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The ‘Kurdish card’: A bomb ambushing any solution in Syria

December 14, 2015 at 2:51 pm

It has become exceedingly clear that Russia’s targeting of Turkey after shooting down its fighter jet is far from the incident itself and it has blocked all means of dealing with the event. Instead, it established the foundations for Russia’s policies, which is directly linked to the “comprehensive deal” that Moscow is aspiring to achieve on the back of its intervention in Syria. The attack against Turkey is accompanied by an attempt to sway the Kurds, either by expressing a willingness to cooperate with the People’s Protection Units, associated with the Democratic Union Party which branched out from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), or by hinting at dealing the Turkish-Kurds card, whose political aspirations are influenced and led by the PKK. The PKK also represents the popular background for Turkey’s Peoples’ Democratic Party, which first emerged in the last two parliamentary elections (June and November 2015) as a representative of the Kurds.

The association between the three parties: Syria’s Democratic Union Party and the Turkish and Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, along with its political and military wings, has highlighted the fact that the Kurdish party is hot and ready for whoever wants to put it on the regional-international negotiations table. There is no doubt that the most willing parties or axes prepared to play this card are the Iranian and Syrian governments, as they have not stopped coordinating and cooperating with the PKK. This has reached the extent of using the PKK on several occasions over the past few years to issue warnings to Ankara. These two governments also played a role in inciting its radical wing situated in the Qandil Mountains and encouraging this wing to thwart the “peace process” engineered by the head of the Turkish intelligence agency with the historical leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, who has been imprisoned since 1999.

Therefore, Russia did not find any difficulty in putting the efforts of its Iranian and Syrian allies in its basket and adopting all of their claims. Since 2012, the Syrian president has been accusing Turkey of supporting terrorism, which is its explanation for Turkey’s support of the Syrian opposition’s political and military wing. Now the Russian president is using this same accusation and is expanding it to claim that the support also extends to Daesh in order for more Russians to oppose and even demonise Turkey. By doing so, he believes that this will provide his intervention in Syria with international “legitimacy”. Vladimir Putin personally specified combatting Daesh’s terrorism as the main goal for this intervention, but this is still not clear. If he had been content with the “real” goal, i.e. the protection of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime and the prevention of its demise, then he would have not been able to give his role a “moral” aspect, as he knows very well that Al-Assad has been an internationally shunned ruler for some time.

The current Russian efforts take on a clear strategic aspect in its partiality towards the Iranian plans and the inspiration it draws from them. These efforts aim to eliminate Turkey from the regional equation which is supposed to result from the settlement of the Syrian and Iraqi crises. Such elimination would either be retaliatory and would explicitly be a punishment for its shooting down of the Sukhoi-24, while implicitly, it would be the prevention of Turkey from intervening or seeking influence in Syria or in whatever the recent events revolving around the Baghdad government’s coup against its agreement to allowing Turkish troops to enter and train Sunni Iraqis from the tribes in Nineveh and Anbar volunteering to fight Daesh. It is clear that there is no value to the crisis in Iraq regarding the Turkish presence, as everyone knows it is fabricated and exaggerated by Iran’s pressure on Baghdad, but Moscow continued with it in order to continue its campaign against Ankara.

This Russian (-Iranian-Assadian) effort to use the Kurds is facing complications. This is due to the fact that any major settlement must first be reached in any understanding with the US, who has always considered Turkey the foundation for its regional strategies. Regardless of the negatives, which are many in terms of Washington’s policies, it is difficult for these negatives to shake the status of the Turkish state, which has not lost its importance and necessity to the US and NATO. Although the US has expressed support for the Kurds’ aspiration, by ensuring the independence of the Turkish region in Iraq and overlooking the Democratic Union Party’s actions to establish a similar region in northern Syria near the Turkish border, it did so with the approval of the Iraq components and their agreement to a federation in the 2005 constitution.

As for the Kurds in Syria, they have most likely failed to settle the issue so far due to the fact that the Syrian Kurds themselves are not ready and do not possess any capabilities to establish their own entity. This is also because the relationship of the Democratic Union Party with the Assad regime, Tehran and the PKK, as well as its hostility towards the Syrian opposition and the Kurdish region in Iraq, all are factors that work against convincing the Americans to trust it. This of course has not prevented them from supporting the People’s Protection Units’ fighters in their battle against Daesh and pushing it out of Kobani at the beginning of the year and it currently is not stopping them from depending on the People’s Protection Units to form a ground force to attack Daesh in Al-Raqqa. This is despite the anger of many opposition forces and their regional supporters who consider the Democratic Union Party’s links and contact with the Russians something that will create more complications and that its participation in the fight against Daesh will be lost in early compromises related to the region they want to establish.

Many believe there is unannounced support from the Assad-Iran duo for the Kurdish regional project in Syria. Every time this project is begun and its features begin to materialise we become more certain that Damascus and Tehran’s goals behind the conflict in Syria will be achieved, either by means of actual division or federalisation. This has become more likely after Russia’s presence on the ground ensured the prevention of the regime’s fall and it is likely to influence any political settlement. Regardless of whether the decision not to invite the Democratic Alliance to the Riyadh conference was the wrong or right decision, the parallel conference held in northern Syria was a blatant declaration that the “alliance” Kurds are an integral part of the opposition formed by Iran which Tehran failed to promote.

Translated from Al-Khaleej Online, 14 December 2015.

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