Kurds punished for success against ISIS —again

The Rojava Kurds of northern Syria continue to be punished for their success against ISIS. Their ground offensive has throughout the summer been driving ISIS back towards Raqqa, the "Islamic State" capital. The autonomous Rojava cantons, previously cut off from each other by areas of ISIS control, are now linked by swaths of liberated territory. This dramatically contrasts recent ISIS gains in central Syria. Now Middle East Eye reports that the Rojava Kurds's YPG militia is advancing on Jarabulus, the last ISIS-controlled town on the Turkish border. The account cites the widespread perception among the Kurds that the Turkish government has been conniving with ISIS: "Taking the Jarabulus crossing would be a major advance for the YPG since they are convinced that IS gets supplies of recruits and weaponry through Turkey. YPG officials claim the crossing is open, and IS has no need for smugglers or breaks in the border fence." In a particularly sinister game, Ankara has collaborated with ISIS even while equating ISIS and the anti-ISIS YPG as both "terrorist" (sic!). Such propaganda will doubtless be escalated if the entire Syrian border with Turkey falls under YPG control, raising fears in Ankara of an independent Kurdish state.

The Rojava gains come as the ceasefire between the Turkish state and the PKK rebels has broken down, precipitating open war across much of Turkey's southeast. Ankara's latest propaganda is to claim that YPG fighters have crossed into Turkey to come to the aid of their PKK comrades. The indpendent Kurdish news service BasNews reports that the YPG General Command has categorically denied this, stating quite plausibly that they more than have their hands full fighting ISIS. This is obviously a bid to pressure the US into cutting off coordination and aid to the YPG. Fortunately, it hasn't worked. Syrian Kurdish forces have "pushed ISI back and in the process, regained more than 17,000 square kilometers of territory—more than 6,500 square miles—previously held by the enemy," Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder said in a Pentagon press conference Sept. 18. "So, we want to see these anti-ISIL forces operating in Syria continue to be successful."

It seems the regional player most invested in avoiding this outcome is NATO ally Turkey.