Whilst it shouldn’t come as any surprise, al-Jazeera reports that Iraqi Kurds are running military training camps for their Syrian brothers. The President of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, says that the Syrian fighters will be sent back home to fill any “security vacuum” should government forces retreat from Kurdish areas.
In others words, to form a de facto home guard and make sure that the Kurdish bits of Syria stay Kurdish controlled should there be some radical re-shaping of the country following the collapse of the Assad regime.
And the Iraqi Kurds ought to know a fair bit about setting up de facto regions of independence. From about 1992 they were running a parallel country within Saddam’s turf - with a little help from a no-fly zone. When the dust settled after the 2003 invasion, their years of autonomy placed them in the best position to just get on with business and start pumping all the oil they were sitting on.
It wouldn’t therefore be shocking to think they’d want to see the same model applied to Syria. It could even turn out to be the world’s longest game of Monopoly, with the Kurds patiently acquiring all the little pieces of various other states, with the ultimate dream of putting them all together and re-shaping the board.
Of lesser serenity of course are the PKK hotheads. They’re being blamed for the bombing of an oil pipeline near the town of Midyat in Turkey this week. Given that this pipe carries about a quarter of all the oil exported by Iraq, it’s hardly likely to endear the radicals to anybody.
Certainly the news that there will soon be more tooled up Kurds entering Syria will bring no joy to the Turks. Their pursuit of PKK fighters across the border into Iraq is also a constant source of tension between the two nations.
The usual Middle Eastern paradoxes are apparent in all this. There was a strong relationship between the Syrian government and the PKK, with Bashar’s father Hafez sheltering the PKK leadership for years. Now it could be that with any demise of the Syrian regime, the Kurds may actually get more autonomy….which is one of the things the PKK were after.