With the Syrian Civil War already spilling over into a number of neighboring regions, a secondary war between Syrian Kurds and Islamist rebels looks set to draw in some regional fighters of its own, with Iraqi Kurdistan’s President Masoud Barzani suggesting his government is prepared for direct intervention in that fight.
In a public statement posted online, Barzani reported deploying aides to West Kurdistan (the Syrian part) to investigate the fighting, saying that if the initial reports prove true his government is prepared to use “all of its capabilities” to defend Syria’s Kurds.
Those capabilities are significant, as Iraqi Kurdistan has the loyalty of an army of upwards of 300,000 armed fighters, the Peshmearga, who have successfully held the Iraqi military at bay during recent territorial disputes.
A deployment of Peshmearga into West Kurdistan could change the game in Syria, giving the Kurdish factions in Syria an overwhelming power edge over Jabhat al-Nusra and the other Islamist rebels. Though neither Iraq nor the Syrian government in likely to object in the near-term, it sets the stage for more regional battles in the long run.
Kurdish autonomy in Syria will also push Turkey into even more overt backing of al-Qaeda factions in the hopes of tamping down Kurdish independence bids, further straining the Turkey-PKK peace process.