ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The US’ relations with Turkey are complicated because Washington feels responsible for the Kurds who it supports through the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, according to a university professor in Washington.
Lisel Hintz, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC, spoke to Kurdistan 24 following a conference last week, which she paneled, called “Turkey: A Partner in Crisis,” hosted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
She said the US finds itself in “a tough position” because of Turkey’s objections against US support for the Kurdish YPG who it has armed in the ongoing fight against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.
Ankara argues the YPG are an offshoot of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and has called on Washington to cease its backing of the Kurdish forces which Turkey calls a “terrorist” group.
A Turkish military offensive against the Kurdish forces in Afrin is now in its fourth week without any official support for the YPG from Washington who has only called on Turkey “to limit its operations” in the region.
Hintz said the US now feels obligated to help the Kurds in Syria, especially after it abandoned them in Iraq by openly rejecting an independence referendum last year.
“I think the US feels a sense of responsibility to try and continue to help the Kurds; they are clearly a very effective military ally as they were in Iraq and in Syria against [IS],” Hintz stated, adding Washington has been “hesitant to involve itself.”
She also spoke about the ongoing dispute between the KRG and the Iraqi government following the Sep. 25 independence vote which has led to deteriorated relations between Erbil and Baghdad.
Hintz said the US did not want to get involved in “what it sees as the domestic policies of Iraq,” despite calls from senior Kurdish officials for foreign support against Baghdad which has imposed punitive measures on Kurdistan, including the use of military force in disputed areas.
“As much as it sees the Kurds as an incredibly valuable ally and has been concerned about their fate in the past, there is a limited amount of pressure that the US can push on Baghdad,” Hintz noted.