With his grip over Syria apparently loosening, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has abandoned the border area between Syria and Turkey, allowing Kurdish militants to take control of several towns in northern Syria. The development heightens the possibility of involvement by Iraqi Kurds as well as by Turkey, introducing new tensions to the Syrian conflict.
“Syria is fragmenting, and for the first time in recent history Kurds are taking matters into their own hands,” said Hugh Pope, Turkey and Cyprus project director for the International Crisis Group. Pope explained that it is still unclear whether Syrian Kurds will unite to push for full rights within the Syrian state or whether they will work toward an autonomous Syrian Kurdish solution. “Certainly, the most important trend line, as can be seen on Kurdish Twitter feeds, is the sense that Syrian Kurds, like the Iraqi Kurds before them, are at last breaking through to some self-rule and international sympathy.”
Henri Barkey, a professor of international relations at Lehigh University, said the developments potentially represent “the beginning of the redrawing of Middle Eastern boundaries.”