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November 11, 2012

National Conflicts Emerge in Syrian Civil War

Kurdishaspect.com - By Martin Zehr

The Kurdish people are not simply victims caught in the middle of a  civil war . They are constructors of a distinct strategy and a national movement that crosses existing state lines. In this regard, they are independent actors in the conflict in Syria, much as they were in Iraq. Any action by other political forces that benefit them, they will take advantage of in order to move closer to their own goals. The mountains remain the only friends of the Kurds. All others simply try to use them for their own purposes. There remains no international acceptance of Kurdish fundamental political rights as a nation. This is the arena that remains for the Kurdish nation to develop. The victory of the South African people against apartheid demonstrates the power of this. This is not to say Kurds can afford to stop their forward territorial advancements and consolidations. It does place extraordinary obligations on the KRG in this regard.

There are indeed risks depending on the Kurdish Regional Government to such an extent in the international arena. But, they remain the sole actor representing the Kurdish nation who can reach the international arenas. International supporters need to develop a comprehensive strategy within the EU and the United States, Russia and  China . In the Syrian conflict Russia and China are supportive of the Assad regime. China remains wedded to the Assad regime and the existing political configuration of the region.  Russia  has shown an increase in relations with the KRG that could give them more leverage on the international aspects of recognition for Kurdistan. Russian conflicts with  Turkey  also make it a more likely long-term benefactor for the Kurdish movement, as well as a check on Turkey’s actions. The concern about Turkey’s intervention was addressed in Geneva at a meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in June 2012. “The events that led to the  Geneva plan  underline two facts: first, Turkey will not be allowed to act unilaterally to bring down the regime. Second, the international community will deliberately oppose any moves that might bring about an abrupt, chaotic downfall of the Baathist regime.” 

The conflict on the ground remains based on a willingness of Kurdish political leadership to define every action in the context of their national aspirations. There can be no backward movement at this stage. Every retreat will be at the cost of the ability of the Kurdish nation to shape its own future. “Advance, consolidate, advance” remains the strongest strategy for the long-term. There are significant forces, promoted by Turkey and Iran that can have an impact on the ability to proceed from one stage to the next. It does not mean that Kurds cannot address specific tactical decisions with prudence and awareness of the costs involved at any given point. But Kurds are grasping their relation accurately to both Syrian government and the Syrian rebel forces, not without some cost. The murders of  Meshaal Tammo  , the kidnapping and murder of his nephew,  Joan  , and the kidnapping and murder of  Nujeen Dirik  and other murders and kidnappings create reasons for caution in all directions on the part of a united Kurdish movement.  President Barzani  has expressed concern about internal divisions within the Kurdish movement in Western Kurdistan in reference to disputes between the Kurdish National Council (KNC) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD). This is a matter that will surely impact the capability of the Kurdish national movement to act in a decisive and united manner. The resolution of the conflicts that existed between the PUK (Kurdistan Patriotic Union) and the KPD (Kurdistan Democratic Party) in the now-autonomous region of Kurdistan demonstrates both the efficacy of unity and the ability to address divisions in the context of a unified movement that moves forward. 

Turkey’s military has received  authorization from Parliament  to continue its active role in the conflicts and its history of assaults on Kurds has maintained its continuity in purpose. There is a danger of a new world war that stands apparent but underplayed, or not mentioned at all, in most of the world’s media. Turkey remains a belligerent party in the conflict and presents many unknowns in regards to their actions as events unfold. While much of the world’s attention has been focused on Israel and Iran, the situation in SouthWest Asia is demonstrating its own inertia that has not been addressed and promises to create a distinct scenario for the future of the region. As Iran’s stake grows, in regards to the Syrian conflict, its actions in regards to nuclear weapons development will also be more impacted by it. To say that it is simply a replay between the Ottoman and the Safavid Empires is not totally accurate, but there is certainly a dimension of it that appears to be reshaping itself in contemporary times. Likewise, the emergence of great power engagement in the region could also give one pause to see a potential scenario that repeats the sequence of events leading to World War I.  One observation  in regards to the UN Security Council’s role is reminiscent of the characterization of the League of Nations leading up to World War I. “These attempts raise the question of whether the international community's apparent impotence is real or rehearsed.”  

Recent criticism of the Obama administration has been the focus of an article in the Voice of America’s website MIDDLE EAST VOICES. Written by Alex Simon, an intern at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, the article’s headline proclaims:   Arming Syria’s Rebels – a Strategic and Humanitarian Imperative . It should be said that Kurdish engagement in the conflict is nowhere to be found in Mr. Simon’s article. He certainly makes clear that they are NOT included in the “rebels” that he proposes the United States to arm. Once again the conflict in the region is projected as fundamentally an Islamic sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shi’a.  Once again Kurds remain the blindspot in regards to the future of the region. It should further be said, that by arming the “opposition” there is a direct threat that puts the safety and well-being of the Kurdish people at risk and proposes to aid those who continue to attack Kurds. 

The international context, the Iranian-Turkey regional conflict for hegemony in the context of the Syrian civil war and the divisions within the movement in Western Kurdistan are realities that confront every Kurd. There are no simplistic solutions and communication and mutuality is required at this moment. But the future for Kurds depends on the ability to redress real and perceived differences that obstruct any Kurdish unity of action. All Kurdish organizations need to measure every move with the realization of the consequences and the potential opportunities for advancement that confront all Kurdish people at this time. Time does not stand still. There are no opportunities in the future to go back and change what is done now. 

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