03:00 GMT +309 December 2019
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    Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). (File)

    Washington 'Efficiently Playing Kurdish Card in Syria'

    © AFP 2019 / Delil souleiman
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    Kurdish fighters have been America's go-to ground force when it comes to tackling Daesh in the Middle East, but Washington's support for and reliance on the ethnic group which has long tried to achieve greater autonomy, if not independence, has fueled concerns over the true motives of the United States in Syria.

    "The United States has efficiently played the Kurdish card," Deputy Chairman of Russia's Federation Council Committee on International Affairs Andrei Klimov told Izvestiya. "Washington has actively increased its presence [in Syria]. Under these circumstances, there are risks that the issue of dividing Syria into several so-called sovereign states will return to the agenda since the support of a single ethnic group could lead to negative implications."

    The fact that the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a multi-ethnic alliance primarily made up of the Kurdish People's Protection Units, has become the key force tasked with liberating the city of Raqqa, Daesh's key stronghold in the Middle East, has prompted some to suggest that Washington had promised the Kurds that the US will back them during post-conflict reconstruction of the war-torn country.

    An unnamed source in the Russian Foreign Ministry appears to have confirmed this, telling the newspaper that political and security interests of the Kurds are mainly limited to Rojava, an area comprising the cantons of Afrin, Jazira and Kobani.

    "There is no military need for the Kurds to capture [Raqqa]," the source said. "The sheer fact that they have advanced [towards the city] shows that they received guarantees that they will have an opportunity to assert their rights" during the peace process. These guarantees were ostensibly provided by external forces, apparently meaning the United States.

    This is not something that Damascus will take lightly. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad named liberating Raqqa a priority for the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) over the weekend. However, turning this into an actual strategy will be difficult.

    Defense analyst Victor Murakhovsky expressed doubt that the SAA will take part in the operation aimed at pushing Daesh out of the city which the brutal group captured in January 2014.

    Damascus-led forces "will need to cross the Euphrates in order to advance towards Raqqa. The US-backed SDF are active on the bank the SAA moved to. The Kurds have reached the left bank of the Euphrates, south of Raqqa. In other words, they have cut the direct route between the city and Deir ez-Zor. Government forces need to reach an agreement with the SDF if they want to move towards Raqqa," he explained, adding that it is highly unlikely that both sides will ink such a deal.

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    Syrian crisis, Syrian Kurds, Syrian conflict, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Syrian Arab Army, Bashar al-Assad, Syria, United States, Raqqa
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