Syria

Afrin and Raqqa: fearful symmetry

Reports of rights abuses in the north Syrian enclave of Afrin, taken by Turkish forces and rebel allies from Kurdish defenders in March, continue to mount. Amnesty International charges that Afrin residents have been arbitrarily detained and tortured, with houses and businesses looted and confiscated, and schools destroyed or taken over by militia forces. Meanwhile the Syrian opposition cited sources on the ground accusing the Kurdish militia that was driven out of Afrin, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), of press-ganging youth for compulsory military service in Raqqa. Afrin is a formerly Kurdish-majority city where displacement of Kurds and an influx of Arabs under Turkish occupation is affecting a demographic shift. Raqqa is an Arab-majority city which has been under occupation by Kurdish-led forces since it was liberated from ISIS last October. This situation obviously further heightens the risk of Kurdish-Arab ethnic war in northern Syria. (Photo: SDF)

Syria

Afrin and Ghouta: fearful symmetry

The imminent fall of rebel-held Ghouta to Russian-backed Assad regime forces approaches just after the fall of Kurdish-held Afrin to Turkish-backed rebel forces. As Arab and Kurd are pitted against each other, the Great Powers carve up Syria. But both sides are preparing to advance on Idlib next. Even as Trump talks of getting the US out of Syria, potential builds for a superpower confrontation.  (Photo of Aleppo ruins from UNHCR)

Syria

Fall of Afrin: Kurds pledge to fight on

Turkish forces and allied Syrian rebels announced they have seized “full control” of Afrin, following a two-month offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia in the northern Syrian town and surrounding enclave. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria said Afrin is “occupied” and protested that Turkey and its rebel allies have sealed it off. Rights organizations have expressed grave concern for the security of the enclave’s Kuridish residents. The YPG pledged to continue resistance, as Ankara is now poised to take its offensive to the rest of Rojava, the Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Syria. (Photo: BasNews)

Iraq

Baghdad and Kurdistan at odds on independence

As results come in from the Kurdistan Regional Government's referendum on independence from Iraq, Baghdad is rejecting the vote as illegitimate and refusing all talks on the matter. Turkey has threatened to seal the KRG's borders. One deadly clash was reported between Kurdish Peshmerga and a Turkmen militia at a town contested between Baghdad and the KRG.

Iraq

Kirkuk at question in Kurdish independence vote

Baghdad and Iraq's Kurdistan Region are at odds over the referendum on Kurdish indpendence to be held this month. A particular sticking point is the inclusion of oil-rich Kirkuk in the vote—not within the Kurdistan Regional Government's formal borders, but under its de facto control since Kurdish forces occupied the city with the collapse of the Iraqi army during the ISIS offensive of June 2014.

Syria

Syria slides closer to Arab-Kurdish ethnic war

Clashes broke out between Syrian rebel factions and Kurdish fighters in Aleppo province, as Arabs and Kurds are further pitted against each other by Great Power manipulation.

Greater Middle East

US, Russia broach Syria carve-up

Obama's proposed agreement with Russia for military cooperation in Syria in exchange for protected zones for US-backed rebels actually means a division of the country.

Greater Middle East

US rejects autonomy for Syrian Kurds

The US State Department rejected the Syrian Kurds' declaration of autonomy—ironically, just as the Pentagon is coordinating with Kurdish forces for a major offensive against ISIS. 

Greater Middle East

Chemical attack against Syrian Kurds: report

Amnesty International notes claims that chemical weapons were used by Syrian rebels against the besieged Kurdish enclave of Sheikh Maqsood in the divided city of Aleppo.

Greater Middle East

Syria: Kurdish-FSA conflict cleaves resistance

Fierce fighting between Kurdish-led YPG forces and Arab factions aligned with the Free Syrian Army is deepening a split within the Syrian resistance to both ISIS and Assad.