What’s the Fate of Syria’s Kurds? | NowThis World

Turkey and the United States were united in their mission to liberate territory in Syria from ISIS But now Trump’s plan to pull out from the war-torn country is expected to leave a massive power vacuum there

This leaves the two powers to figure out how to balance their interests in the new geopolitical landscape But one big issue is the fate of Syria’s Kurds While the United States considers Kurdish forces a major ally in the region, Turkey says that they’re a threat So we’re taking a look at why the United States and Turkey are so divided over the fate of the Kurds in Syria [00:00:41

15 Just days after the US withdrawal was abruptly announced, Turkey laid out their intentions to enter northeastern Syria and take out the Kurdish YPG, which is the armed wing of Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party, also known as the PYD Since then, the Trump administration has attempted to negotiate protections for the Kurds, but Turkish president Recep Erdogan’s government has refused to make any concessions And they’ve even asserted that their invasion will happen with or without the presence of American troops in the region

On January 13th, Trump hit back on Twitter– saying the US would quote “devastate Turkey economically” if it targeted the Kurds But Turkey’s Foreign Minister quickly dismissed Trump’s threat — further solidifying the standoff between the two countries But why is Turkey so threatened by the Kurds in the first place? Turkey’s government sees the YPG as the Syrian arm of the PKK, or the Kurdish Workers’ Party, a militant group and political party that has waged an insurgency in Turkey since the 1970s

And the United States has been arming that same group in their war against ISIS Turkey sees this as a direct threat to its security interests Erdogan’s government fears the formation of a Kurdish state or entity near its border, would embolden Kurdish separatists inside of Turkey According to US

estimates, ethnic Kurds make up 19% of Turkey’s population Turkey has already executed three military operations in Syria since 2016, including Operation Olive Branch, in which Turkey captured the Kurdish enclave of Afrin Over 100,000 Kurdish civilians were forced to flee Afrin after Turkey’s assault in early 2018 But why does the US care what happens to Kurds in Syria? Short answer — they helped defeat ISIS in some key regions of Syria That’s how the Kurds, who have long fought for political recognition, earned U

S support At the height of the Syrian Civil War in 2013, ISIS expanded into the country from Iraq The group started by launching attacks on Kurdish enclaves But these attacks were ultimately repelled by the YPG As Syrian forces withdrew from the country’s north, U

S-backed Kurdish forces stepped in They’ve led an armed coalition called the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, that has become the main military opposition group fighting ISIS in Syria These predominantly Kurdish forces have been called “the Americans’ most effective allies in the fight” against ISIS After taking the territory in northern Syria in 2014, the Kurds declared it the autonomously governed region of Rojava and then renamed it the Democratic Federation of northern Syria in 2016

And Kurdish forces are still integral in the fight against ISIS For example, in January 2019, Kurdish forces captured eight ISIS fighters near the Syria-Iraq border Syrian Kurds claim they have no connection to the PKK, and one US military official has even stated to the New York Times that he has “not seen any indication” that the Kurds he’s worked with have a connection to the PKK

However, Erdogan insists that Kurdish forces in Syria do in fact have a direct connection to the accused terrorist group Turkey’s worries about the YPG and SDF have played into negotiations with the United States As of January 2019, Turkey and the United States were negotiating a “safe zone” that would act as a buffer near the Turkey-Syria border that would protect US-backed forces from Turkey and protect Turkey from terror groups While Trump administration has sent mixed signals to Turkey, they have recently made the security of the Kurds a priority in negotiations Since the announcement of the surprise withdrawal, Turkish forces advanced across their border into northern Syria

Meanwhile, the Kurds are hoping to work out their own deals with other powers to receive protection It’s even turned to negotiating with US adversaries– including Russia and the Assad government — to ensure their safety as the US pulls out of Syria

The Kurds’ recent struggle is only the latest in a series of political setbacks since the end of World War I They were initially promised an independent state, by then-leader of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk But he changed his mind and rejected the deal — and the land claimed by the kurds was divided between four countries: Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran This left the Kurds as vulnerable minorities in each of these states And in each of these states, the Kurds have endured decades of repression

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