Iran and Turkey hit Washington’s Kurdish proxies in Iraq and Syria

Failing US hegemony is making itself felt in some surprising ways – and none of them bode well for the imperialists.

Proletarian writers

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A Kurdish armoured vehicle is destroyed by a Turkish strike in Syria. Moves by Turkey towards breaking free of the role of unquestioning US proxy must surely be welcome to anti-imperialists, no matter what has motivated such action.

Proletarian writers

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As the decline in US fortunes continues, all Uncle Sam’s many and various proxy forces in the middle east are feeling the chill wind of betrayal by their weakening master.

As so often before, it is once again the Kurds who are feeling this abandonment most keenly, as the west first flatters Kurdish national sentiments to draw them into a devil’s bargain, and then reneges on all its promises when the wind changes.

What is new is the unexpected combination of forces that is facing down these proxy actors. Recent weeks have seen what looks very much like a coordinated pushback by decidedly odd bedfellows Iran and Turkey, targeting (a) armed Iranian Kurdish enemies of the Islamic Republic holed up in Iraq, and (b) the Kurdish rent-an-army SDF (the misnamed Syrian Democratic Forces) holed up in the oil-rich north-east of Syria and keeping vigil over the theft of the Syrian nation’s mineral wealth by the USA.

In neither instance is it likely that matters will end well for either the Kurds or their US sponsors.

Fuelling anti-government unrest in Iran

A two-month-long wave of anti-government street protests in Iran has been portrayed in the west as a spontaneous movement sparked by the death of 22-year-old Iranian Kurd Mahsa Amini, who died in the custody of Iran’s morality police after being detained for some minor dress code infraction.

By framing the protests in this narrow perspective, attention is directed away from the role played in stoking up trouble in Iran by armed separatist groups beholden to imperialism.

These groups, which have for many years been given safe haven in the part of Iraq under the semi-autonomous rule of the KRG (Kurdistan regional government; set up by the imperialists in 1992 after the first invasion of Iraq), have become accustomed to enjoying impunity for their hostile activities against Iran – an impunity which has been backed up by tacit support from US imperialism.

But now, as US authority in the middle east wanes and Tehran unleashes dozens of drones and ballistic missiles against the west-backed terrorist groups that lie behind the regime-change protests, that impunity is visibly leaking away.

“Ethnic Kurds live across Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq, but lack their own state. Iranian Kurdish dissident groups, which have been engaged in a low-intensity conflict with the regime in Tehran over their desire for greater autonomy since the 1979 revolution, moved their bases to Iraq in the 1980s and 1990s.

“Iran alleges that these groups have been smuggling weapons across the border and stirring up protests, with the country’s foreign minister on Wednesday saying there were ‘76 terrorist bases’ involved in such activities – accusations the groups deny.

“The escalating tensions now threaten to overwhelm Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan regional government (KRG), which has called for international intervention to stop the attacks.” (Iran targets Kurds sheltering in Iraq: ‘We’re being used as a scapegoat’ by Raya Jalabi and Najmeh Bozorgmehr, Financial Times, 27 November 2022)

So it appears that, rather than resulting in the overthrow of the Iranian government, the imperialist-sponsored protests could instead spell the downfall of the KRG government unless it ceases to allow armed groups to use its territory as a launchpad for making trouble in Iran.

Syrian rent-an-army under threat

And whilst Iran is facing down Kurdish terrorists in Iraq, Turkey is doing much the same in Syria.

When the USA pulled out of Syria in 2019 it took care to leave its Kurdish rent-an-army behind in the oil-rich north-east of the country to oversee the imperialist theft of Syrian oil. This did not please Turkey, which has its own plunder agenda and despises the USA almost as much as it despises the USA’s Kurdish proxies.

Things came to a head recently when Turkey accused the USA of complicity in a terror attack in Istanbul by a woman who had gone there from ‘Kobani’ (Arabic name Ayn al-Arab) in Kurdish occupied Syria. Turkey responded by bombing Kurdish positions and threatening to invade the Kurdish occupied region.

The relative silence of the USA in the face of these multiple attacks upon its own proxy forces speaks volumes about its growing powerlessness on the world stage.

Ultimately, it would appear that US imperialism’s attempt to use both its Kurdish stooges and their implacable Turkish enemies (Turkey being both a Nato member and a formerly reliable US ally with a strong army) to maintain its hegemony over the entre middle east is unravelling and blowing up in its face.