Oct. 20, 2014 by Darius
Last night, as the battle for the town of Kobani in Syria continued, the US airdropped supplies to the defenders of the town. The supplies didn’t come from the US, though. Instead, the supplies came from the Iraqi Kurdish government. The US merely delivered them.
Turkey, which is deeply mistrustful of the main Syrian Kurdish movement, was not asked about the US airdrop. Instead, the US “informed” the Turkish government, and US planes simply didn’t use Turkish airspace. Today, Turkey agreed to let Iraqi Kurdish fighters traverse Turkish soil to reinforce Kobani.
Turkey’s decision to allow Iraqi Kurdish forces transit is a sensible reversal of a prior bad decision. In previous days and weeks, the Turkish government didn’t want to provide any support to the Syrian Kurds. Allowing in Iraqi Kurdish forces, though, makes everyone happy. The Syrian defenders of Kobani get needed reinforcements. The US and West, which care little about Kurdish politics, stop criticizing Turkey for being obstructionist. Iraqi Kurds get a chance to bolster their regional prestige. And Turkey wins too. Much of Turkish policy towards Syrian Kurds since the war in Syria started has been to try to promote groups aligned with the Iraqi Kurds. What better way to create goodwill and an opening for these groups among Syrian Kurds than by arriving as much-needed reinforcements against a common enemy?
Previous Turkish policy is a good example of the missed opportunities that arise when an actor only considers its historic or short-term goals. In this case, Turkey’s short-term goal was to prevent the empowerment of the Syrian Kurdish group because of Turkey’s historic mistrust of the Turkish-Kurdish terrorist organization with which the Syrian Kurdish group has been allied. In doing that, Turkey ignored its longer-term goals and the fact that the situation on the ground has changed: assisting, even passively, the Syrian Kurds builds goodwill with foreign and domestic audiences, deprives the Assad government of the Kurdish corner of Syria, and gets an army of murderous fanatics off its doorstep.
In other news related to both the Syrian Kurds and the need to take the long-view and deal with facts as they exist, last weekend the U.S had its first-ever face to face meeting with the main Syrian Kurdish group, the PYD – three and a half years after the beginning of the Syrian civil war and three years after the beginning of the US’s vetting of moderate Syrian rebel groups.