Mitch Swenson – War is boring – 27-11-2013 – Pres. Bashar Al Assad has gifted a large stockpile of missiles to a group of Kurdish separatists occupying northeastern Syria, a report citing the Turkish military stated on Saturday.
Turkey’s Office of the General Commander of the Gendarmerie alleged that the Syrian government supplied more than 200 heat-sensitive, ground-to-air missiles to the Kurdish Democratic People’s Union or PYD, Turkey’s Bugün newspaper reported.
Additionally the report claims Pres. Bashar Al Assad equipped the PYD near Deir Ez Zor with five Russian-manufactured tanks and 10 artillery guns. If true, the weapons could give the Kurdish brigade the means to strengthen control over parts of northeastern Syria—and deploy a deterrence against any potential Turkish intervention in the war.
According to Jane’s Intelligence Weekly, Assad’s interest in the Kurdish militias may lie in their ability to disrupt rebel supply routes in and out of Iraq along the eastern border with Syria.
The Bugün report also claimed that Adnan Jamil Hairbek, a commander loyal to the Syrian government, arrived in the city of Ras al Ayn to coordinate attacks against nearby rebel brigades. Ras al Ayn was captured by Kurdish forces in October.
In October, heavy fighting broke out between the PYD and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria for control of the Yaarubiya border crossing into Iraq—an important transit point for both weapons and rebels.
But in Qamishli, the capital of the Kurdish-dominated region in Syria, few would say that Assad and the PYD are allies.
“There is no peace between us and the Assad regime,” Giwan Ibrahim, a top commander in the Kurdish military, told The Daily Beast’s Jamie Dettmer.
This isn’t surprising, as the PYD’s strategy is best characterized by pragmatism. Kurdish leaders attest they are fighting to ensure that their own cities like Qamishli remain safe, protecting them from being razed in internecine fighting like in Aleppo. But many Arab brigades seem to think if the PYD isn’t fighting alongside the rebels, the Kurdish brigade must be implicitly against them.
On Nov. 12, the PYD made headlines when it declared an autonomous administration to govern the Kurdish-dominated parts of northeastern Syria. However, the separation was met with contention from Kurdish factions aligned with the Syrian National Coalition, which represents many of the opposition brigades in Syria.
A spokesman for the SNC, Bassam Youssef, said that the PYD’s declaration of autonomy would “harm the interests of the revolution.”
And as Jane’s Intelligence Weekly also pointed out, Turkey doesn’t want to back the PYD’s decision for autonomy as it might embolden Kurdish separatists inside Turkey.
“The Kurds aren’t harmful to Turkey. They have been living together as brothers for years,” PYD leader Salih Muslim said. But in an effort to stave off PYD influence in Syria, the Turkish government and the KNC have deepened their relations. Nonetheless, in recent weeks violent spats between Turkish and Kurdish students at universities around Turkey have broken out—a reflection of heightened ethnic animosity in the region. The Syrian government pulled out of the Kurdish-dominated areas of northeastern Syria in mid-2012, thereby freeing Kurds from an ethnically-repressive regime.