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Syria, Kurds, Jihadists and Hydrocarbons

Bottom Line: The retaking of rebel-central Homs last week by the Syrian regime marks a turning point in the conflict, while a secondary battle between the Kurds and radical Sunni jihadists in the north rages. If anyone continues to insist that this is anything but a regional conflict, the evidence is piling up to the contrary. From Israeli strikes to Hezbollah’s involvement to Turkey’s tricky engagement in fighting in the north, this is beyond Syria.  

Analysis: Last week, Syrian regime forces recaptured the central city of Homs, which has until now been deemed the bastion of rebel forces. In all of this the Kurds are driving for autonomy and engaged in major clashes with radical Sunni forces—the Iraq-al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front--in the North. It’s easy to accuse the Kurds here of aligning themselves with the Syrian regime, but that is not the case. They are fighting for an autonomous enclave and had warned the rebels to stay out. Kurds comprise around 15% of Syria’s population, and the majority live in the North. The Kurds had already won a bit of a coup in mid-2012 when Syrian troops withdrew from the Kurdish areas and handed security over to Kurdish militia. Now our intelligence points to the beginnings of the formation of a Kurdish autonomous government, even if only embryonic and unofficial. While most media reports focus on Turkey’s insistence that an autonomous Kurdish enclave in northern Syria would not be acceptable,…

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