Kurd Protest Syria 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)
One major factor behind President Trump’s decision to withdraw US special forces from Syria is the dominant position achieved by Russia, in alliance with Iran, in restoring the fortunes of Syria’s President Bashar Assad.
Another seems to have been a telephone discussion with Turkey’s President Erdogan just before Christmas 2018. The implications of this are worrying.
The military defeat of Islamic State over the eight long years of Syria’s civil conflict has been due in no small measure to the part played by the doughty Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. But for Erdogan, the Kurds and their aspirations – whether for civil rights, for autonomy or, worst of all, for independence – are a constant thorn in the flesh. Kurd-occupied territory encompasses substantial areas of Turkey, but also of Syria, Iraq and Iran. It spans their borders. So Erdogan faces not only a domestic political threat from Turkish Kurds, but what he perceives as their military support abroad, and specifically in northeastern Syria.
Long before the civil war, the two million Kurds in Syria, accounting for 15% of the population, had aspired to some degree of autonomy. Their opportunity came with the internal uprising in 2011 against Assad’s regime. As the civil war inside Syria resulted in Islamic State winning vast swaths of territory, the Syrian Kurds began battling it in the northeast. Backed by air support and special forces from the US and its allies, the Kurdish Peshmergas began to prevail, winning back large areas of Kurd-inhabited territory.
Today the Kurd-occupied region – about 25% of the old Syria – is formally known as the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS), ruled under a new federal and democratic constitution. It is not a sovereign state nor, if statements from its leaders are to be believed, does it aspire to be one. It is a semi-autonomous region and there have been formal moves by its leaders to reach an accommodation with the Syrian president.
In September 2017, Walid Muallem, Syria’s foreign minister, said that his country was open to the idea of greater powers for the country’s Kurds. They “want a form of autonomy within the framework of the borders of the state,” he said. “This is negotiable and can be the subject of dialogue.”
He indicated – presumably with the acquiescence of Russia – that discussions could begin once the civil conflict had ended.
A Kurdish legislator, Omar Usi, who sits in Syria’s national parliament in Damascus, recently said the government wanted the Kurds to “facilitate the entry of the Syrian army and the return of state institutions into Kurdish-majority areas east of the Euphrates.” In return, it was offering “constitutional recognition for the Kurdish community and its cultural rights.”
All this might eventually result in a Syrian version of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan that is recognized by the Iraqi government. But any such formal recognition of the DFNS would be anathema to Erdogan. Whatever degree of autonomy Syria’s Kurds might gain could only reinforce the separatist demands of the Kurds in Turkey.
This explains Erdogan’s incursion in January last year into the region around Afrin in northwest Syria. His success in defeating the Kurdish forces there indicates that, allowed a free hand, Erdogan would probably take action aimed at gaining dominance right along the Turkey-Syrian border, decimating the DFNS Kurdish-ruled region.
Subsequent to his off-the-cuff announcement about US troop disengagement from Syria, Trump seems to have allowed wiser counsels to prevail. The US simply could not allow a free-for-all to develop inside Syria, give Turkey carte blanche in its vendetta against the Kurds, and throw its long-time and successful ally and partner to the wolves. So whatever the substance of his telephone discussion with Erdogan, Trump now indicates that there is to be no hasty US withdrawal from Syria. It will be done, but in a measured and timely fashion.
It is well established that in foreign relations, there is little or no room for sentiment. Realpolitik is the order of the day.
But the civilized world does owe a debt of gratitude to the Kurdish people in general, and to their stalwart Peshmerga fighters in particular, for their successful efforts to combat the evil and inhumane Islamic State movement. Theirs has been a long struggle for recognition and self-determination. It is time the world honored its debt and at least allowed the Kurds in Syria to negotiate an acceptable future for themselves as part of the post-war settlement.
The writer is Middle East correspondent for Eurasia Review. His latest book is: “The Chaos in the Middle East: 2014-2016.” He blogs at: www.a-mid-east-journal.blogspot.com
At the same time, the Trump administration is readying further possible sanctions on Venezuela, the official said.
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro attends a military exercise in Maracaibo. (photo credit: MIRAFLORES PALACE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
WASHINGTON, Feb 8 – The United States is holding direct communications with members of Venezuela’s military urging them to abandon leader Nicolas Maduro and is also preparing new sanctions aimed at increasing pressure on him, a senior White House official said.
The Shalva Band following their final performance on “Rising Star.” Photo: Screenshot.
The Shalva Band has removed itself from the race to represent Israel in this year’s Eurovision competition because some of its members observed Shabbat and would not be able to partake in mandatory rehearsals, The Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday.
The group, made up of eight musicians who have special needs, was one of four finalists in the “Rising Star” singing contest — the winner of which will represent Israel in Eurovision, set to be held in Tel Aviv in May.
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As Birthright Israel reaches its 700,000th participant, certain voices in America have done their best to slander the organization and force it to make drastic changes. Having staffed multiple Birthright trips as a madrich (youth leader), I have had the amazing opportunity to pass on some of the love for Israel that helped change my life.
Local police in Manchester’s Whitefield neighborhood declared the vandalism a criminal act rather than antisemitic.
Protesters hold placards and flags during a demonstration, organised by the British Board of Jewish Deputies for those who oppose anti-Semitism, in Parliament Square in London, Britain, March 26, 2018.. (photo credit: HENRY NICHOLLS/REUTERS)
The Philips Park Jewish cemetery in Manchester, England, was vandalized on Saturday, during which the tomb of Rabbi Yehuda Zev Segal, who died last year, was desecrated.
Protestors call for the severing of diplomatic ties with Israel during a march in Cape Town. (photo credit: MIKE HUTCHINGS / REUTERS)
A proposed multi-million dollar deal between Israel’s Central Bottling Company (CBC) and South Africa’s biggest dairy producer Clover could be in serious trouble due to heavy pressure from the anti-Israel lobby.
Newly-formed consortium Milco, in which Israel’s Central Bottling Company (CBC) holds a majority, is offering to buy 59.5% of the South African dairy producer.
We need to give the Likud Party some credit for not destroying itself in Tuesday’s internal elections. Given that primaries are the very embodiment of deal-making, political machines and big worker unions voting in lockstep, the results could have been far worse.
When it came to casting a secret ballot, the Likud Party’s registered voters did display some maturity. They weren’t the obedient foot soldiers of Benjamin Netanyahu, who has failed again and again in his machinations.
With elections barely two months away, the greatest challenge facing Israel’s Right emanates neither from the Center nor the Left, but, rather, from within.
Indeed, if recent polls are accurate, several small parties on the Right, most of which may not individually pass the minimum threshold to make it into the next Knesset, could nonetheless win a combined total of 10 to 12 seats, all of which would end up in the dustbin if they fail to run together.
August 2017, white supremacists marched in Charlottesville shouting, “Jews will not replace us”. October 2018, one white supremacist posted on social media that “Jews are taking over the white house”, and that Trump is a puppet of the Jews. Shabbat, the same month, a man enters a synagogue during a Bris celebration and butchers Jewish people who are praying. December 2018, Women’s March leader and Louis Farrakhan (“I’m not an antisemite, I’m an anti-termite”) fan, Tamika Mallory says: “White Jews, as white people, uphold white supremacy…”
Henry Ford devoted his life to two passions: making cars and demonizing Jews. When Hitler said, “I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration,” he wasn’t referring to his car manufacturing. He was referring to Ford’s anti-Semitic ideology that eventuated in the genocide of six million Jews.
Henry Ford does not deserve to be honored. The question the good people of Dearborn should ask themselves is: What would you do if the performing arts center were named after Jefferson Davis? If the answer is that you would remove Davis’s name, then you should remove Ford’s.
It was reported recently that the USA and the Taliban have reached a peace agreement on Afghanistan that will allow US forces to leave that country 17 years after they invaded it on October, 2001, less than a month after 9/11.
Al Qaeda had used that dysfunctional state as a safe haven and, while there, was able to plan and execute the attacks that took the lives of over 3000 people in. After the West invaded, the Taliban