The US Syrian strategy has yet to be clearly articulated, Parwez Rahim Kader, a lecturer with the Erbil-based Salahaddin University, told Sputnik, commenting on the US-Turkish controversy over American military aid to the Syrian Kurds. According to Kader, if the US halts supplying arms to the Kurds, the latter may seek closer ties with Damascus.
One should not forget that the US has no consistent strategy in Syria, especially within the current administration, Parwez Rahim Kader, a lecturer with the Erbil-based Salahaddin University, told Sputnik, commenting on Donald Trump’s November 24 pledge to stop arming the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
“The most important point here is that sending more military support is not part of the US strategy. For this reason, this seems to be contradicting with the US strategy,” Kader pointed out. “Only in the longer term, it will be known to us whether the US abandons the Kurds or not… This will depend on the changes on the ground, the balance of power between regional actors and the issue of terrorism or the reemergence of terrorist groups.”
US Intentions in Syria ‘Are Not Quite Clear’
Kader emphasized that the US’ actual intentions “are not quite clear.” In any event, while “direct and visible military supplies to the Kurds might be suspended,” the military cooperation and support “will continue indirectly in a new framework,” he believes.
According to the academic, “the situation very much depends on the changes on the ground in Syria, especially the US-Russia agreement on the future of Syria on the one hand and US-Turkey relations on the other hand.” At the same time, the Israel-Iran conflict and their Kurdish strategy also remains an important factor.
If the US continues to support the YPG “Turkey will most likely try to contain the Kurdish forces and all measures will be pursued to end the de facto control of these forces,” he said.
However, under this scenario terrorist groups on the ground will benefit the most from the ongoing hostility and bolster their positions by filling the vacuum, the academic noted. Simultaneously, Iran and the Syrian government would gain more power and leverage in that case, according to Kader.
US Attempts to Normalize Relations With Turkey Likely to Fail
Referring to Trump’s promise to curb arms deliveries to the Syrian Kurds given during the phone call to his Turkish counterpart, the academic suggested that Washington is “trying to normalize its relations with Turkey” as it “is not happy with the Russo-Turkish rapprochement.”
“Here, the Kurds seem to be the best card to be given to Turkey as a privilege, while there are tensions between the US and Turkey now on the case of involvement with Reza Zarrab by Erdogan’s relatives and the involvement in financial corruption related to the sanctions on Iran,” Kader stressed.
The US is carrying out an investigation into Reza Zarrab, a dual citizen of Turkey and Iran who was arrested in the US in March 2016 over alleged violation of anti-Iranian sanctions. Speaking to the NTV broadcaster on Sunday Erdogan highlighted criminal prosecution of Turkish citizens in the US was part of a broader plan aimed at driving a wedge into Turkish society.
“They [the United States] are trying to punish, condemn and compromise us because we do not stick to their scripts, which are obvious and are being carried out through their co-authors in our country,” the Turkish president said.
In this context it is somewhat unlikely that Ankara under Erdogan will normalize relations with Washington, despite US efforts to “decrease the concerns of Turkey in arming the Kurds in Syria” and keep the Turkish leadership away from the Russo-Iranian bloc, the academic suggested.
He underscored that the US needs Turkey to curtail Iran’s influence in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Still the tensions between Ankara and Washington “are likely to continue until the US and Russia reach an agreement on different issues in the region,” he said.
The Syrian Kurds May Change the Whole Dynamic by Mending Fences With Damascus
According to Kader, in case the US cut its military aid to the Syrian Kurds, the latter are likely to seek closer ties with the Bashar al-Assad government. “However, we have to mention that the Assad [government] without Russia and Iran cannot determine the political dynamics,” he believes.
He highlighted that “Russia has become the winner number one in the Syrian crisis” since “it has maintained its historical presence in Syria, prevented the fall of the Assad [government], and internationally has boosted its leverage and prestige and forced the US to make concessions.”
The academic suggested that if the Syrian Kurds mend fences with Damascus, then Russia, “as the protector” of the Syrian government “might not allow Turkey to weaken the Kurds.” He insists that “the Russian and Turkish interests are not aligned in Syria,” adding that it is possible that Moscow “will keep the Kurdish card to use it against [Ankara] in case of conflict with Turkey.
“If that happens Russia will replace the US support to the Kurds. Again, this is a scenario; much depends on the shifts in the balance of power in the post-ISIS [Daesh] context and if the US completely abandons the Kurds,” Kader suggested.
On December 5 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan once again raised the issue of the US’ providing military support to the Syrian Kurds, wondering what is behind the growing number of US bases in northern Syria and further deliveries of weapons to the YPG.
“Why are weapons being delivered to the region? Where and against whom will it be used by the US? Against Iran or against Turkey? Or, in case, they are courageous enough, against Russia?” Erdogan asked at the meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Ankara regards the YPG as an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a designated terrorist organization in Turkey, the United States and the European Union.