Wednesday 13 November 2013

Syrian Kurds declare transitional administration

The PYD's Saleh Muslim and a map showing "Rojava" along Syria's border with Turkay

Syrian Kurds yesterday declared an interim administration in northeastern parts of the country (Rojava), further solidifying their geographic and political presence after driving out radical Islamist rebels. 
Long oppressed under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his father before him, Kurds view the Syria war as an opportunity to gain more autonomy -- like their ethnic kin in neighboring Iraq. 
Control over Syria's northeast, where Kurds predominate, had in recent months swung back and forth between them and mainly Arab Islamist rebels, who strongly oppose what they suspect are Kurdish plans to secede.
But a Kurdish militia prevailed earlier this month, and at a meeting held in the Syrian city of Qamishli yesterday, a committee of Kurdish and other groups said it was now time to set up an administrative body to run the region. 
"In light of the current circumstances which Syria is going through, and in order to fill an administrative vacuum... we see it as an utmost necessity to reach a transitional, pluralistic, democratic administration," said a statement sent to Reuters.
The statement said they were committed to the unity of Syria and asked world powers and neighboring countries to back the new administration, which they said had won the support of different political groups and minorities in the area.
The dominant force on the ground in Syria's Kurdish areas is the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which has a well-trained militia and is affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The PYD's growing clout has also dismayed some fellow Kurds, who accuse it of being in league with Assad and seeking to replace his authoritarian one-party rule with its own.
PYD representative Mohammed Reso said some Syrian Kurdish parties had refused to sign up to the plan.
In his first remarks after the declaration of the interim administration, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu accused the PYD of "not keeping its promise."
"We told them to avoid a de facto administration declaration that could divide Syria. We told them to put a distance between themselves and the [al-Assad] regime," Davutoglu said during a live interview on private broadcaster NTV on Tuesday. 
He criticized the Kurdish group for adopting an "ambivalent" posture. "The most serious mistake that the PYD is making is to put under pressure on the other Kurdish opposition groups in [their] controlled areas. We receive a lot of complaints from Kurds [in northern Syria], and we hope they will change this attitude," Davutoglu added.
PYD leader Saleh Muslim had visited Turkey twice in a brief period in July and August as the open conflict between Kurdish militia groups and jihadist rebels mounted, causing a refugee outflow from Rojava. He reportedly discussed with Turkish officials PYD's plans of forming an autonomous administration that triggered concerns in Ankara.
The Turkish government and Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have adopted a similar attitude on the situation in northern Syria. Both oppose the PYD's creation of a politically autonomous entity in the region.
KRG leader Massoud Barzani is troubled by the disputes among Kurds, particularly between the PYD and other Kurdish parties, over the areas in Syria's north.
The Turkish government and Barzani also backed the Syrian Kurdish National Council (KNC), a group that agreed to join the main Syrian opposition body, the Syrian National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.
“The KNC is close to Barzani. Barzani wanted to impose his policies in Rojava and Turkey wanted to use Barzani to establish an alternative group to the PYD, which was the KNC. They tried hard, but failed. The KNC is not stronger than the PYD,” Iso said.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to meet Barzani in Diyarbakir at the weekend.
According to Turkish media sources, Erdogan will visit Diyarbakir, a predominantly Kurdish city in southeastern Turkey on Saturday, when he will be meeting the Iraqi Kurdistan president.
A source from Turkish Channel Show TV said renowned Kurdish singer Shivan Perwer will be back to Diyarbakir from self-exile in Germany to meet Barzani and Erdogan.
Relations between Iraq’s Kurdistan Region and Turkey have been improving steadily of late.
The volume of trade between Iraq and Turkey is about $12 billion, with three quarters of it being between Ankara and the Kurdistan Region.
Writing for the Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat today, former editor-in-chief Tariq Alhomayed quotes a Reuters dispatch yesterday as saying the Kurds’ military gains in Syria is posing a dilemma for regional powers.
Syrian Kurds view Syria’s civil war as an opportunity to gain the kind of autonomy enjoyed by their ethnic kin in neighboring Iraq.
The seriousness of the report, says Alhomayed, is that their offensive has stirred mixed feelings, globally, regionally and locally, even among some fellow Kurds, who say the Kurdish fighters have drifted into an Iran-led regional axis supportive of Assad, something they deny.
To Assad and his Shiite allies, their gains mean more territory out of Sunni rebel hands two and a half years into a revolt against his rule.
Islamist rebels -- particularly the Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) that have been imposing their will across rebel-held territory -- argue that their defeat says more about who was helping their foes than the strength of the Kurdish forces themselves. They said help from Assad's forces and Shiite-led Iraq was the reason for Kurdish gains.
The Iraqi government strongly denies supporting any faction in Syria, including Kurds.
A closer reading of this and other reports shows the Kurds’ military gains in Syria are posing a bigger dilemma for Syrian Kurds than for regional powers.
A senior Iraqi politician told Reuters Shiite powerhouse Iran, Assad's main regional ally, was also actively backing the PYD and emboldening the PKK, with which it is closely aligned.
"Iran supports these groups to guarantee having a powerful group in Syria in case things go out of control," he said, adding that Tehran was creating a network of allies from minority groups across the country to bolster their interests and to create alternative partners should Assad fall.
The Iraqi politician said Baghdad's Shiite government was supporting the Kurds to weaken cross-border ties among Sunnis.
"(They) may help them in cooperation with Iran to create an autonomous Kurdish region ... to establish a buffer zone between Iraqi and Syrian Sunnis."
This of course means the Kurds will have hostile and unbalanced relations with a predominantly Sunni region.
Also, can Syria’s Kurds genuinely withstand Turkey’s ire and eventually that of Tehran, which is home to eight million Iranian Kurds?
Syrian Kurds are set to realize that you don’t build nation-states by simply having minorities go their separate ways.