Friday, April 22, 2016
Kremlin says it has sent troops to fight with Kurdish units in Syria.
Kremlin says it has sent troops to fight with Kurdish units in Syria. (WSJ).
The Russian government says it has sent troops to fight alongside Kurdish units in northwestern Syria and is providing weapons to Iraqi Kurds in a tactic that could upstage a long-standing U.S. alliance with the stateless ethnic group and increase Moscow’s influence in the region.
Russian and Kurdish officials say the Kremlin intends to keep a foothold in the area by cultivating ties with some Kurdish groups through weapons, ammunition and oil deals, building on its presence established through its relationship with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Russia’s support appears to be focused on one group in western Syria, the Afrin Kurds, an American defense official said.
The Afrin Kurds have not been backed by the U.S., which has supported an umbrella group of Syrian Kurdish fighters, known as the People’s Defense Units, or YPG.
The American officials said Mr. Putin’s announcement was likely a provocation against the U.S. and Turkey.
In political circles, Russia’s outreach to Kurds in Iraq is raising concern about more tension between Moscow and Washington, which wants to keep Iraq a unitary state.
“Russia will take on any opportunity it can to undermine U.S. interests globally, but they don’t always think through the consequences,” said Rep. Seth Moulton (D., Mass.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “We’re concerned about the long-term stability of Iraq and I don’t think they are.”
“There is no doubt that the Kurdish factors will be one of the most important factors in the Middle East transformation in years to come,“ said Fyodor Lukyanov, head of a Kremlin advisory body known as Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defense Policy. Read the full story here.