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
BDS movement founder Omar Barghouti (YouTube)
Omar Barghouti, founder and leader of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, was denied entry to the United States on Wednesday.
He was informed by airline staff at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Israel that U.S. immigration officials told the American consul in Tel Aviv to block him from boarding the flight.
A State Department official told NPR, “Visa records are confidential under U.S. law; therefore, we cannot discuss the details of individual visa cases.”
The US Capitol Building. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Four of Israel’s most dedicated supporters in the US Congress on Friday expressed concern that the Jewish state may annex the West Bank, as results from Israel’s election earlier this week confirmed the likelihood of a right-wing government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“As strong, life-long supporters of Israel, a U.S.-Israel relationship rooted in our shared values, and the two-state solution, we are greatly concerned by the possibility of Israel taking unilateral steps to annex the West Bank,” said a joint statement from Democratic representatives Eliot Engel (NY), Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs,
The final image sent by Israeli spacecraft Beresheet before it crash-landed on the moon. Photo: courtesy of Space IL.
Astronauts and scientists at the US space agency NASA commended the Israeli non-profit organization SpaceIL for its efforts afyer its spacecraft “Beresheet” failed to land safely on the moon on Thursday.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, “While NASA regrets the end of the SpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing of the Beresheet lander, we congratulate SpaceIL, the Israel Aerospace Industries and the state of Israel on the incredible accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit.”
“Der ewige Jude” – “Theeternal Jew” movie poster . (photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
The lead article Thursday on the opinion page of the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper compared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the 1940 Nazi antisemitic movie The Eternal Jew.
The article was titled in the paper “The Eternal Netanyahu” in a word play in connection with director Fritz Hippler’s antisemitic pseudo-documentary, based on the medieval legend of the wandering Jew, that served as a cinematographic justification for the Holocaust.
As an orthopedic surgeon for 30 years in Washington, D.C. I see patients from all over the world and from every walk of life and what has become clear to me is that everyone is fundamentally the same. As a rule, I shy away from political or religious discussions with my patients as they have no bearing on their care. But occasionally, the discussions are thrust on me.
Several years ago I treated a professor of political science from a local university and had established a good rapport with him. On his last visit before saying goodbye he popped a question.
It is well-known by some and wholly ignored by others that Islam has a long, sad history of antisemitism, a bigotry that originated in the seventh century CE (the first Islamic century) and has grown more vicious in the 21st. Combined with an almost universal anti-Zionism and bolstered by many on the political “left”, it is today the most ubiquitous and deadliest form of Jew-hatred. It takes the form, not just of insults, boycotts, and lawfare, but of wars, terrorist attacks, and calls for the destruction of the Jewish state and the genocide of the Jews.
Amman – The streets in Amman’s Jebel al-Weibdeh are crowded in the early evening with sounds of young people looking for a place to relax. Coffee shops intermix with art studios selling crafts for tourists. At the Maestro bar and restaurant, a band is getting ready for a live performance. The lights are dimmed and someone has put “no smoking” signs on the tables – they are out of place with the ash trays. Apparently, Monday has jam sessions and anyone can bring their instrument to join in. But it’s Wednesday.
A few of my readers recently asked me to explain the difference between “Palestinians” living inside and outside of Israel’s borders. Who are the “Palestinians” anyway? First, see below:
“Palestine” does not exist today as a nation-state, but at multiple times in history, including the present, it has been one of the names of a place. The Romans, recalling the defunct Philistines – non-Arab Sea People – coined it after defeating [Jewish general] Bar Kochba in 135 CE to disassociate what had been Judaea from Jews.
President Trump’s peace plan for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict surfaced two years ago and to this day – remarkably – only he and a handful of aides know its precise details. A stream of leaks, however, contains enough internal consistency that their collation, supplemented by conversations with administration officials, provides a plausible outline of the plan’s contents.
On March 31, a South Bend grandma brought her grandson to the hospital. The 11-month-old baby boy had been shot. His grandmother’s car had also taken fire. It was another early morning in South Bend.
Around the same time, Mayor Buttigieg, was toting up the $7 million in donations from his charm offensive as his bid for the 2020 Democrat nomination got underway. The national media never bothered reporting the shooting of an 11-month-old boy in the city he was supposed to be running, but instead confined its coverage of South Bend matters to a publicity stunt wedding officiated by Buttigieg.
The Palestinian students are being targeted because of their political affiliations and not because of any crime they committed.
While the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are busy beating up each other’s supporters, “pro-Palestinian” activists on US and Canadian university campuses are busy blaming Israel for Palestinian woes.
As an American Christian who has had the privilege of working in senior-level positions for four US presidents and who has enjoyed a close association with three of Israel’s prime ministers, I believe it is my obligation to provide the Israeli people with my views. I think my viewpoint is important because a vast number of American Evangelical Christians believe as I believe. In addition, Evangelical Christians are, without question, Israel’s strongest supporters in the United States.
Does Case 3000 – known as the submarine affair – prove that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is guilty of doing something illegal? Well, all Likud supporters believe with absolute confidence that it’s a political plot. Netanyahu’s opponents, however, believe – also with absolute confidence – that it’s the largest corruption case to ever occur in the State of Israel.