The Kurds are our friends. They protect American journalists and are the bastion of sanity left in the war-torn portion of Syria. It was an interesting and telling moment during the second debate when Hillary Clinton communicated some apprehension in “some circles” about increasing arms to the Kurds.
The Kurds do not have a political objective to remove Assad, they do, however, have an objective to defeat ISIL. They’re the most active and competent group on the ground in the fight against ISIL. It’s likely not possible to take Raqqa, the heart of ISIL, without them. Unless, we commit U.S. forces to do the job.
From a strategic perspective, it might not be the in the best interest of the Kurds to make a real push to Raqqa, yet, because factions within the Syrian opposition have expressed that the Kurds may be an enemy. Perhaps Sunni militia would willingly work alongside the Kurds to remove ISIL, a threat to everyone, but then would they go their separate ways? The rebels want to inherit Syria, not partition a piece of it to the Kurds. Luckily, I bet the Kurds would be able to defend themselves from the Syrian opposition. But maybe not if the rebels jointly battle the Kurds alongside Al-Nusra who continues to gain strength in Syria.
The Kurds are so concerned about the power vacuum without Assad that reports have surfaced claiming Syrian Kurds have considered an alliance with Assad. Reports have also emerged claiming Assad is open to dealing with the rebels to pacify Aleppo. But he would want to work the Kurds in particular against ISIS. Assad has stated that as long as the Kurds help eliminate radical Islamist terrorists, there’s no ‘veto’ on Kurdish demands. The most important part of Assad’s statement is rooted in who he considers terrorists. In a kind of blanket statement, everyone except civilians are radical terrorists to the regime.
The Kurdish people are well aware that a transitional government of moderate rebels will not have their best interests at heart. For what possible reason would they remove Assad? It’s long been known as a real possibility in the region that removing Assad would unleash a reciprocal war. This war would lack the organization of this one. It’d be worse and more heartbreaking. The second and third order effects of removing the Assad regime would be a disaster, according to the Kurds. The Kurds have a rational and objective grasp of the situation on the ground.
If we abandon the Kurds we will have lost, maybe only temporarily, our only true ally in this fight. As the Kurds want ISIL gone but not Assad, conflict with the Syrian opposition may be inevitable. The question we must ask ourselves is, are we willing to support a Kurdish state, or not?
Featured image courtesy of thekurdishproject.org.