Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Syria: The US, Kurdish Designs, Turkey, Iraq and Iran

No matter how President Obama and his team try to spin it a military intervention and 'upgrading' assistance to the insurgents against Assad backed by Qatar and Turkey would be tantamount to directly taking sides in the Syrian conflict. Up until now, Washington has only given CIA help to the Sunni dominated Free Syria Army;

Washington's foreign policy has consistently called for Assad to go. In refusing to engage with Iran diplomatically has made a slide into involvement in the civil war inevitable. There can be no political settlement if Washington demands that the precondition for peace is for Assad's Shia government to surrender.

The Alawites fear retribution from Sunni jihadists who have fought with the FSA including elements affiliated with Al Qaida such as the al Nusra Front who are fighting against Assad. They are not controlled by 'official' Sunni insurgents and the Syrian National Coalition and want to ethnically cleanse Alawi villages.

Turkey, moreover, is a NATO member threatened with the conflict between the Kurds and the radical Sunni jihadists of al Nusra. spilling over the border. Backing the FSA in Syria, Washington would face the prospect of Iran intervening more to back militant Kurdish separatists.
The danger of Kurdish separatist struggles with Sunni jihadists in northern Syria on the border with both Turkey and Iraq is that it threatens to destabilise border districts and towns in a way that could yet draw in other Western powers should it escalate. 

The Syrian government no longer has much control over the north east of the country and is content to see the al Nusra Front pinned down by Kurdish militias. Iran also gave support for those seeking Kurdish autonomy in northern Iraq in order to increase its regional influence.

The reason for move towards separatism that the West opposes, in order to show solidarity with Turkey as a NATO member, is opposition to a potential future for an oil and gas rich Kurdistan with its own ideas about its role in the world that elude the control of regional and global powers.

As part of a fractured Iraq, the relative autonomy of Kirkuk from the Shia dominated government in Baghdad has yielded benefits for Western oil concerns who are willing to invest. But the West does not want to drive Baghdad towards Iran by pushing for Kurdish autonomy too much.

Nor does Iran want to back Kurdish independence more than is needed in order to only cause problems for Turkey alone because it is backing the Muslim Brotherhood against Iran's Shia client Assad. Iran has its own large Kurdish minority.

When Obama states that Syria is not Iraq and not Afghanistan, because of the history the US had in its invasions of both countries, he only wishes to emphasise the distinction between limited military intervention and war.

Unfortunately, Syria is very much a similar case to its Iraq neighbour in being a country more opened up to the competing energy interests of global powers since the US invasion of 2003. Syria is also similar to Afghanistan in being a geopolitically vital pipeline transit zone.

The 21st century is set to be an epoch of intense and bloody struggles and conflicts over resources. Western nations are necessarily going to be involved in them due their overdependence upon oil and gas in those volatile lands where they lie. 

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