05 September 2016

The Kurdish Betrayal and a New Phase in the Syrian War

Once again the Kurds have been betrayed by the United States. The so-called Syrian Rebels are largely comprised of Sunni Arab Islamists, al Qaeda franchise affiliates, various groupings of ethnic and ethno-religious minorities and finally, Kurdish YPG militias which are ideological cousins and a virtual offshoot of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) across the border in Turkey. Technically the YPG is the armed wing of the PYD, a Syrian political party that identifies the PKK's Abdullah Öcalan as their ideological leader and inspiration.

To understand the situation of the Kurds in Syria, you have to consider the wider context of the Kurds in the region. This necessarily means discussing the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq.

With the exception of a brief interval, the PKK has been at war with Ankara for the better part of thirty years. Turkey, a NATO member has been backed by the United States and Washington has always consistently labeled the PKK as a terrorist organisation. Turkey feels the same way about the YPG militias across the border in Syria, the same group the US supports as a key component of the Syrian rebel movement. Washington's support of the YPG plays into the larger tension that exists between Erdogan's administration and the American Deep State.

The American relationship and stance with regard to the Kurds is dripping with hypocrisy. Despite factional in-fighting the US backed Kurds in Iraq are not a wholly separate entity from their cousins across the border in Turkey. These groups and their support networks tend to overlap. The PKK is heavily supported by Iraqi Kurds and frequently uses Northern Iraq as a redoubt. And yet because of geopolitics they are often treated as completely different.

In the early 1970s the Iraqi Kurds were supported by the US via the Shah of Iran. Later in the mid-1970s the policy shifted and it was in Iran's interest to make peace with Iraq. The Kurds were dumped and the resistance leaders forced to flee to Iran and in some cases to the USSR.

These former US allies were betrayed once again the in the 1980s as the United States supported Iraq, and then switched and turned on Saddam Hussein in 1990. The Kurds continued to battle Baghdad during the Iran-Iraq War, but during this period they were effectively being opposed by Washington who was lending material and logistical support to Saddam even as he gassed and killed Kurds by the tens of thousands.

At the conclusion of the Gulf War, the United States stood by while Kurds were slaughtered. And then when it was in their interest to do so, they unilaterally established the No-Fly Zones and once again aided the Kurds and befriended them as a major force of 'Freedom Fighters' resisting Baghdad. So now the Iraqi Kurds were friends once more, even while their cousins in Turkey were still reckoned to be terrorists and were dying by the thousand.

The United States supported the Turkish government as they waged the vicious war against the Kurds in Southeast Turkey. The conflict was (and is) marked by death squads, torture and ethnic cleansing. US intelligence was and continues to be connected to some of these elements. The countryside was nearly emptied as refugees fled into cities like Van and Diyarbakir. During much of this period the PKK found its political and administrative haven in Damascus with the Assad regime. And yet, the fighters in Southeast Turkey have often moved into and operate out of enclaves in Northern Iraq where they are supported by their fellow Kurds. The border to them is artificial and due to the mountainous terrain very porous. Kurdish groups on one side are US enemies, on the other side they are supported by the US.

One of the ironies is that US operations supporting Iraqi Kurds were conducted out of Southeast Turkey, the very region where Turkish Kurds were being crushed by US-supported and NATO affiliated Ankara.

Throughout all this, the Kurds in Northeast Syria have largely been immune from the geopolitics, other than the fact they were under the heavy hand of the Assad regimes. Their poor treatment, social and political disenfranchisement, as well as inspiration from their cross-border cousins led them to revolt with the rise of the Syrian Civil War. The threat of ISIS has also motivated them to consolidate and seek their own security and autonomy. Though these Syrian-Kurdish militias are virtually an offshoot of the terrorist designated PKK across the border, the United States has been eager to utilise them.

With the chaos in Syria, the Kurds have sought to carve out a Syrian enclave. They have warred against ISIS and to some extent against the Assad regime. It is the former rather than the latter that is of the greatest concern to them and US support has aided them in carving out an autonomous region, Rojava, a Syrian Kurdistan. Of course at this point, there is no going back. Whatever the final result of this conflict, there are sure to be reprisals and revenge.

By abandoning Kemalism, Turkey's Erdogan found an opportunity to reach out to the Kurds within the Southeast and end the brutal war. And yet, the rise of Kurdish political activism (fueled by regional instability and the threat of Islamic extremism) thwarted his plans for consolidating power. This development coupled with Kurdish territorial expansion across the border in Syria has led Turkey to re-ignite the war with its own Kurds and now as August 2016, the newly formed autonomous enclave in Syria.

Turkey does not want to see any variation of Kurdistan form up on its borders. The US has betrayed the Kurds once more and has offered support to Ankara in this new phase of the Syrian War.

It cannot really be called a Civil War anymore, if it ever could. It's literally a battleground for regional ambitions. It is a great killing field and little more. The US dumped gasoline on what was a small fire and now it is an inferno.

In this most recent phase, Turkey is focused not on Damascus, or even ISIS, but the Kurds, and the US is happy (for the moment) to betray them, because keeping Turkey within its orbit is far more important at present than supporting their allies. America support for the Turkish invasion is publically tepid, as the contradictions of the official policy defy not only description but any coherence apart from just plain sinister and Machiavellian calculation. At this point the White House cannot even maintain a pretence of ideology or principle.

Turkey has been in the process of breaking with NATO and the US-backed coup in July has accelerated this process. Despite Washington's denial, the US has been moving against Erdogan for more than a decade, and everyone knows it. There have been numerous indications of this but with regard to the Kurds, the 2007 Blackwater episode comes to mind.

Though the episode was officially denied by the DoD and State Department, Blackwater functions as a paramilitary front for the US Deep State. That's why it was created and backed. Weapons sales to the PKK in order to thwart Erdogan is precisely the type of operation you would expect from them. The US has opposed Erdogan from the beginning and this hostility was amplified by Erdogan's refusal to support the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. This clandestine support for Erdogan's enemies is done despite the fact that such a policy is rejected within the parameters of official policy.

In another episode of Spy vs. Spy, you have official investigators within the FBI and DoD trying to catch figures that are working at the direction of Deep State leaders within the CIA, JSOC and other organisations that operate within the Unitary Executive/Imperial framework. Sometimes described as inter-agency rivalry, it's much more than that. And yet all too often even investigators within the government have expressed frustrations at being 'shut-down' by higher ups. The investigations are allowed to function and probe and sometimes even a token patsy will fall prey to a prosecutor, but the architects and chief players are never caught. They operate outside the official control of the US government as represented by Congressional legislation. They are quite literally above the law and operate outside it with impunity.

It's beyond the scope of this short essay, but much might also be said with regard to regional drug smuggling and the rather interesting connections that can be found with regard to CIA-affiliates, the PKK, and other regional players. The smuggling funds the wars and many clandestine operations. It's but another chapter in a long story that plays out in a similar way whether it's taking place in the Middle East, Central America, the Balkans or Southeast Asia.

Turkey's involvement in the Syrian War will once more increase tensions with Russia, the very thing the US is hoping for. The US wants to see Turkey and Russia on opposite sides and thus is willing tactically turn on their former allies.

The Kurds will always be there and they always need support and yet Russia has been making overtures to them, especially in Syria. A switch in allegiance would bring about another consequential and dangerous shift in the theatre. The other thing is, the Israelis have been helping the Kurds and operating in their territories (particularly Iraq) for some time. Even though the US has momentarily turned their back on them, Israel can continue to clandestinely offer support. It's a feeding frenzy, with multiple countries supporting multiple groups. The support is often tactical, dependent upon which way the wind is blowing on any given day. The war machine continues to be fed and it's a slaughterhouse.

The US has shifted its policy once more and yet it's not really getting any attention in the mainstream media, nor is it discussed in the presidential election. The US supported Turkish Invasion of Syria represents a dramatic shift and a new phase in the war. The implications for US strategy are significant, and yet, where's the analysis?

What little attention it gets come from strategists and academics who argue for further US intervention based on the bogus and obscenely hypocritical appeal to human rights. Wounded refugee children are put on display leading media figures to tear up on camera... but they conveniently ignore the hundreds of thousands of children that have suffered and died in other US supported conflicts both past and present. The US cannot make any kind of moral or ideological case for its policies or interventions.

This should profoundly disturb any professing 'Christians' operating within the US state-military apparatus. If they are not in a state of moral or ethical crisis, it is only due to the fact that they have closed their eyes and hardened their hearts. They demonstrate they are all too willing to take a paycheck from Murder Incorporated.

These Middle Eastern Wars have grown so complex and confusing and are so detached from the consciousness of the American public, the government and its media mouthpieces are no longer bothering to focus on them. If they do get attention, it is only in the realm of public relations and propaganda. There's never any real analysis. For that matter the media almost never identifies who it is the US is even supporting.

A larger story regarding Syria is the conflicting policies coming out of the White House, CIA and Pentagon. Different militias are being supported and often they are fighting one another. This may be deliberate. Fan the flames, unleash the dogs of war! Generate chaos!

The identification of this chaos as incoherent, a sort of Keystone Cop episode on display may indeed reflect the power struggles within the American Establishment. But on another level, such 'chaos' often leads to centralisation under the guise of reform and almost always includes increased funding.

The chaos is a ploy, a means not an end. The instability is spreading and affording new opportunities for tactical moves and the implementation of a wider array of objectives. Though as mentioned before, it's absolutely sinister and cannot but create an attitude of cynicism within these very institutions. The Blowback from the Syrian Debacle and the wider US policy post-9/11 and now in particular under Obama has yet to be seen. Obama did bring some change. He's widened the war spectrum and has been previously mentioned, and he has (perhaps ironically, perhaps not) spearheaded a continuation of the PNAC/Neo-Con agenda.

He has given American Imperialism some 'hope', but it spells little more than despair for millions of people at the receiving end of his policies.

The US is standing with Erdogan for the moment, but the Empire is merely biding its time, waiting for the right moment and circumstance. And then, everything will 'flip' once more.




  1. At one point a few years back there was hope that the long Kurdish (PKK) war would end but it would seem that's all done now. The volatility of Northern Iraq and the Syrian Civil War reignited Ankara's concerns of Kurdish nationalism.

    The US is supporting the Kurds in Iraq but is playing a dubious double-game with them in Syria. The Kurdish resistance in Turkey has long been declared outlaw and terrorist.

    The layers are complicated and the situation keeps shifted. The Ankara-Washington relationship is pretty shaky. The Qatar crisis is only making a bad situation more tense. The showdown involves US allies but Trump is clearly backing the Saudis. Ankara is backing Doha and if the crisis escalates it is but another tear in the fragile fabric of US/NATO - Turkey relations.


  2. A new phase? How many turns will this war take?

    The Turkish invasion and newly declared war to annihilate the YPG sets up Turkey vs. US interests. Washington is reeling, Moscow is wary. There's bound to be more trouble with the PKK in SE Turkey. That war has already been basically reignited. The Syria War slogs on, re-set the gameboard and begin another round.

    As far as Erdogan is concerned, the US is an enemy. They back Salafi terrorism in his nation, they harbour his enemies, they back the Kurds... even though the US has in the past declared the PKK a terrorist organisation, but through the PKK affiliated YPG the US is shifting its position. Thus far to my knowledge they've limited support to the Kurds in Syria even while still condemning the PKK in Turkey. The fluid reality on the ground may defy the policy.

    Additionally as far as Erdogan is concerned the US was the major player behind the coup and assassination attempt.

    What can he do? US bases are on his soil along with nuclear weapons. He has to tread carefully. He's not getting any help from Europe. I think he's being patient but his eventual plan has to be to push the Americans out. A NATO exit will quickly change the calculus vis-à-vis the Caucasus, Greece and Cyprus. Erdogan thus far has avoided rashness, but this all out invasion of Northern Syria is by all accounts a pretty substantial move.

    More likely Erdogan will continue to attempt to shrink NATO's influence within his country. He will downplay Turkey's participation in NATO as he has already done... on several fronts. And yet (I think) he will continue on 'officially' part of NATO and yet under what could probably be described as a ghost membership. Being in NATO is dangerous, but being out may prove suicidal.