Barely two years ago it seemed as if the entire world was certain that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was on his way out. He would either be killed by ISIS, forced to abdicate under pressure from foreign governments or his own people would hang him in the public square. He’d lost control of more than three-quarters of his own country and the wolves were seemingly at the door. But Assad has beaten all expectations and now he’s threatening to attack the Kurds in the northeastern sector of Syria where they are supported by American troops. His message to the United States? Get your guys out of there if you don’t want any trouble. (Associated Press)
Syrian President Bashar Assad is threatening to attack a region held by U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria if talks fail to bring the area back under Damascus’ authority.
Assad said in an interview with Russia Today television which aired on Thursday that the U.S. troops, who operate air bases and outposts in the Kurdish-administered region, will have to leave country.
He says he has opened the door to negotiations with the Kurdish-run administration while also preparing to “liberate by force.”
The disputed area is primarily to the east of the Euphrates River, along the northern border which Syria shares with Turkey. This presents a serious problem for the Kurds and also for us. (As if we didn’t have enough on our plates already.) Assad is being backed by both the Russians and Iran. Russia has long-term plans for a military base and a naval port in the city of Tartus. (Reportedly, a deal is in place to keep them there until 2092.) The Iranians just seem to enjoy causing any trouble they can stir up for the United States and Israel.
At the same time, while not officially in league with Assad, Turkey has been waging their own war against the Kurds in that region, going so far as to physically invade Syrian territory on a few occasions and endanger American troops in the region. To say that our relations with Turkey are strained at the moment is putting it mildly.
The time is coming soon when we’re going to have to make a decision as to what we’re going to do about our arrangement with the Kurds. All the players in the region still seem reluctant to do anything that might result in killing American troops since doing so could invite a disastrous war. But is that a war we’re really prepared to fight? And to what end? If we abandon the Kurds we will look like very unreliable allies and will be effectively stabbing them in the back after they were one of our most dependable and fierce partners in the war against ISIS. But with Iraq now getting very cozy with Iran and Erdogan clearly acting like a madman in Turkey, our list of allies and resources to draw on over there is growing thin. We can’t exactly ask Israel to jump into this battle openly.
I don’t envy the President in terms of having to make this decision. He’s faced with a choice of turning tail and running or potentially fighting a war where we have literally nothing to gain and a lot to lose. But since he wanted this job, it’s going to fall on his shoulders to make the call.