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Iraq's Intervention May Change the Equation in Syria's Kurdish Regions
By Fehim Tastekin

Interventions by Iraqi federal forces in northern Iraq following the independence referendum held by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) could imperil the Kurdish autonomy project in northern Syria. Iraqi government forces took over the Rabia border crossing to Syria on Oct. 17 and are now bargaining to share control of the Fish Khabur crossing with the Iraqi Kurds. The draft agreement put forth in negotiations with Kurdish representatives calls for joint administration of Fish Khabur by Iraqi federal forces, Kurdish peshmerga and the international coalition.

The new setup of the two border crossings will likely affect the future of the Kurdish autonomy project known as the Northern Syria Democratic Federation. Fish Khabur, on the Tigris River, is not an official crossing, but since the Kurds began to dominate northern Syria in July 2012, it has been used for crossing into Iraqi Kurdistan. The Syrian side of the crossing is called Semelka.

Under pressure from Turkey, then-KRG President Massoud Barzani closed the Fish Khabur/Semelka crossings and imposed an embargo on Rojava. The blockade was at times relaxed under US prodding to allow freedom of movement to the US-backed People's Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish force that was fighting the Islamic State (IS). The crossing operated generally according to the needs of Iraqi Kurdistan.

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