Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in a speech at Stanford University, gave the clearest acknowledgment yet that Russia and Iran have bolstered Assad and that he is unlikely to leave power immediately
Kurdistan is a region straddling northern Iraq, Western Iran, eastern Turkey and parts of Syria and Armenia. Some 30 million Kurds inhabit the region, and have struggled for decades recognition, influence, and an independent nation-state.
Israel was the lone regional voice supporting an independent Kurdistan, while the U.S., U.K. and Russia favored a unified Iraq as well. "A stable and unified Kurdish entity in the middle of this swamp, is not a bad idea," Netanyahu said in September. The prime minister added that while Israel sees the Kurdish guerillas PKK as a terrorist organization, "it supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state."
After the referendum, the Iraqi government led a military campaign to retake areas held by the Kurds, the city of Kirkuk becoming the initial flashpoint. After several military defeats the Kurds have largely backed down in their bid for independence and have yet to declare their own state.
Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman says the planned Kurdish-led force is a 'blatant intervention' that will further complicate the conflict in Syria
230 new cadets have already been recruited to the force, which is anticipated to reach 30,000 troops in the next several years
The Iraqi government would love to punish the Kurdish province for its independence referendum this fall, but if it takes too hard a line, it runs the risk of starting a civil war
Despite assistance from allies Iran and Russia, Assad is unlikely to achieve lasting control over the entire country
Russian diplomacy in Syria is not seen as likely to yield a peace deal, while Putin and Iranian leaders differ on how best to deal with Syria's armed Kurds
The offices of the ruling Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan were set on fire, among others
The German government has provided more than $1.2 billion in humanitarian, development and stabilization aid to Iraq since 2014, making it one of the biggest international donors
The Syrian Kurds are backed by the U.S. in fighting ISIS, but seen by Turkey as an extension of its internal Kurdish insurgency
The decision is sure to please Turkey, but will further alienate Syrian Kurds, who bore much of the fight against ISIS in Syria