Syrian Kurds Declare Victory in Raqqa, But Face Complicated Peace

Ruling Major Arab City Will Be a Tall Order in the Long Term

On Tuesday, the Kurdish YPG declared victory in the ISIS capital city of Raqqa, declaring the city to have been “liberated,” and leaving ISIS forces retreating further east, trying to set up defenses elsewhere.

It was a big victory that was a year in the making, but the future of Kurdish-held Raqqa could be an even more complex matter, as it leaves Kurdish officials and some very tiny Arab allies governing a major Arab-dominated city.

Placing their Arab allies into positions of visible power is likely, to try to tone down the impression of the city being Kurdish-occupied. Still, there’s no denying that many of these factions only allied with the YPG in the first place to try to get such positions in the end, and may be seen by locals who preferred ISIS rule as collaborators.

The capture of Raqqa also greatly complicates the YPG’s goal of federalization within Syria, as it puts even more territory under the control of their regional government, which is claiming autonomy within a future Syria. That autonomy may be a tough sell if the Kurdish region is both this large and includes this many non-Kurds.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for 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.