Wednesday June 21, 2017
The downing of a Syrian fighter jet by the United States – and, more recently, of an Iranian drone – augurs a confrontation that could take us down the road to World War III. The US media is echoing the Pentagon’s explanation, which is that the Syrian jet bombed (or was threatening to bomb) units of the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) around the town of Tanf. The Syrians say they were attacking forces aligned with ISIS, which both the US and the Syrian government are supposedly fighting.
The reality is that there is no such entity as the “Syrian Democratic Forces.” There are only loosely aligned groups, factions and splinters of factions, which proliferate seemingly on a daily basis in a mosaic of ethno-religious-ideological conflicts that reflect the chaos that has enveloped that country. The failure of the US to unite these various factions into the so-called Free Syrian Army – large units of which kept defecting to the various radical Islamist groups, including ISIS and al-Qaeda – led to an explosion of smaller groups centered around local, tribal, ethnic, and religious affiliations. The SDF is an attempt to solder these groups together in a military force capable of fighting and defeating the “Caliphate” established by ISIS – an effort that is far less successful than it seems.
The main military component of the SDF is the People’s Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel/YPG), consisting of about 45,000 fighters, including the all-female unit. The YPG is the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, a far-leftist formation which adheres to the “democratic confederalist” vision of Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) founder Abdullah Ocalan, who in turn credits anarcho-communist theoretician Murray Bookchin as his inspiration. The YPG is the official army of “Rojava,” a non-contiguous union of Kurdish-controlled territories that is supposedly secular, egalitarian, and socialist.