Tag Archives: SDF

The Darker Side of the Western Enthusiasm for “The Kurds”

A version of this article was published in The Arab Weekly

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 24 November 2019

Solider from the Syrian regime holds up a portrait of Bashar al-Asad and a Syrian national flag, another stands by the Kurdish YPG/PKK flag, in Kobani, 18 October 2019. (AFP)

Mustafa Bali, head of the press office for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the coalition partner against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria, sent a tweet on November 14 showing Turkey’s Arab proxies engaged in “ISIS chants.” By this, he meant the takbir, “God is Great,” an expression used by Muslims every day. When criticised, Bali doubled down and blocked many critics. This was a microcosm of one of the darker threads in an SDF messaging strategy that is among the most effective propaganda campaigns on record. Continue reading

Trump’s Middle East Failure Was Made By Obama

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 19 November 2019

President Barack Obama meeting President-elect Donald Trump, 10 November 2016 [image source]

October 2019 may well remain in the popular memory as the inflection point marking the collapse of America’s — and by extension, the West’s — position in at least the northern Middle East. Having been thwarted twice before in efforts to leave Syria, in March and December 2018, President Donald Trump made one more try. For many, ‘Trump betrayed the Kurds’ will be the summary of the events that followed as Turkey made a swift move into the vacuum. The reality is a lot more complicated, and in truth the amount of blame that Trump can take for the events of the last month is rather limited. This catastrophe was baked into the policy of Barack Obama, and Trump’s main fault is to have followed the policy track laid down by his predecessor. Continue reading

The Rearrangement of Northeastern Syria and Signs of Rifts in the PKK

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 18 November 2019

“SDF commander “General Mazlum Kobani” (the PKK executive official Ferhat Abdi Shahin) being interviewed by AFP in Hasaka city, 24 January 2019 [image source]

Even by the standards of Syria’s complicated war, October 2019 was a tumultuous month. The contradictions inherent in the U.S. effort to conduct a counter-terrorism war against the Islamic State (IS) divorced from the realities of the underlying conflict erupted into view. Continue reading

The PKK and Russia

By Oved Lobel on 18 November 2019

PKK at a terrorist training camp in the Asad regime-held Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, 1991 [source]

My friend Oved Lobel, a researcher focused on Russia’s role in the Middle East (among other things), found several interviews the Russian media did with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leaders, one with the leader himself Abdullah Ocalan, talking about, inter alia, the group’s relationship with Moscow. He very helpfully translated them and with his permission they are published below.

The broad outline of the PKK’s relationship with the Soviet Union—and then the Russian Federation—is fairly clear. After the PKK was founded in Turkey in the late 1970s by Ocalan, it was evicted from the country during the 1980 military coup. The PKK moved to Syria, where Ocalan was already based, having fled Turkey in June 1979. From there, the PKK moved into the Bekaa area of Lebanon, at that time controlled by the Syrian regime of Hafez al-Asad, and the Soviets acted through Asad, as they so often did in dealing with terrorist groups, to build the PKK into a fighting force that was then unleashed in 1984 on Turkey, a frontline NATO state in the Cold War. Continue reading

Coalition Partner in Syria Represses Dissent

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 12 November 2019

Ahmad al-Hashlum, Hasan Qassab, Hamza al-Malla, Mazen al-Harami

There has been a renewed crackdown on dissent in the areas of Syria run by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). While on Syrian soil, the PKK uses the name Democratic Union Party (PYD), and its armed wing is called the People’s Protection Units (YPG). The YPG/PKK is the dominant force in the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), the U.S.-led international Coalition’s ground partner in Syria against the Islamic State (ISIS). Continue reading

Some thoughts on Turkey, ‘the Kurds’, America, and Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 9 October 2019

Interview with De Re Militari Journal. Continue reading

Collision or Collusion for Turkey and America in Syria?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 1 October 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the opening ceremony of the NATO Summit in Brussels, July 2018 // Getty Images

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said earlier in September that he would discuss the problems between Turkey and the United States when he met with the U.S. President Donald Trump on September 25, as part of his trip to New York for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. But neither side has revealed what was discussed and if anything was resolved. Continue reading