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
Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei speaks following his election victory. Photo: Reuters/Jose Cabezas.
A prominent Guatemalan supporter of Israel who once said, “He who is Israel’s enemy is Guatemala’s enemy,” won the country’s presidential election with 58.5 percent of the vote, results on Monday confirmed.
Conservative candidate Alejandro Giammattei emerged victorious in the vote in the second round of elections on Sunday, beating his rival Sandra Torres, a former first lady.
Aerial view of containers at a loading terminal in the port of Hamburg, Germany August 1, 2018. Photo: REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer.
German exports to Iran fell by nearly half in the first six months of 2019, data showed on Monday, suggesting companies are scaling back business ties with Tehran to avoid trouble with the United States after Washington reimposed sanctions.
Sales to Iran plunged by 48 percent to 678 million euros ($758.8 million) from January through June year-on-year, data from the Federal Statistics Office reviewed by Reutersshowed. Imports from Iran declined by 43 percent to nearly 110 million euros.
The New York Times logo. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
A New York Times editor is in trouble for what the Times calls repeated poor judgment on social media.
The editor, Jonathan Weisman, works in the Times Washington bureau with the title “deputy Washington editor” and is the author of the 2018 book (((Semitism))): Being Jewish in the Age Of Trump.
Canadian Observer to Post: Canada has niche capabilities to help in such a scenario.
“Mighty Waves,” the Navy’s large-scale multinational exercise simulating the aftermath of a major earthquake. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)
The five-day, large-scale multinational exercise, with 10 foreign fleets off the Haifa coast simulating the aftermath of a major earthquake, has brought the Israel Navy to “another level” of preparedness.
Dubbed “Mighty Waves,” the drill saw the participation of hundreds of troops on six ships at sea. Five helicopters also took part in the exercise, which focused on the after-effects of a significant 7.5 earthquake that leaves thousands dead and hundreds of thousands homeless.
A food market in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo: Dr. Avishai Teicher vis Wikimedia Commons.
CTech – Israel has a reputation for being the Startup Nation, but Marcelle Machluf, dean of biotechnology and food engineering at Technion Israel Institute of Technology, predicts that in coming years Israel will be known as the FoodTech Nation.
“Foodtech and biotech are two fields that are climbing to the top of the tech industry,” Machluf told Calcalist in a recent interview. “This push is happening for a reason.
Mass shootings are nothing new in the United States, but their sudden rise is ballooning into a shocking nationwide epidemic. Many blame a toxic political culture that is accentuating divisions rather than commonalities between Americans, and the ease in which Americans can access guns, including automatic assault rifles.
If Saturday’s horrifying terrorist attack in an El Paso Walmart had taken place in Jerusalem, leaving 22 Israelis dead, the killer would rot in jail knowing his family would be taken care of, paid every month by his government.
What, one has to ask, does Iran’s Islamic regime have to fear from the country’s Christians, Baha’is, Zoroastrians, Sufis, Sunni Muslims, or Jews? Yet its treatment of these minorities is so repressive that it seems not unreasonable to ask if the clerics might be afraid of what they consider challenges to their fantasy of pure Islamic identity.
The fate of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s 2017 executive order barring state contractors from participating in the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is in the hands of a federal judge. The order violates First Amendment rights, a lawsuit filed by a former Maryland state legislator claims. wsuit.
This week my family and I have the privilege of celebrating two significant and interrelated milestones. We celebrate the 15th anniversary of our arrival in Israel, taking on citizenship and planting our roots firmly in our historic homeland. And we celebrate (yes, celebrate) the induction into the IDF of our oldest son.
When our youngest son was born in Jerusalem, we knew that he would serve in the army, an obligation and privilege as an Israeli Jew, pretty much as genetic as his actual DNA. But when our oldest son was born in N.J., we didn’t know this would be his destiny.