Wednesday 24 July 2013

“Three Syrias” to go with “three Iraqs”

Premier Erdogan and Turkey's top brass (top) and a march by Syrian Kurds

Syria is coming apart at the seams.
Having lost Syria, President Bashar al-Assad and his Shiite allies from Iran, Iraq and Hezbollah are waging a campaign of sectarian cleansing in order to carve out a rump state along the Mediterranean coast.
With its capital in Latakia, it would reflect the geographical contours of the traditional Alawite heartland.
At the same time, Syria’s Kurds are now fighting for an autonomous Syrian Kurdistan in their portion of the country bordering Turkey, with its putative capital in Qamishli.
The breakup of Syria into three enclaves for Kurds, Shiite Alawites and Sunnis mirrors the gradual dismemberment of Iraq after the 2003 U.S. invasion.
The northern province of Iraqi Kurdistan is today an independent country in all but name, while Sunni and Shiite Iraqis are more likely to splinter into distinct entities than remain part of a cohesive nation-state.
Image by Daniel Sitts
An autonomous Kurdish enclave in northern Syria is the second piece in a four-part puzzle of a “Kurdistan country.” A 1983 map by the Financial Times shows a big Kurdish country separated into four pieces -- one in northern Iraq (which is in place), one in northeastern Syria (which is in the making), one in Iran and the last in Turkey’s southeast.
Turkish authorities -- already apprehensive about Syrian Kurdish militants' recent strengthening along Turkey's borders -- are further alarmed over reports that the Democratic Union Party (PYD), an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), is preparing to declare autonomy in northeastern Syria.
There is now talk of DYP leader Salih Muslim Muhammad announcing shortly a nine-member government to run the would-be enclave.  
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said the move would undermine Syria’s territorial integrity and pose a security threat to Turkey.
Speaking at a press conference after a cabinet meeting in Ankara on Monday, Arınç called efforts by the PYD to declare autonomy in northeastern Syria “irksome.”
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reiterated yesterday Ankara would not accept de facto autonomous regions in Syria before the country elects a legitimate national parliament.
He told reporters in Warsaw, "This does not mean Turkey is against the rights of any group in Syria, chiefly Kurds... So, this is not a position against our Kurdish brothers [in Syria]… We are concerned any de facto move could further deepen the crisis in Syria."
"With regards our security and the security of our border districts, villages and towns as well as Syria's future, we want everyone to avoid conflict pending a new democratic regime in Syria," Davutoglu said.
Turkey’s Yeni Şafak daily said last week Assad endorsed plans for an autonomous Syrian Kurdistan in a recent meeting with PYD representatives.
He reportedly agreed to recognize the autonomy of Kurds in an area covering al-Hasakah, Ras al-Ayn, Afreen, Ayn al-Arab and Qamishli.
If so, the move might force Turkey’s hand, according to Dr. Ghassan Shabaneh, a Mellon Fellow in Human Security at the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Relations at the CUNY Graduate Center, and an Associate Professor of Middle East and International Studies at Marymount Manhattan College in NYC.
Shabaneh told Aljazeera TV earlier this week Turkey would most probably have no choice then other than to set up safe havens or a security zone in Syria’s Kurdish areas.
Israel held a 4-to-12-kilometer-deep South Lebanon Security Zone from 1985 to 1999.
Turkish political analyst, columnist and commentator on A9 TV Aylin Kokaman says Turkey is now facing the PKK threat it braved 30 years ago.
An autonomous Syrian Kurdish enclave is tantamount to “a declaration of war on Turkey,” she writes today for the leading Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat.
Ms Kokaman says Ankara will have no option but to use its armed forces to protect Turkey’s national unity and territorial integrity, with or without American and European backing.