Kurdish fighters in Aleppo
Kurdish fighters in AleppoAFP photo

The Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) has announced that it is "ready to send fighters to Syrian Kurdistan to fight beside their people," according to Asharq al Awsat.

It is the latest escalation in the "war within a war," as Kurds and Arabs clash in northern Syria.

The Kurdish People's Protection Unit (YPG) has been involved in fierce fighting with Al Qaeda-linked Islamist groups such as Al Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) over control of Kurdish-majority regions in northern Syria.

Not long after the start of the uprising against the Assad regime, government forces pulled out of Kurdish areas, and the YPG moved in to take control. Arab groups within the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) initially made a grab for Kurdish areas but were beaten back. In recent months, however, Al Nusra and ISIS have led a concerted and violent campaign to install their own independent "emirates," or Islamic mini-statelets in the region. That was met with fierce opposition by the YPG, who responded by ejecting Islamist forces from the town of Ras al-Ain among other areas.

Since then, anti-Kurdish rhetoric has reached fever pitch among Arab Islamists, with some mosques issuing fatwas (religious decrees) encouraging the wholesale slaughter of Kurds. 

Sherzad Al-Yazidi, the official spokesperson for the People's Council of West Kurdistan (Syrian Kurdistan), slammed FSA aggression against Kurds, calling it a "race war" by Syrian Arabs against the Kurdish people.

A YPG source claimed that 63 people were killed yesterday in fighting between Kurds and Arab Islamists, adding that Kurdish fighters had succeeded in seizing weapons, ammunition and armored vehicles.

Both PJAK the YPG are allied to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey. The PKK is already widely believed to be supporting their brethren in Syrian Kurdistan.

But the entry of yet another, well-armed Kurdish faction into the fray signals a dangerous escalation in the already bloody Syrian civil war, which has claimed at least 100,000 lives.

It also signals an increased Iranian involvement, as the regime in Tehran (which until only recently was itself at war with PJAK) hopes to utilize Kurdish-Arab fighting to its own advantage - helping to secure the future of the Assad regime by drawing FSA forces into costly battles with the Kurds.