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US State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert has responded to questions from reporters about reports from Kurdish militants who last week stated that the US plans to remain in Syria for “decades”.
Nauert refuted these claims by stating the following,
“Syria must be governed by its own people and not by the United States or other force”.
She added that the US intends to “defeat” ISIS and not to stay beyond this mission.
This puts statements from the US and their militant Kurdish allies into direct contradiction. As I wrote recently in The Duran,
“Talal Silo has said that the Kurdish fighters in Syria have reached an agreement that would imply a de-facto Kurdish entity in Syria would form under the auspices of US military occupation of the territory which is recognised by every major international body, including the United Nations as Syrian territory.
The United States has yet to comment on the remarks and for good reason. The remarks open up a Pandora’s Box of problems for all those impacted, including Washington.
Here are three possible interpriations of the Kurdish statement:
1. Blackmail to the US
Officially, the US does not back the creation of a Kurdish state anywhere, not in Syria, Iraq, Turkey or Iran, even though various Kurdish groups seek the creation of such an entity in all of these places. To this point, the US, like Russia, urges Iraqi Kurds to postpone a separatist referendum in Iraq which is currently scheduled for the 25th of September, 2017.
By implying that a deal has been reached between the SDF and United States to keep American occupying troops in Syria for decades to come, Kurdish leaders in Syria may be trying to force America’s hand in creating a state by default.
If SDF controlled regions of Syria become cut off from the legitimate authorities in Damascus through a line of US military occupation, one could witness a scenario similar to that which Serbia endured in the late 1990s. Starting in 1999, NATO troops brutally occupied the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija. This led the province being cut off from the rest of Serbia in spite of being an integral part of Serbian territory.
In 2008, occupied Kosovo and Metohija unilaterally declared itself a state and the US was quick to support this move.
Something similar could happen in Syria where a US occupation of Syria could eventually lead Kurdish regions being cut off from the rest of Syria, making a unilateral declaration of independence all the more likely in the future.
The biggest difference is that unlike in the Balkans where the unilateral declaration of a Kosovar entity could not reasonably have been militarily opposed due to the weakness of west Balkan military power, in Syria it is a different matter. Turkey has said that it will never accept a Kurdish state on its borders and if history is a guide, Turkey will do something about it and what’s more Turkey certainly is militarily capable of doing something about it.
2. A Truthful statement
It may be that the US which is already effectively cutting off much of Syria east of the Euphrates with its stalwart support of Kurdish militants has already reached a deal with local Kurds for a long-term occupation of Syria.
The fact that the US has not said so publicly and has apparently not told Ankara is a further sign that the US is prepared to lose what is left of its historic Turkish alliance.
If the statement from the Kurdish spokesman represents covert but confirmed American policy, it means that Turkey’s exit from NATO could be even more rapid than many previously thought possible.
3. Wishful thinking
Kurdish military spokesmen tend to be over-zealous and exaggerate the realities of many situations, especially when geo-political alignments are involved.
It could be that the US has given no more indication to the Kurds that they intend to occupy certain regions of Syria than they have given anyone else and that the Kurds are speaking from a position of desire rather than fact”.
Today’s remarks from the US State department leave only two possibilities: either the Kurds are trying in vain to entice the US further into Syria or that Heather Nauert is being dishonest and the future plans of the US.