Kurds in Eastern Syria Feel Betrayed After Withdrawal of U.S. Troops, May Strengthen Relations With Russia, Iran, and Syria

Feeling betrayed. A Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) fighter holds a sniper rifle on his shoulder as he attends the funeral of a slain People’s Protection Units (YPG) commander in the northeastern city of Qamishli on December 6. (AFP)

The Kurds in eastern Syria are in panic mode after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that an estimated 2,000 soldiers would soon be removed from the country.

“Many Kurds feel betrayed by the U.S.,” Kamal Sido, a Syrian Kurd who works at the Middle East desk for the Society for Threatened Peoples, a German human-rights NGO, told JNS. “The Kurds and other ethnic groups are very afraid of the Turkish military and Syrian Islamists.”

He said, “The Kurds must decide between total annihilation by Turkey or the [Bashar] Assad dictatorship,” implying that the Kurds would choose Assad.

Perhaps their worry is exaggerated, but it has for the time being led the Kurds to quickly consolidate their relations with the Russia-Iran-Syria axis in order to counter the threat from a coming Turkish military operation, along with their Syrian rebel allies.

Kurdish officials went to Moscow last week and plan to return, “hoping Russia will push Damascus to ‘fulfill its sovereign duty,’ ” a top Kurdish politician Aldar Xelil told Reuters.

“Our contacts with Russia, and the [Syrian] regime, are to look for clear mechanisms to protect the northern border,” said Xelil.

The Kurds are also banking on France and its small presence in Syria to bolster them against a possible Turkish attack.

Gallia Lindenstrauss, an expert on Turkey and research fellow at the INSS think tank in Israel, told JNS that American forces did deter Turkey from operating in the areas in which they were deployed in Syria.

“It was not so much the number of soldiers, but the fact that there was a fear of accidentally harming them. There was also American control of the airspace, which would have forced the Turks to fight a ground operation without air support if they had chosen to attack,” she said.

Asked about the Kurdish perspective, Lindenstrauss responded that the main Kurdish force in Syria, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), clearly feels betrayed.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Ariel Ben Solomon