Kurds, Iraqis Play Growing Role in Syrian Civil War

PKK Fighters Battling Rebel FSA Around Aleppo

Another week of Syrian Civil War means more new combatants entering the increasingly regional conflict.

The question of Kurdish neutrality seems to be settled, at least so far as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Turkish-based Kurdish secessionist movement is concerned, with the group accusing the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) of attacking Kurdish neighborhoods in Aleppo and retaliating against FSA bases. The fighting between the two has killed 36 in recent days, and 14 Kurds have been kidnapped by the FSA in the process.

Several Kurdish factions have set themselves up since the war broke out, and what happens with one is not necessarily an indication of where others will fall in the war. The PKK’s shift is perhaps the most predictable, as the FSA is openly backed by the Turkish government. Some of the Kurdish groups are being trained in Iraqi Kurdistan.

And they aren’t the only Iraqis getting involved in the war. Sunni Islamist factions have been flocking to Syria for months, at the behest of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) to fight against the Assad regime. Now, Iraqi Shi’ites are also heading to Damascus, usually by way of Iran or Lebanon first and joining Shi’ite militias seeking to fight on behalf of the regime.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.