Archive for the ‘Turkey and Kurds’ category

US support for Kurds in Iraq and Syria unaffected by tensions with Turkey

February 11, 2018

Source: US support for Kurds in Iraq and Syria unaffected by tensions with Turkey

{While we’re making a huge investment in the Kurds, Turkey prolongs the battle against ISIS. – LS}

The Pentagon is continuing to support Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria, a government audit revealed this week, even as the fight against the Islamic State (IS) winds down and the United States faces growing pressure from allies and foes alike to back down.

The latest quarterly Lead Inspector General (IG) report for the US-led mission in Iraq and Syria confirms that the Donald Trump administration continues to supply weapons and equipment to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The Defense Department considers the YPG to be the most capable in-country US partner for the mission, but NATO ally Turkey views YPG fighters as terrorists.

For the fiscal year that started Oct. 1, the Pentagon asked for $500 million to supply Syrian forces, including YPG-led units, with vehicles, mortars, anti-tank missiles and machine guns, up from $430 million requested in fiscal 2017. Deliveries began in May 2017, prompting the ire of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The IG report indicates that US support has kept up, despite pledges from US officials to draw down support amid increasing friction with both the Turks and Bashar al-Assad’s regime. A large battle outside SDF headquarters this week led to the deaths of more than 100 pro-Assad fighters who fired dozens of tank rounds at the Deir ez-Zor province compound, prompting the US-backed force to respond in self-defense, according to the Pentagon.

“SDF said that there had been no change in their relationship with the United States and that changes to weapons deliveries were a consequence of their victories against [the Islamic State],” said the report, prepared for Congress by inspectors general from the Pentagon, State Department and the US Agency for International Development. “Syrian Kurdish officials reiterated their interest in having American engagement in Syria continue, and warned that a reduction in US support could allow [IS] to regain strength.”

Yet as YPG and other fighters have strayed away from the US-backed mission against IS, the Pentagon has cautioned that it will cut off support for units that leave the front lines. More and more Kurdish fighters and their allies have been heading toward Afrin, a Kurdish-held area that has been under attack from the Turkish military since Jan. 20. Last weekend, the 2,000-member Syriac Military Council, a Christian group, opted to leave the SDF to join the fight in Afrin.

“Any forces that decide to move to Afrin will not receive continued coalition support,” a spokesman told Al-Monitor.

The mounting tensions come as the Defense Department says it has trained 12,500 vetted Syrian opposition fighters since the beginning of the anti-IS campaign in 2015, including 11,000 members of the SDF.

“Wherever possible, our advisers monitor the use of the weapons and supplies we give the Kurdish elements of the SDF, ensuring use only against [IS],” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told Al-Monitor. “Any alleged misuse or diversion of US support is taken seriously and may lead to the possible curtailment of support, if verified.”

Meanwhile, the Pentagon trained nearly 2,000 more Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces over the past three months even as stipends to Kurdish Regional Guard Brigades ended after a yearlong agreement to fund the fighters expired in July. The Pentagon has requested $365 million this fiscal year to pay for the Kurdish force if a new deal can be ironed out.

In late October, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Baghdad would soon begin paying peshmerga salaries. But Abadi has still not delivered on that promise, the IG report says, as Iraqi security forces moved into disputed areas after the Kurds voted for independence in September.

Most peshmerga forces withdrew to protect their semi-autonomous territory in northeastern Iraq after Baghdad kicked them out with the help of Iranian-backed militias. Some units, however, stayed behind to fight IS, which now has fewer than 1,000 adherents fighting for small pockets of territory, including Tuz Khormato near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Kurdish militia repels Turkish Afrin invasion amid continuing Turkish air blitz

January 21, 2018

Kurdish militia repels Turkish Afrin invasion amid continuing Turkish air blitz, DEBKAfile, January 21, 2018ss>

Russian forces did not interfere when 72 Turkish jets Saturday night pounded 100 Kurdish YPG targets in the north Syrian enclave of Afrin. Early Sunday, Jan. 21, Kurdish and Syrian opposition sources confirmed that Turkish troops trying to enter Afrin clashed with the Kurdish militia on the northern and western edges of the enclave and were pushed back. Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan continued to issue dire threats, saying, “Beginning from the west, step by step, we will annihilate the terror corridor up to the Iraqi border. No one can say a word. Whatever happens we don’t care anymore.

”The Turks have cynically dubbed their assault on the Kurds, “Operation Olive Branch.”  Kurdish leaders are reported to have opened secret negotiations with the Assad regime for opening the door to the Syrian army to enter their enclave on the assumption that Erdogan will not wish to open a new warfront with Damascus. Turkey’s deputy prime minister Bekir Bozdaq said that Ankara would preserve Syria’s territorial integrity after it achieved its objective and Turkish troops would cross back home.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the Turkish army has so far not gone further than exploratory steps in its campaign against the Kurdish YPG in Afrin. A major offensive with large numbers of foot soldiers and tanks has not taken place as yet. Erdogan appears to be pulling his punches to test whether the US will come to the aid of its Kurdish allies. But the question still open is: Will he go through with his threat to capture Kurdish lands spanning northern Syria from the Turkish border to the Syrian border with Iraq? If he does and succeeds in pulling off this ambitious campaign, Turkish troops will override the region declared just a few days ago as being under American military protection and secured by a new US-trained and armed Border Defense Force of 30,000 men. Will the 2,000 US military personnel deployed in the bases there then intervene? Russia has made its position clear by refraining from interfering with the Turkish air offensive although its forces control the skies over Afrin.

Time to Kick Turkey Out of NATO?

January 19, 2018

Michael J. Totten January 19, 2018 World Affairs

Source: Time to Kick Turkey Out of NATO?

{That would be like a huge multi-national corporation kicking out a major subsidiary. Not going to happen. – LS}

The case for evicting Turkey from NATO got stronger this week.

First, the United States announced the backing of a Kurdish security force—the People’s Protection Units, or YPG—in Rojava, the quasi-independent Kurdish region in northeastern Syria along the Turkish border. Then Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he will “strangle” that American-backed force “before it’s even born.” Russia, Iran and Syria’s Assad regime are standing with Erdogan.

The YPG, along with the multiethnic Syrian Democratic Forces which the YPG dominates, are the only armed groups indigenous to Syria that are willing and able to take on ISIS and win, and they’re the only significant armed faction in Syria’s dizzying civil war that isn’t ideologically hostile to the West. In October of last year, they finally liberated Raqqa, the “capital” of the ISIS “caliphate,” while the Russian and Syrian militaries were busy pounding rebels instead in the west.

The Turks would rather have the Assad regime—and by extension Russia, Iran and Hezbollah—rule over the Syrian Kurds whom they consider terrorists. The United States is “building an army of terror” along the southern border, Erdogan says. “Either you take off your flags on those terrorist organisations, or we will have to hand those flags over to you, Don’t force us to bury in the ground those who are with terrorists…Our operations will continue until not a single terrorist remains along our borders, let alone 30,000 of them.”

This is not how a NATO ally behaves. It’s how an enemy state behaves. There is truly no getting around this. We can argue all we want—and I have—that keeping Turkey in NATO is better than kicking Turkey out of NATO because it’s better to deal with a troublesome country inside an ostensibly friendly framework than outside one.

There are limits, though, even if those limits aren’t clearly defined. A direct Turkish attack against the United States would clearly be over the line whether a line is defined or not, as would a direct attack against another NATO member state. Attacking a non-NATO ally is more ambiguous, especially when the non-NATO ally in question isn’t even a state. (It’s not like Turkey is threatening to attack Israel, Japan or Morocco.)

None of this could have been foreseen when NATO was founded in 1949 or when Turkey was admitted in 1952. NATO was founded as a united Western front against the Soviet Union, which occupied or indirectly controlled half of Europe, including a third of Germany. Iran’s Islamic Republic, the Syrian Baath Party regime, armed Kurdish separatist movements, ISIS—none of these even existed then, and only the Kurdish movements could even have been imagined.

The world has dramatically changed, as has NATO. In 1952, Turkey was a crucial member in good standing while Estonia was part of the Soviet Union. In 2018, Estonia is a member in good standing while Turkey is behaving as a belligerent. No one should be surprised that alliances have shifted after seven decades. Alliances always shift over time. Enemies become friends and vice versa. Not even Britain has been a constant friend of the United States, and not even Russia has been a constant enemy.

Changes like these happen slowly, and the West is having a hard time processing the fact that Turkey is increasingly hostile, though it has been for some time now. It started when Ankara denied the use of its territory, including Incirlik Air Base, during the war against Saddam Hussein, mostly because Turkey didn’t want Iraqi Kurdistan to become an economic and military powerhouse. Later, Erdogan helped Iran transfer weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon and implicitly sided with ISIS in Syria because he didn’t want an independent Kurdish region to rise up in Syria as it had in Iraq. More recently, he has taken American citizens hostage and purchased a missile system from the Kremlin. And how he’s threatening to destroy the only competent Western-friendly militia in all of Syria.

Last August, as Erdogan visited his “dear friend” Vladimir Putin in Moscow, NATO issued a telling statement. “Turkey is a valued ally, making substantial contributions to NATO’s joint efforts… Turkey’s NATO membership is not in question.”

Stop right there. Of course Turkey’s NATO membership is in question. Otherwise, why bother denying it? NATO isn’t denying that the United Kingdom or Canada doesn’t belong in NATO any longer. NATO is only denying that Turkey’s membership is in question, which is another way of saying it is. Anyway, you can type “Turkey out of NATO” into Google and spend a year wading through the results.

The statement continues: “Our Alliance is committed to collective defence and founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty, human rights and the rule of law.” Indeed, the alliance was founded on all of those principles, none of which increasingly authoritarian Turkey adheres to any longer.

If Turkey were not in NATO, it would not be admitted. It’s grandfathered in at this point.

It’s much easier to say no to an aspiring member that doesn’t belong than to evict a longstanding member who no longer belongs, especially when there’s no clear criteria for banishment. It’s about time, then, for NATO to have a serious discussion about what the criteria for banishment is. That alone might improve Turkey’s behavior. If it doesn’t, we’ll have other options.

Turkey declares de facto war on Syrian Kurds. Russian troops move out of Afrin

January 19, 2018

Turkey declares de facto war on Syrian Kurds. Russian troops move out of Afrin, DEBKAfile, January 19, 2018

ISIS and Syrian rebel groups may well take advantage of a major Turkish-Kurdish clash to recover territory which they lost to Kurdish fighters in northern and eastern Syria. It is hard to see the United States letting that happen.

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Turkish artillery shelling Friday, Jan. 19 kicked off a major offensive against the Kurdish Afrin enclave of N. Syria, shortly after Turkish C-of-S and intelligence chief left Moscow. No statement followed the visit as to whether Gen. Hulusi Akar had succeeded in his mission of winning Moscow’s cooperation. What happened next was word that the Russian troops positioned in Afrin were to be moved out of the targeted region for safety.

Three days earlier, on Jan. 16, Gen. Akar, who leads one of NATO’s largest armies, visited Brussels and asked the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford, not to counter the planned Turkish invasion for “clearing YPG [Kurdish militia] fighters from Afrin.” But he was cautioned by the American general against going forward with this offensive. In Ankara, President Tayyip Erdogan shot back by informing parliament in Ankara that the Turkish military operation against the Kurds of Afrin was “imminent.” For Erdogan, relations with Washington, which supports the Syrian Kurds, had reached breaking point.

Moscow’s decision to move the Russian contingent at the airport of Afrin out of the way of crossfire, 10 months after its deployment there, was a sign that the Kremlin is taking seriously Erdogan’s threat to crush the Kurds of Afrin. The Turkish ruler has stepped up his anti-Kurd rhetoric even more since US plans were revealed for creating a 30,000-strong border army, predominantly made up of Kurdish militias, in northern Syria. The Kurdish YPG has meanwhile warned the Turks and the Syrian rebel force they support: “If they dare to attack, we are ready to bury them one by one in Afrin.”

But Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli left no room for doubt that the die has been cast, when he said Friday in Ankara: “The assault has begun, the operation has actually started de facto with cross-border shelling. I don’t want it to be misunderstood. All terror networks and elements in northern Syria will be eliminated.”

DEBKAfile’s military sources note that the Turkish army must overcome four obstacles before its tanks and troops can roll across the border into Afrin.

  1. The US forces based in northern Syria. The Trump administration did not immediately respond to the Turkish shelling and threats, but the American outpost in Manbij is no more than 120km from Afrin. Erdogan has included Manbij in his threat to capture Afrin. On Jan. 16, our sources reported that the US had supplied the YPG for the first time with portable anti-air missiles to defend themselves in the event of potential Turkish air strikes. But at this early stage, the Kurds are believed capable of standing up to the Turkish offensive.
  2. Syria has warned Turkey against an incursion of its territory would be deemed an act of aggression and threatened its air defenses would shoot down Turkish jets overflying Syria. Our military sources note that, in any case, Russia controls the airspace over Afrin, a fact that may well deter Ankara from using its air force.
  3. An ingathering of all the Kurdish forces from their northern Syrian bastions in the defense of the YPG, would confront the Turkish army with between 20,000 and 30,000 trained Kurdish fighters well-armed with American weapons, whose motivation for defending their land would be more powerful than any invading force. In past engagements with the Islamic State, the Turkish army’s performance was middling.
  4. ISIS and Syrian rebel groups may well take advantage of a major Turkish-Kurdish clash to recover territory which they lost to Kurdish fighters in northern and eastern Syria. It is hard to see the United States letting that happen.

Toward an independent Kurdistan

October 20, 2017

Toward an independent Kurdistan, Washington Times, James A. Lyons, October 19, 2017

Illustration on the strategic importance of an independent Kurdistan by Alexander Hunter/The Washington Times

Unfortunately, with the Obama and Muslim Brotherhood holdovers still in key positions in the National Security Council, State Department and Department of Defense, the U.S. position has been to back the Iranian Baghdad puppet regime.

[W]hen you consider that one of the key U.S. objectives in the Middle East is (or ought to be) to prevent Iranian regional hegemony, a staunch ally like the Kurds, who have fought with us to defeat the Islamic State, is exactly what we need in this volatile region. In addition, as a free and independent Kurdistan is key to preventing Iran from establishing a land bridge from Tehran through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea, the current U.S. position makes no sense. Further, should Iran be successful in establishing a land bridge to Lebanon, Tehran will be able far more readily to augment Hezbollah’s already formidable forces as a direct threat to Israel’s survival.

Besides providing verbal support for Kurdistan’s independence, we should take immediate action to establish a forward operating base in Irbil with its 13,000-foot runway, one of the longest in the world. We should plan to rotate a detachment of F-16s and A-10s in and out of the base. Additionally, such a move would complicate any plans by Baghdad, Tehran and Ankara for further aggressive action against Kurdistan. Such a move will not only enhance Israeli security but place added pressure on Iran, along with President Trump’s recent decision on refusing to recertify the unsigned nuclear weapons deal with Iran.

We need to face facts: The only true ally we have in the region today is Israel. A free and independent Kurdistan would clearly enhance the chances of achieving two of our joint, vital objectives in the Middle East — bolster Israel and add to our partners and allies in the region.

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq held a referendum on independence on Sept. 25. It was overwhelmingly approved. This referendum, not surprisingly however, has precipitously raised tensions not only with Iraq but also with Turkey, Syria and Iran, all of which have large — and restive — Kurdish minorities.

Baghdad already has made moves to isolate the Kurdish region by banning all international flights from landing there and demanding a halt to all crude oil sales. And although Ankara has quarreled repeatedly with the Iranian puppet regime in Baghdad in recent years, the Turkish government late on Oct. 16 decided to close not only Turkish airspace to flights to and from the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, but also to close the Irbil-Ceyan oil pipeline, which is the Kurds’ only source of revenue. Additionally, Turkish and Iraqi troops had held joint military exercises shortly after the Sept. 25 referendum vote.

In what may presage a new and violent phase in the break-up of Sykes-Picot Iraq, Baghdad moved aggressively on Oct. 16, sending Iraqi Army troops into the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Further, units of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, a coalition of Shiite paramilitary groups that receive equipment and training from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), were deployed alongside the Iraqi Army units south and west of Kirkuk. It is a city of a million people that lies just outside the semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government territory. When the Iraqi Army deserted Kirkuk in 2014 in the face of the Islamic State onslaught, however, it was the Kurdish Peshmerga forces deployed there that kept the Kirkuk oil fields from falling into the Islamic State’s hands. They have declared that they are now not about to give up that territory. Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who is the commander of the IRGC Qods Force in charge of Iran’s foreign operations, arrived in Kurdistan on Oct. 15 for discussions — but only with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), not the rival Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). He apparently presented Baghdad’s demands that the Kurdish Regional Government cancel the referendum results as a precondition for talks to resolve the current dispute. KRG officials led by President Masoud Barzani not only previously had rejected any such demands, but pledged to defend Kurdish-held territory in case of attack.

With Iranian-dominated Iraqi and Shiite militia forces now in control of Kirkuk, though, at least in part due to apparent PUK treachery, the region and its deeply divided factions may be poised on the brink of yet another explosion. According to reports, the KDP Peshmerga forces fought hard to avoid being pushed out of Kirkuk, but ultimately had to retreat when their ammunition ran out. Thousands of civilians and Peshmerga fighters fled toward Irbil and Sulaymaniyah.

Unfortunately, with the Obama and Muslim Brotherhood holdovers still in key positions in the National Security Council, State Department and Department of Defense, the U.S. position has been to back the Iranian Baghdad puppet regime.

The Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 is dead. The U.S. must recognize the realities on the ground. The former Iraq, like the former Syria, has always been an artificial construct, cobbled together by European powers in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Absent the brute force of a dictator, these entities simply cannot hold together against the clashing centrifugal forces of their feuding ethnic, sectarian and tribal components.

Further, when you consider that one of the key U.S. objectives in the Middle East is (or ought to be) to prevent Iranian regional hegemony, a staunch ally like the Kurds, who have fought with us to defeat the Islamic State, is exactly what we need in this volatile region. In addition, as a free and independent Kurdistan is key to preventing Iran from establishing a land bridge from Tehran through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea, the current U.S. position makes no sense. Further, should Iran be successful in establishing a land bridge to Lebanon, Tehran will be able far more readily to augment Hezbollah’s already formidable forces as a direct threat to Israel’s survival.

Besides providing verbal support for Kurdistan’s independence, we should take immediate action to establish a forward operating base in Irbil with its 13,000-foot runway, one of the longest in the world. We should plan to rotate a detachment of F-16s and A-10s in and out of the base. Additionally, such a move would complicate any plans by Baghdad, Tehran and Ankara for further aggressive action against Kurdistan. Such a move will not only enhance Israeli security but place added pressure on Iran, along with President Trump’s recent decision on refusing to recertify the unsigned nuclear weapons deal with Iran.

We need to face facts: The only true ally we have in the region today is Israel. A free and independent Kurdistan would clearly enhance the chances of achieving two of our joint, vital objectives in the Middle East — bolster Israel and add to our partners and allies in the region.

• James A. Lyons, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, was commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.

Iran, Turkey, & Iraq move to “crush” Kurds, Christians

October 14, 2017

Iran, Turkey, & Iraq move to “crush” Kurds, Christians, Rebel Media via YouTube, October 14, 2017

Strides in the Struggle for an Independent Kurdistan

August 24, 2017

Strides in the Struggle for an Independent Kurdistan, Gatestone InstituteLawrence A. Franklin, August 24, 2017

The regional regime that is in the best position to threaten the drive for a free Kurdish state is that of Iran.

The country that has the most to lose in the event of an independent Kurdistan is Turkey, due to its huge population of ethnic Kurds, some of whom support the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has battled Turkey’s military for decades.

Ironically and thankfully, this combination of recently acquired combat experience on the part of the Kurds — plus widespread unrest in the region, still reeling from the “Arab Spring,” and the loss of Syrian and Iraqi sovereignty over swaths of their territories — improves the chance of a peaceful secession of Kurdistan from Iraq.

On September 25, 2017, the people of Iraqi Kurdistan will vote overwhelmingly in favor of establishing an independent nation-state. All ethnic groups, from Erbil to Zakho — and in other disputed areas claimed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), such as Kirkuk, Sinjar and Makmoor — are eligible to take part in the referendum.

Although the result of the plebiscite will not be binding, it is likely to enhance existing secessionist sentiment among the populace and increase pressure on KRG officials.

The Kurds’ dream of a separate state is more than a century old. Yet geography and the imperialist designs of outside forces have conspired to render that goal a nightmare. Predictably, the most vehement opposition to the establishment of an independent state for the Kurds comes from the major powers with large Kurdish minorities — including Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. Apparently fearing that a Kurdish state would heighten irredentist sentiment among the Kurdish minorities within their territories to merge with a “Greater Kurdistan,” the governments of these countries view any form of Kurdish independence as a national-security threat. It is thus quite possible that one or more of the KRG’s neighbors will move militarily to prevent a Kurdish secession from Iraq.

The regional regime that is in the best position to threaten the drive for a Kurdish Free State is that of Iran. It already employs small pro-Iranian militias — the Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and the Badr Organization — on KRG territory, operating under the rubric of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). Should Iran decide to take military action to prevent a Kurdish secession from Iraq, it will likely deploy the PMF to do so.

However, while the political and military asymmetry between Iraq’s Kurdish region and outside regional powers have seemed fixed, the historical inequality no longer exists. Currently, in fact, no state in the region easily could crush a determined effort by the Kurds to sever the artificial ties that have bound them, disadvantageously, to the Arab people of Mesopotamia.

This is chiefly due to the Peshmerga (“those who defy death”), Kurdish fighters who have become combat-hardened warriors; so much so that, with NATO air support in August 2014, they fought the Islamic State fighters to a standstill outside the gates of their regional capital, Erbil. In the event of a confrontation against the Peshmerga, even the pro-Iran PMF militias would pay a heavy price.

Greater Zab River near Erbil Iraqi Kurdistan. (Image source: jamesdale10/Wikimedia Commons)

Most of Iran’s Kurds live in the western part of the Islamic Republic, in Kordestan, West Azerbaijan and the Kermanshah provinces. Although regionally concentrated, they are not in a position to secede from Iran, due mainly to the efforts of Tehran’s intelligence services to suppress Kurdish irredentism by eviscerating rebel organizations. That could change, however, if Iraq’s Kurds are successful in seceding from the central government in Baghdad. For one thing, it might buoy Iran-based Kurdish groups — such as the Komela (Society of Revolutionary Toilers of Kordestan), the Kurd Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and the Free Life Party of Kordestan (PJAK) — and spur them to rise up against the regime in Tehran.

The country that has the most to lose in the event of an independent Kurdistan is Turkey, due to its huge population of ethnic Kurds, some of whom support the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has battled Turkey’s military for decades.

Although Turkey is also the greatest obstacle to Kurdish independence, Turkish troops have become entangled in the Syrian civil war. They have also not recuperated from the failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the summer of 2016, an act that resulted, among other things, in a massive purge within the Turkish military.

To allay Istanbul’s apprehensions that an independent Kurdish state on its borders might energize Turkey’s Kurds to seek autonomy, KRG political leaders are likely to forswear any assistance to the PKK, at least publicly. Kurdish spokesmen will probably also point out that Turks could benefit from a stable Kurdistan’s pledge to keep the oil flowing to Turkey from Kurdish fields around Kirkuk.

Syria also has a Kurdish minority, making up about 10% of the general population, most of whom reside in the north and northeast — where they have established the Democratic Administration of Rojava. Due to the raging civil war, Damascus currently cannot spare the troops and resources it would take to suppress this Kurdish enclave. Nor does the Assad regime have the current capability to dismantle the Kurdish military opposition in Syria, particularly the effective Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). In additions, tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds — along with Syria-based Turkmen, Arabs, Assyrians and Armenians – have banded together to form the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which have been fighting ISIS, particularly in Raqaa.

Even if the Assad regime survives the bloody war, now in its sixth year, it will be too weak initially to suppress secession from its own Kurds.

Furthermore, the Syria that eventually emerges is likely to be a good deal smaller than its current size, which would force it to rely its Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah allies to conquer Rojava. Such a scenario would be thick with dangers, including a possible American military response.

Ironically and thankfully, this combination of recently-acquired combat experience on the part of the Kurds — plus widespread unrest in the region, still reeling from the “Arab Spring,” and the loss of Syrian and Iraqi sovereignty over swaths of their territories — improves the chance of a peaceful secession of Kurdistan from Iraq.

Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin was the Iran Desk Officer for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. He also served on active duty with the U.S. Army and as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve, where he was a Military Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Israel.