Are Syrians and Kurds Joining Forces Against the Turks?

Are Syrians and Kurds Joining Forces Against the Turks?

As the old saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Kurds and Syrians have never gotten along well, but now they may have a common enemy.

Siamand Ali, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, confirmed that Lt. Gen. Alexander Chaiko met Sunday with Kurdish commander Mazloum Abdi in northeast Syria, adding that he has no details about what they discussed. The meeting comes as violence in the area has increased. Turkey has launched a barrage of airstrikes on suspected militant targets in northern Syria and Iraq over the past week in retaliation for the Istanbul bombing that Ankara blames on the Kurdish groups. The groups have denied involvement in the bombing and say Turkish strikes have killed civilians and threatened the fight against the Islamic State group.

Russia has urged de-escalation along the Turkey-Syria border but has not taken sides in the conflict.

Syrians, Kurds, and Turks

Syria has always been an unusually unstable country in a very unstable region. The roots of this instability probably go back to World War I, when the region changed forever.

In 1916, the fighting was still raging in Europe. The Allies, which were then France and Great Britain, seemed headed for defeat, especially with Russia seemingly on its last legs, ever since the Battle of Tannenberg in 1914. 

Asia, and specifically Turkey, was another matter. The determined Turks continued to hold on, mainly because Allied planners organized a series of disastrous offenses. If the Allies could pull it together, and they eventually did, Turkey’s days were numbered.

So, in 1916, the British and French secretly agreed to partition Turkey’s holdings in the Middle East. The resulting Sykes-Picot agreement had significant consequences for the three nations mentioned in the header of this section.

Basically, French and British negotiators drew a line in the sand. Anything south of that line was British, or at least in the British “sphere of influence.” The French dominated everything to the north. This line essentially bisected both Syria and the non-official nation of Kurdistan.

The Sykes-Picot line permanently divided what would become Syria. Some people think the Syrian Civil War began in 2011. However, this civil war has been going on since 1916, with some occasional breaks in the fighting.

The Kurds are mostly mountain dwellers who do not speak Arabic, are not nomadic, and are not predominantly Muslim. Therefore, they have never been welcome in the Arab family of nations. Instead, they have occupied basically the same territory since ancient times. The Turks coined the term Kursidstan (land of the Kurds) in the eleventh century. 

Before 1916, as Turkey (the Ottoman Empire) lost its grip over the area, Kurdistan seemed headed for formal independence. Sykes-Picot changed that. Today, the Kurds live mostly in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Some Kurdish nationalists, like Ali, want an independent Kurdistan carved out of several nations. Ali and his ilk will need Russian help to pull that off.

The Kurds still seethe over losing their land, and so do the Turks. Many Turkish nationalists consider Syria part of Turkey. They argue that the Allies stole the territory in World War I, and they may have a point.

Contractors in Syria

The long-running Syrian Civil War appears headed toward another pause. Syrian military strongman Bashar al-Assad controls most of the country. The remaining private military contractors in Syria may soon be caught in an unexpected regional conflict that could become a world conflict.

Contractor flexibility is a big advantage in such situations. If the Turk/Syria/Kurd/Russia crisis materializes, the DoD must prepare regular servicemembers for at least several months before they are ready for deployment. However, private military contractors, many of whom are former servicemembers, can be boots on the ground in several days. Then, once the crisis passes, the DoD discharges them without any further financial obligations.

If deployment escalates, contractors probably will not be fighting Turks, Syrians, Kurds, Russians, or anyone else. Instead, contractors fill important combat support duties.

Usually, contractors are on permanent escort duty. They guide supply convoys through war zones, escort VIPs on inspection tours, and man checkpoints. These activities free regular servicemembers for offensive operations.

Other combat support roles include training and maintenance. The United States is allied with several Syrian rebel groups. Ideally, these troops would be well-trained enough to shoulder the fighting entirely on their own. They can’t do that without contractor assistance.

Rebels and other fighters need the most advanced weapons possible when they go into battle. Contractors usually maintain these systems.

Contractor responsibilities do not end when the fighting ends. Contractors usually lead rebuilding efforts. They plan road repair, hospital construction, new school construction, and other such projects. Then, they supervise these projects so local workers complete them on time and under budget. Additionally, contractors deter vandals and other ne’er-do-wells so the construction can continue.

Injury Compensation Available

Individuals from multiple nations may be involved in a new Syrian crisis. Similarly, contractors from multiple nations are eligible for Defense Base Act benefits. The line of work does not matter either. Security and construction contractors are both eligible for benefits.

The only major requirements are that the victim sustains a physical injury in a war zone while working for a designated employer.

There is a difference between physical and visible injuries. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not a visible injury, but it is a physical injury. Extreme stress alters brain chemistry, resulting in symptoms like hypervigilance, depression, anger, and flashbacks.

The Defense Base Act also broadly defines “war zone.” Any geographic area with any American military installation, even a Marine embassy guard, is a war zone for DBA purposes.

Continuing this theme, the victim must sustain an injury while working for a designated employer, usually the State Department or DoD. However, that injury need not occur at work. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that these victims only need to prove a nexus, or indirect connection, between the injury and the deployment.

For more information about DBA benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.