Kurdish forces have a long history of siding with the United States. And the United States has a long history of eventually selling them out.
The latest iteration of this dynamic unfolded when Donald Trump ordered a small US military contingent to withdraw from Kurdish controlled parts of Northeastern Syria in advance of a likely Turkish military operation. The move came after phone call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Teyyep Erdogan in which Trump apparently acquiesced to a Turkish military operation against Kurdish fighters from the region.
That military campaign has begun, with Turkish military forces attacking various positions in Northeastern Syria under the control of a Kurdish militia backed b y the United States. These Kurdish fighters, with backing from the United States, recently ousted ISIS from the region. But Turkey sees Kurdish independence as a deeper strategic threat than ISIS, so it has launched an assault to evict this fighting force from the area.
The situation is rapidly evolving and in this episode of the Global Dispatches podcast an expert on Kurdish politics and diplomacy, Morgan Kaplan, provides some background and context for understanding events as they unfold. Morgan Kaplan is the executive editor of the academic journal International Security at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is the author of numerous studies of Kurdish politics and diplomacy.
We kick off discussing the YPG — these are the Kurdish forces who were the backbone of the fight against ISIS in Syria, and who control territory near the Turkish border. The US had backed them, while Turkey long accused them of being terrorists.
We then discuss some of the broader geopolitics of this situation, including Turkish interests in the region; the role of Moscow and Damascus; and of course the Unites States fraught history with the Kurds.