While the US hasn’t exactly needed an excuse to pick fights with pro-government forces in Syrian recent months, defending an allied faction would actually serve as a pretext to launch a much bigger conflict. That is increasingly looking to be the case with the Kurdish YPG.
While early in the war the YPG was mostly neutral on the civil war, and focused on protecting their own territory from ISIS, the group’s growing territory and ambitions for increased autonomy have them increasingly seeing the Syrian government as a threat.
A handful of mortar strikes weeks ago by Syrian forces against a YPG continues to be a key talking point for Kurdish officials, though recently they seem more bothered by the territorial gains the Syrian military is achieving in ISIS territory south of Raqqa.
YPG commander Daman Frat was frank about the problem, in his view, being the “regime allies trying to extend, to control as much as they can,” arguing that the US needs to support more Kurdish advances into the same area to seize that territory before the government can.
Though US officials are being a bit coy about whether they’d be brought into a full-scale war against Syria to protect the Kurds, signs point to yes, as US commanders in Syria have been spoiling for that fight in the first place, with an eye toward leveraging it into a fight with Iran, one of Syria’s key allies.