Syria Kurds fear US to abandon them

Syrian women walk in a street next to Kurdish flags in the northeastern city of Qamishli, on Nov. 30, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 15 December 2017
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Syria Kurds fear US to abandon them

QAMISHLI, Syria: Syria’s Kurds fear the steadfast ally they found in the US to successfully take on Daesh may now leave them to face threats from Turkey and Damascus alone.
Across Syria’s north, Kurdish authorities have spent more than four years steadily building public institutions including elected councils, security forces, even schools.
They felt they had found an international sponsor in the US, which relied primarily on the fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to roll back Daesh in northern and eastern Syria.
But with Daesh holding just five percent of Syria, Kurds worry the US could withdraw support, costing them the key political and territorial gains they scored in the chaos of war.
“We are afraid of America, which has been using us as a card to play for a long time,” said Rafea Ismail, a 37-year-old who sells women’s accessories on the hood of his car in the city of Qamishli.
“When they’re done using us, they’ll forget us,” he said.
Qamishli is the main hub of the autonomous administration the Kurdish authorities have run since regime forces withdrew from swathes of northeast Syria in 2012.
“All countries should support us because we fight terrorism. We liberated Raqqa, and America should not abandon us and ally with Turkey,” said Nawal Farzand, a 45-year-old Kurdish language teacher.
In March 2016, Kurdish parties announced they would seek to establish a federal system there after ousting Daesh from much of the area with the help of the US-led coalition.
Their biggest win was Raqqa, once Daesh’s de facto Syrian capital but captured in October by the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
Weeks later, the US announced it was pulling 500 Marines from its nearly 2,000-strong force in Syria and “amending” its support to the YPG.
But the terrorists are “not finished yet,” said Nassrin Abdallah, a commander in the militia’s female branch, the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ).
Sleeper cells still stage attacks and Daesh fighters are active in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, she said.
“It is important for the coalition forces to stay to guarantee security and stability, since the threat from Daesh still exists,” Abdallah added.”Turkey is also a threat to the Kurdish people.”
The Kurds’ rising profile had enraged Damascus, which insists it wants to recapture every inch of territory lost since Syria’s uprising erupted in 2011.
But it especially alarmed Turkey, which feared the semi-independent administration in northern Syria would inspire similar ambitions among its own Kurdish community.
Ankara considers the YPG as “terrorist” because of its ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
English teacher Nada Abbas says she, too, fears the US “will abandon the Kurds after the end of the battle against Daesh.”
“This would be a gift to Turkey, which doesn’t accept Kurds becoming stronger,” says the 30-year-old.
“It would attack us like it did in the past. The Turkish threat will not end,” Abbas adds.
Nicholas Heras, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security think tank, says Turkey poses “the gravest threat to the Kurds in Syria” — even more than Syrian President Bashar Assad or Daesh.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip “Erdogan has made it crystal clear that as soon as the Americans are no longer in the way, he intends to crush the Syrian Kurds, all of whom he views as PKK,” Heras tells AFP.
Fears of an American withdrawal may be drawing Syrian Kurds into Russia’s orbit.
The YPG recently announced that its anti-Daesh operations in east Syria had received air support from Moscow.
Russian forces have also trained Kurdish fighters further west in Afrin — where there is no Daesh presence — and manage a buffer zone between Kurds and Turkish-backed fighters.
And Moscow has been particularly outspoken in support of Syria’s Kurds having a seat at the negotiating table at talks in Geneva.
“The relationship between the YPG and the Russian military is becoming a special one. The Syrian Kurdish region of Afrin is solely dependent on the Russian military, not the Americans, for protection from Turkish attack and occupation,” says Heras.
Syria’s Kurds may seek to protect themselves from Turkey by leveraging relationships with both Russia and the US.
“Two large foreign power patrons is better than one for the Syrian Kurds, especially because both of those patrons have an interest in holding Turkey in check,” Heras adds.
“Russia is also the insurance policy for the Syrian Kurds if the United States was to ever abandon them to the mercy of Turkey.”
With the frontline against Daesh winding down, US-led coalition forces are much more visible in urban settings, after several years of being seen almost exclusively in frontline positions.
“We want the best. It won’t be possible to go back to how we were,” says 50-year-old Jassem Hussein in the mostly Kurdish-held city of Hasakah.
“This is why Kurdish unity is the most important thing.”


Several killed in attack on military parade in southwest Iran: State TV

Updated 18 min 49 sec ago
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Several killed in attack on military parade in southwest Iran: State TV

  • Paramedics could be seen helping someone in military fatigues laying on the ground
  • Saturday's attack comes after a coordinated June 7, 2017 Daesh assault on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran

TEHRAN: Gunmen attacked a military parade in the southwest Iranian city of Ahvaz on Saturday, killing and wounding several people, state TV reported.

The report described the assailants as "Takifiri gunmen," a term previously used to describe Daesh.

The semi-official Fars news agency, which is close to the elite Revolutionary Guard, said two gunmen on a motorcycle wearing khaki uniforms carried out the attack.

State television showed images of the immediate aftermath. In it, paramedics could be seen helping someone in military fatigues laying on the ground. Other armed security personnel shouted at each other in front of what appeared to be a viewing stand for the parade.

The semi-official ISNA news agency published photographs of the attack's aftermath, with bloodied troops in dress uniforms helping each other walk away. The attack struck on Ahvaz's Quds, or Jerusalem, Boulevard.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Saturday's attack comes after a coordinated June 7, 2017 Dash assault on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran. That attack had at that point been the only one by the extremists inside of Iran, which has been deeply involved in the wars in Iraq and Syria where the militants once held vast territory.

At least 18 people were killed and more than 50 wounded in the 2017 attack that saw gunmen carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles and explosives storm the parliament complex where a legislative session had been in progress, starting an hours-long siege. Meanwhile, gunmen and suicide bombers also struck outside Khomeini's mausoleum on Tehran's southern outskirts. Khomeini led the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Western-backed shah to become Iran's first supreme leader until his death in 1989.

Ahvaz is the capital of Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province. The province in the past has seen Arab separatists attack oil pipelines.

The assault shocked Tehran, which largely has avoided militant attacks in the decades after the tumult surrounding the Islamic Revolution.