Kurds Take Up Arms for Kurdistan, Not Syria

Article Summary
Turkey is watching nervously as Kurds in northern Syria exert control over Kurdish-majority towns, writes Kadri Gursel. Turkey should not fear a "Lebanonized" Syria divided along ethnic lines, but instead should fear an independent Kurdistan that surrounds its southeastern border.

Aiming for the heart of the Damascus regime, as our media likes to say, is obviously a tipping point. The fact that the Syrian rebels took over border crossings to Turkey is another powerful indicator that the regime is unraveling. But these are not the only primary signs that we are in the final stretch of the collapse of the regime.

The sure indicator of the eventual collapse of the regime is something our media did not notice: Kurds are taking control of Syrian Kurdish towns.

Last week, the entire official administration of Koban was ousted by armed Kurds. Similar developments were reported from two other important Kurdish towns — Qamishli and Afrin — close to the Turkish border.

About three million Syrian Kurds are concentrated on a stretch of territory from the area northwest of Aleppo along the border with Turkey all the way to Iraq. In a way, the Turkish-Syrian border is the Turkish-Kurdish border.

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Who are these Kurds that took over these towns?

On the surface, it is the Syrian Kurdish National Council and the West Kurdistan Popular Assembly that announced their decision to act together in the Supreme Kurdish Council. You will remember that this decision was announced on July 12 in a meeting held in Erbil under the patronage of Massoud Barzani.

The National Council is an umbrella for more than a dozen Kurdish organizations, but most of them are nothing more than signboards.

The West Kurdistan Popular Assembly is actually the Democratic Union Party [PYD], which we can call the Syrian PKK. These towns were taken over by armed PYD units, and it couldn’t be any other way as the PYD is the biggest Kurdish organization in the country. More than that, it is the only one that is truly armed. The PYD follows Abdullah Ocalan [the PKK leader imprisoned in Turkey] but gets its political strategy instructions from the Kandil Mountain base [in northern Iraq].

Syrian Kurds kept their distance both from the Damascus regime and the opposition, waiting for the right time. As they are now taking action to at least lay the foundations of “Kurdish autonomy,” they must have decided that the time is ripe. Note that their actions are not aimed at toppling Assad and his regime. Their actions are occurring because the regime is collapsing anyway.

For the Kurds to take over the towns they live in is actually a preemptive move before whatever new regime assumes power in Damascus. This Kurdish uprising is the beginning of a state that opposes a future Sunni Arab Syria. Their minimal goal is autonomy.

All these developments can be traced to the July 12 Erbil Declaration.

Six months ago I wrote that if this goes on, Syria will split into ethnic and sectarian entities and become a “bigger Lebanon.” This trend has not changed.

For our AKP government — which isn’t even able to resolve its own Kurdish issue and has squandered all opportunities of opening it up — a “Lebanonized Syria” is actually a “second Northern Iraq.”

A Turkey that is still in strife with its own Kurds could be forced to transfer this strife to the Syrian Kurdish region at great political, military and ethical costs. Ultimately, it could lose everything.

On the horizon for the “Second Northern Iraq” lies “Greater Kurdistan,” which will entirely encircle the southern borders of Turkey.

Now, worried by that ominous sight, a bit embarrassed with missed opportunities and to stop the bill from getting more expensive, what if our leaders say: “Let’s urgently make peace with our Kurds”? Will the PKK respond, “Why not? Let’s do it”?

It is not easy to be optimistic about this scenario.

Those at the Kandil Mountains — while waiting to see the final tally of advantages they will derive from Kurdish autonomy and how these advantages might be translated into tools for strategic bargaining — will continue to say, “The ball is in Ankara’s court.”

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Found in: syrian kurds, syrian, qamishli, pyd, pkk, kurdistan, erbil declaration, erbil
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