Russia to establish base in Syrian Kurdistan

The Kurdish YPG militia announced March 20 that it has agreed to the establishment of a Russian military base in Afrin canton in northwestern Syria. The YPG said Moscow will help train its fighters at the base. The Russian Defense Ministry denied plans for new military bases in Syria, but acknowledged that it has established a "reconciliation center" near the town of Afrin, in Aleppo governorate, officially tasked with negotiating pacts between anti-ISIS forces. However, YPG representative Redur Xelil said Russian troops are already arriving, with personnel carriers and armored vehicles. (EA Worldview, Haaretz)

Establishment of the base appears to cement the Syrian Kurds' growing alliance with Russia, which is the biggest foreign backer of the Bashar Assad regime. This will strain Russia's new de facto alliance with Turkey, which bitterly opposes the Kurdish autonomous administration in northern Syria. It will also further deepen the growing enmity between the Kurds and the Arab rebel forces fighting Assad, which are increasingly cooperating with Turkey. 

The US is also cooperating with the YPG, and is reported to have established a base at Rmelian in Syrian Kurdistan for its Special Forces operating there. By the end of the Obama administration, the US was already clearly tilting to Assad in the Syrian war. Since then, Assad has openly broached cooperation with the new administration in Washington as part of a US-Russian "rapprochement." There have also been reports of joint US-Russian air-strikes in northern Syria since Donald Trump took office. Russia's main bases in Syria are at Tartus and Khmeimim in Latakia governorate. However, Russian warplanes and military advisors have been positioned throughout much of the country.

Obama's tilt to Assad is looking more and more like open collaboration under Trump.