The Kurds Ditch US in War on ISIS, Strike a Better Deal with Russia
Before Donald Trump was elected president, the Hillary Clinton campaign made much of the wall-to-wall international coalition assembled by Barack Obama for driving ISIS off the face of the Middle East. A starring role in that coalition was assigned to the Kurds – i.e., the Peshmerga, the armed militia of the Iraqi Kurdish semi-autonomous region, and the Syrian Kurdish PYD-YPG.
They were given the role of spearheading the US-led battles to rid Mosul and Raqqa of their jihadist invaders.
But of late, no one is talking about the Kurds and they are nowhere to be seen on either of those battlefields.
The Mosul offensive is anyway at a virtual standstill and the Raqqa campaign never really took off. But DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources account for the Kurds’ low public profile by their having switched patrons. Turning their backs on the Americans, the Iraqi Kurds of Irbil and their Syrian brethren in Qamishli have signed a secret pact with Russia.
That pact began unfolding in Aleppo when the city’s Kurdish districts remained unscathed by the sound, fury and horrors of the mainline Russian-led Syrian army’s battles that defeated the rebel forces
It was the result of a reciprocal immunity deal struck quietly in advance by Russian and Kurdish intelligence officers: The PYD-YPG militia defenders in Aleppo’s Kurdish districts promised not to resist the Syrian army and its Hizballah and other pro-Iranian militias, while the Kurdish forces were given a guarantee of safety from Russian and Syrian attack.
Two weeks ago, that pact widened out into a Russian-Syrian non-belligerence guarantee for the Kurdish enclave of Afrin on the Turkish border. This week, the immunity pledge was extended again to encompass two additional Kurdish enclaves in Syria, Kobani and Qamishli, provided the Kurds refrained from fighting Syrian forces.
In direct consequence of his pact, the Syrian government in Damascus delivered several tons of medicines to Qamishli hospitals and pharmacies in the province of Hasakah, relieving a dangerous shortage and bringing sky-high prices under control.
This was announced by Mohammed Rashdad, head of the Hasakah provincial hospital: “We received 15 tons of medicines from the health ministry,” he said. “Every kind of medicine can now be obtained in the national hospital.”
To clinch their deal with Moscow the Syrian Kurds agreed to renege on their commitment to take part in the campaign ordered by President Obama to liberate Raqqa. They had given that commitment to Brett McGurk, special US Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter Daesh.
The Kurds were doubly motivated to back out of their pledge:
1. The US never assembled a full-scale army for mounting a serious offensive. The mission was left to small groups of US- and Turkish-trained Syrian rebels, who could only manage intermittent raids.
2. The Syrian Kurds followed the lead of the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, which broke away from the US-Iraqi assault on Mosul some weeks ago.
The decisive factor in bringing the Kurds over to the Russian side is revealed here by DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources: In the secret talks that took place with Iraqi Kurdish leaders, the Russians offered a guarantee to endorse the rise of a Kurdish state in northern Syria similar to the semi-autonomous Kurdish republic of Iraq (KRG).
The fulfillment of the Kurds’ historic dream of statehood would also make provision for the outlawed Turkish separatist PKK (Kurdish Workers Movement). The Kurdish people have never before received a proposal so far-reaching from any of the five major word powers. It was the irresistible bait Moscow needed to pull the Kurdish rug from under the United States in Syria and Iraq.