Kyle Orton is a budding Middle Eastern analyst who authored an important op-ed for the New York Times last year on the former dictator Saddam Hussain’s rarely mentioned role in creation of Islamism in Iraq. In Syria, he is anti-Assad regime, pro ‘moderate’ rebels, and unsympathetic towards Kurdish national self-determination.
Recently, Orton published a couple of blog pieces on western volunteers in the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) ranks, here and here. The pieces, based on two separate lengthy interviews with a former and a current fighter, do a reasonable work of de-romanticising YPG’s International Brigades of Rojava.
They are also revealing about the YPG’s capabilities -or lack thereof- in administering first aid to combat injuries, the ‘Stalinist’ social and political relations in areas it administers (“it’s pretty much illegal to jerk off here”), rogue elements in the international brigades, and the tense dynamic between US special forces and the YPG rank-and-file who are allegedly certain that the US will eventually abandon Kurds in favour of Turkey. Sobering reading.