for retaking Raqqa as part of alliance with the Americans, and so the received arms are considered as part of the compensation for their losses under a bilateral deal. On the other side, the Kurds do not deny possibility of a Turkish military action against them. Furthermore, they know it well that they have to expect war any time with Turkey unless Ankara makes sure that there will be no independent region of Kurdistan in northern Syria, where it can border the Turkish territories. So as long as Turkey and the Kurds have conflicting views now and in the future, the Kurdish factions will keep and rely on the US-supplied arms for self-defense rather than on Washington’s promises of protection against any Turkish hostility as they live under the umbrella of war expectations.
US inability and unwillingness to take back arms
Still from another aspect about the reasons behind US decline to retake arms from the YPG, it can be noted that the US lacks any practical grounds to implement the stated plan for arms retaking. The US has so far spent so much time and money to train the Kurdish fighters. Any attempts to make the weapons return to the US will push the Kurds to move towards Russia. The sudden US cutting of ties with the Kurds does not look rational, even in the eyes of the Americans.
Moreover, the US behavioral patterns repeatedly disclosed the fact that the American official always put the ways to serve their interests first. While Turkey strongly opposes Syria partition and birth of an independent Kurdish region in Syria’s north, the Israeli regime, a key ally of the US, is pressing towards this aim. Washington has always shown consideration of the Israeli interests as a priority.
Presently, part of the American forces in the region are stationed in the US northern Syria military base, and the experts do not see unlikely Washington building an air base in north, something running counter to the US promises of Kurdish arms taking back that could lead to cracking the alliance with the Syrian Kurds.