U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to officially deploy the U.S. military — “boots on the ground” — to Syria for the first time to support Syrian Kurds against the Islamic State is too much for some and too little for others. The anti-interventionists remind us that the Vietnam War also started with the use of a group of military advisers. The other camp is critical of the fact that the realization that U.S. strategy in Syria has failed is not leading to an immediate change of course and significantly more engagement.
All U.S. actions now look like a reaction to the Russian initiative in Syria that has culminated in talks in Vienna. Although the U.S. already supported the Kurds before, they have to make more of an effort for them now; the Russians are just waiting to take their place. And, ultimately, it’s about who will be waving the flag when Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s temporary capital, is recaptured.
The YPG* coalition, led by Syrian Kurdish militias, which is to free Raqqa, has given itself the touching name of the “Syrian Democratic Army.” But that doesn’t change the fact that Turkey sees a branch of the Turkish Kurdish PKK** in the YPG. For Ankara, propping up the Syrian Kurds is a tough nut to crack; however, without Turkey, the peace plans devised in Vienna for Syria may quickly be buried.
*Editor’s note: YPG is the Kurdish acronym for People’s Protection Units, the main armed service of the Kurdish Supreme Committee.
**Editor’s note: PKK is the Kurdistan Worker’s Party.