A new front opens in the Syrian Civil war
The already complicated mess that is our war against ISIS just got a whole lot messier.
Residents of the northeastern Syrian city of Hassakeh took advantage on Friday of a lull in the fighting between Kurdish forces and Syrian government troops to flee to safer areas nearby, after fighting intensified the previous day with government warplanes bombing Kurdish-controlled positions in the city for the first time, activists and others said.
Shortly afterward, clashes broke out anew, a Kurdish official said.
The fighting between the Kurdish troops and government forces could add a new dimension to the country's deadly war, now in its sixth year, by potentially opening a new front in Syria.
The area around Hassakeh had witnessed battles between the two sides in the past but this week's violence has been among the worst since Kurdish fighters took control of wide, predominantly Kurdish areas in northern Syria in 2012.
Embedded US military advisers were "nearby" when those bombs were being dropped.
Syrian bombers returned for a second day.
Most of Hasakeh city, the capital of the northeastern province by the same name, is controlled by Kurdish forces.
Syrian Kurds and Assad forces, who fought side by side from 2012 until this year, have clashed several times since Syrian Kurds declared their region autonomous. However, this is a whole new level of fighting.
Syrian Kurds also have an unstable alliance with Sunni rebel groups that are also our allies.
Two Syrian Kurds were shot dead by a former member of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) earlier this month, in what the executioner said was a response to an incident last month in which the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) killed around 50 FSA fighters and transported them back to Kurdish territory in an open-top trailer.
If this sounds like a complicated and volatile mix to you, that only means you are paying attention.
Into this mix are international relations. Consider that just the other day, Turkey and Iran agreed on a Syrian peace plan. Since they back opposite sides in this war, that seems bizarre. But they have something in common.
However, Turkey and Iran have large Kurdish communities and both appear to be concerned about Syria's Kurds gaining more areas under their control on the border with Turkey. Ankara also considers the YPG a terrorist organization because of its links to Turkey's outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.
Anyone familiar with the history of this region should not be surprised.
Nor should they be surprised when the Iraqi Kurd-Baghdad conflict breaks out.
A member of the Iraqi parliament stated on Thursday that Peshmerga forces will receive the same treatment as the Islamic State (IS) if they do not withdraw from liberated areas.
Mohammed Saihoud an Iraqi MP from the State of Law bloc, led by the former Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki, said that “if Peshmerga forces do not retreat from the liberated areas, they will be considered as occupiers, not liberators.”
“IS and Peshmerga forces are equal before the gunfire of the Iraqi security forces and Hashd al-Shaabi if they insist on the occupation of the liberated areas,” the Shia MP told an Iraqi news outlet.
Last Wednesday, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) spokesperson responded to the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’ who said that Peshmerga forces should remain in their current positions and do not advance further towards Mosul.
The KRG spokesperson Safeen Dizayee told Kurdistan24 that Peshmerga forces will not withdraw from the areas in their control because Peshmerga is the source of security and stability for people.
Of course, Baghdad's instructions directly conflict with what we are telling the Iraqi Kurds to do.
Baghdad and Erbil have already clashed recently.
The American news media is starting to wake up to this reality.
These events underline what Washington prefers to ignore: U.S. allies in the Middle East are training their guns on each other, and this could unravel the fragile global coalition against Islamic State.