Kurds need U.S. to help win seat at Syria talks, Haaretz analyst says

U.S. President Donald Trump partly reversed course from a military withdrawal in northern Syria this week, renewing operations against Islamic State (ISIS) in the region with Kurdish help.

Trump’s about-turn could be good news for Syria’s Kurds, despite the anger expressed by Russia and Turkey at the operations, as it may eventually secure them a seat at the negotiating table setting out Syria’s constitutional and political future, Zvi Bar’el, a Middle Eastern affairs analyst for Haaretz newspaper, said on Thursday.

Turkey may resume hostilities against Kurdish militants in northern Syria, which began in early October, saying Russia is not upholding a ceasefire agreement that envisages clearing them from the area, Bar’el said. But the Kurds’ renewed status as a fighting force could strengthen them diplomatically and make clear to Russia and Turkey that any political solution in Syria is doomed without them, he said.

Russia is struggling to advance its diplomatic plan for Syria after a second meeting of a constitution-drafting committee fell apart in Geneva this week. The two sides couldn’t even agree on an agenda, Bar’el said.

The constitutional committee has almost no Syrian Kurds, despite them making up around 20 percent of Syria’s population, according to Bar’el. The Kurds also did not attend diplomatic conferences that preceded the Geneva talks, he said. They were instead represented by the Kurdish National Council, controlled by the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq under the patronage of Turkey, he said.

While Turkey vehemently opposes any involvement of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its political affiliate in the negotiations, the key role they play in the country, highlighted by the U.S.-led military operations this week, underscore their emerging importance as Russia seeks to secure a lasting deal on Syria’s future, Bar’el said.