July 25, 2019

U.S. Maximum Pressure on Iran Unsettles Syria's Kurds

Source: The National Interest

Journalist: Matthew Petti

Hawkish factions in Washington tout the Syrian Kurdish forces as a way to block Iran from regaining the “land bridge” through the Middle East that it once had through its alliances in Iraq and Syria. Happy to receive protection from Turkey and the Syrian government, the majority Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have long welcomed the support that U.S.-Iranian tensions bring. But now that war with Iran is on the horizon, talk of using northeast Syria as a forward base against Iran is beginning to raise eyebrows with the SDF leadership in Qamishli.

Their unrecognized Kurdish-led statelet in northeast Syria has been America’s best friend in the war against ISIS, and they’re currently keeping the Iranian-backed government of Bashar al-Assad from retaking the entire country. But as tensions in the Persian Gulf ratchet up, it’s not clear whether the Kurds and their allies in the SDF are willing—or able—to be a part of any U.S.-led war against Iran.

As long as the tensions between the United States and Iran stay simmering, it “gives the US an incentive to keep staying in northeast Syria,” said Bassam Ishak, the Syrian Democratic Council’s diplomat in Washington. “We know all along in the northeast that the US sees Syria through the lens of its Iran policy. For us, this is positive, because the US could help us keeping Iran out, Turkey out.“ But an full-on war “is going to be dangerous to everybody,” he warned.

Read the full article and more in The National Interest.


  • Nicholas Heras

    Former Fellow, Middle East Security Program

    Nicholas A. Heras is a former Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), working in the Middle East Security Program. His work focused on the analysis of complex...