A population of some 30 million people spanning a large territory, that the Kurds haven’t had a meaningful period of autonomy in many centuries reflects historical imperial realities, but that they’ve not been able to secure such autonomy recently is seen by many Kurds as the result of systematic mistreatment not just by regional powers, but by the international community as well.
The expectation among many is that they are little more than an alliance of convenience for anyone in the region, and after a couple of years of substantial US support allowing them to grow a large, nominally autonomous territory in northeast Syria, last week’s invasion of northern Syria by Turkey is looking an awful lot like business as usual.
Turkey has been complaining about growing Kurdish influence in Syria, and many Kurds believed that a US betrayal was only a matter of time. The US endorsement of the Turkish invasion, even if it has come with admonishments not to attack the Kurds, is looking an awful lot like such a betrayal.
The hope has always been that, having been the main US ally in the region, fighting against ISIS, the US would eventually back Syrian Kurdish calls for limited autonomy. That has not been the case so far, with the US repeatedly supporting a strong central government and opposing regional autonomy in Syria.
The US interests in keeping Turkey placated has long limited their support for Kurdish offensives too deep into ISIS territory. When they finally backed the Kurdish attack on Manbij, it took months, and was immediately followed by a Turkish invasion. Within 48 hours, the US echoed Turkish demands for the Kurds to cede Manbij, which has raised the sense that the two and a half month Manbij siege was for America’s benefit, not the Kurds’.