Under Turkish Guns and a US Sellout, Kurds Turn to Iran

The Kurds of Syria and their Iraqi brothers, riding high just last week, found themselves on Wednesday Aug. 24 directly under Turkish guns and stripped of US support. Tehran looked like their last and only resort.
Syria’s Kurds, who had long lived under Turkish glares from across the border, were not taken aback when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that his country’s invasion of northern Syria that morning had targeted the Kurds, as well the Islamic State, and was aimed at occupying the Syrian border town of Jarabulus.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu hinted that the operation’s other objective was to prevent Syrian Kurds from taking control of Jarabulus, adding that Turkey “will do what is necessary” if the Kurds fail to withdraw east of the Euphrates River.
The warning backed by Turkish tanks for the Kurds to get their fighting forces out of the border region was originally addressed as well to the US personnel fighting with the YPG militia. They too were strongly advised to remove themselves from the path of the Turkish invasion force.
But as the day wore on, the Turks changed their tune, after being informed by visiting US Vice President Joe Biden that the Pentagon had already ordered the US special operations officers to leave Kurdish PYG command centers.
The Kurds were dismayed, but not surprised, when Biden capped his talks with Turkish officials with a news conference, at which he echoed the Foreign Minister Cavusoglu’s warning: “Syrian Kurdish forces will lose US support of they don’t retreat to the east bank of the Euphrates,” said the US vice president.
Biden’s capitulation to Erdogan was part of a desperate attempt by Washington to keep Turkey from quitting NATO and hang onto the US Air Force facility at the strategic Incirlik base – even if the Americans were to be forced to share its runways with the Russians.
But by dumping the Kurds, Washington also robbed the coalition war on Islamic State terrorists of the highly-prized Kurdish combatants. Neither the YPG Kurdish militia in Syria nor the Peshmerga Kurdish army in Iraq will now be inclined to fight alongside the US in the critical and daunting campaigns ahead for rooting the jihadists out of their Syrian and Iraqi centers in Raqqa and Mosul.
At the same time, praise for Washington’s separation from the Kurdish militias came from some US army and intelligence circles in Washington. At long last, they said, the US was no longer dependent for its war on ISIS on ragtag local militias that required American training now that it had acquired the professional national Turkish army as partner.
This assessment may be hasty, DEBKA Weekly’s counterterrorism sources warn. No one knows what Erdogan is really up to. The limited Jarabulus operation is no pointer to the ultimate objectives of its military intervention in Syria. Washington should go after a comprehensive counter-ISIS plan with Turkey to ascertain that their objectives do in fact coincide and that the Turkish leader’s commitment to the partnership is nailed down.
Preparing ahead for the worst case scenario for his people, President Masoud Barzani of the Kurdish Republic of Iraq (KRG) announced on Aug. 22, two days before the Turkish invasion, that he plans to visit Tehran.
His spokesman Omed Sabah said that Barzani “had received an invitation from the Islamic Republic of Iran and he approved it,” adding that “Just scheduling a date and time by the two sides is left.”
A week earlier, on August 14, a high-level Kurdish delegation led by Interior Minister Karim Sinjari was in Tehran and met with Iranian officials, including Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.
It was officially announced that the visit was arranged to discuss the situation on the border between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan, following a build-up there of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) forces, some of whom had crossed the frontier.
This was no small-scale crossing, according to Saudi intelligence sources monitoring the IRGC’s movements in Kurdistan. Those sources counted six IRGC camps established outside the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk housing some 1,500 troops from the IRGC’s Al Qods Force. They were in place, said the sources, as the first links in a chain of military camps Tehran planned to run all the way up to the Syrian border.
According to DEBKA Weekly’s sources, the Kurdish officials appealed to Iranian for help in the event of a Turkish invasion of northern Syria and the threat it posed to the Kurds of Syria and the western border of Iraqi Kurdistan.
This appeal was made, despite the knowledge that since President Erdogan had coordinated the operation with Syria’s Bashar Assad, both Iran and Russia were certainly in the picture of his move against the Kurds.
But after Washington threw them to the Turkish wolves, Kurdish leaders saw no option but to choose a devil to sup with. They decided that Iran might be amenable to granting them protection and respect for their interests in return for a deal. It was worth their while, for instance, to try and get Tehran to separate the Kurdish people from the Syrian equation binding Iran, Turkey, Russia, in return for Irbil’s approval of an Iranian military corridor up to the Syrian border – if that was the purpose of the half a dozen IRGC camps already planted outside the oil city of Kirkuk.

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