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OSC Analysis: Syria — Autonomous, Federal Status for Kurds Unlikely
GMF20120820256001 Syria — OSC Analysis in English 20 Aug 12
Syria — Autonomous, Federal Status for Kurds in Post-Al-Asad Syria Unlikely
An autonomous or federal Kurdistan within Syria — similar to that which exists in Iraq — is unlikely because of intra-Kurdish conflict and the opposition of Turkey and the Syrian National Council (SNC) — the main external Syrian opposition group.
Disunity between the two main Kurdish forces in Syria, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Kurdish Syrian National Council (ENKS), suggests that the main Kurdish parties themselves cannot agree on how Syrian Kurdistan should be governed.
- In possible anticipation of events in Syrian Kurdistan, Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Mas’ud Barzani brokered a conciliation agreement on 11 July between the People’s Council of Western Kurdistan — an offshoot of the PYD believed to be affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan People’s Congress (KGK), which was formerly known as the PKK — and the ENKS. As part of this Arbil agreement, Kurdish groups formed a higher Kurdish commission to administer Syria’s Kurdish areas after the Syrian Army withdrew, according to the Iraqi independent daily Al-Zaman (27 July).[ 1]
- However, some media reports — possibly influenced by the ENKS — have suggested that the PYD took sole control of Syrian Kurdistan in late July, exploiting its reputed ties to the Syrian regime. ENKS figure Abd-al-Karim Bashar, for example, told independent Kurdish weekly Rudaw, that the Syrian Army had abandoned its posts to the PYD because it was the Syrian regime’s “partner” (10 August).[ 2] Defecting Syrian Army officer Fayiz Amr told Londonbased, Saudi-financed, pan-Arab daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat that Damascus had armed the PYD and intimidated other parties (28 July).[ 3]
Kurdish Entities in Syria Make Disunity Likely
The Syrian Kurdish political landscape consists of several parties — some of which have historically been heavily influenced by Damascus or Iraqi Kurdistan President Barzani.
- The ENKS, formed in October 2011 under the auspices of Kurdistan Region President Mas’ud Barzani as an umbrella grouping of 16 parties, maintains strong ties with Barzani and has opposed the Al-Asad regime (18 August).[ 4]
- The PYD, led by Salih Muslim, is a very influential and popular Kurdish party and believed to be the Syrian version of the KGK (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, 9 July).[ 5]
Turkey Views Kurds’ Self-Administration in Syria as Threat to National Security
Turkey’s recent military and political mobilization suggests concern that Syria Kurd’s self-administration might aggravate its conflict with the KGK/PKK.
- Turkish statements indicate alarm over the PYD. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not ruled out military incursions in pursuit of KGK/PKK forces (Today’s Zaman, 6 August).[ 6] He claimed that Turkey enjoys a right to intervene in Syria if “terrorist formations” pose a threat, according to Istanbul daily Hurriyet (26 July).[ 7]
- Several media reports suggest that Turkey tried to persuade Barzani to discourage self-administration in Syrian Kurdistan.[a] During Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s 31 July visit to Arbil — in which he met with KRG officials, the ENKS, the SNC, but not the PYD[ 8] — Davutoglu may have lent support to KRG claims to Kirkuk[b] in return for Barzani’s cooperation in containing Syria’s Kurds, according to independent Al-Sharqiyah Satellite TV (Hurriyet Daily, 7 August;7 August).[ 9]
Federal Status for Syrian Kurds in Post-Al-Asad Syria Unlikely
Turkey’s ostensible acceptance of Kurdish rights in Syria is possibly conditioned on the SNC’s stated opposition to Kurdish autonomy or self-administration.
- A Turkish plan discussed with Barzani rejected any ethnic-based structure in Syria before Al-Asad’s fall but accepted the possibility of an autonomous Kurdish region in post-Al-Asad Syria, pending approval by Syria’s people within the framework of a new constitution, according to the independent Iraqi website Shafaq News (31 July).[ 10]
- SNC President Abd-al-Basit Sida, however, categorically rejected a federal Syria, stressing that the PYD must respect Syria’s territorial integrity, according to the privately owned Kurdish newspaper Hawlati (5 August).[ 11]
[a] For more information, see the 7 August OSC Report, Turkey — Ankara Upholds Syrian Kurds’ Rights in Pluralistic New Syria (EUP20120807346001EUP20120807346001).
[b] Davutoglu visited Kirkuk following his meeting in Arbil without informing the central government in Baghdad. Al-Sharqiyah reported Baghdad’s fury over the unannounced visit.
[ 1] [Open Source (Not OSC) | Al-Zaman | | 27 July 2012 | 27 July 2012 | Syria’s Kurds Seek Unity to Secure Status in Post-Al-Asad Syria | | (U) | (U) | Baghdad Al-Zaman in Arabic — Baghdad-based independent Iraqi daily providing coverage of Iraqi, Arab, and international issues, headed by Iraqi journalist Sa’d al-Bazzaz; Internet version available at: http://www.azzaman.com]
[ 2] [Open Source (Not OSC) | Weekly Rudaw | | 30 July 2012 | 30 July 2012 | Interview with Abd-al-Karim Bashar, leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party | | (U) | (U) | Arbil Rudaw.net in Kurdish – Kurmanji — Website of Rudaw, weekly newspaper supportive of the Kurdish cause; URL: http://www.rudaw.net/]
[ 3] [Open Source (Not OSC) | Al-Sharq al-Awsat | | 28 July 2012 | 28 July 2012 | Syria’s Kurds Face New Challenges; Turkey: We Will not be Lenient With Terrorist Organizations Near our Border | | (U) | (U) | ]
[ 4] [Open Source (Not OSC) | Carnegie Endowment for International Peace | | 16 August 2012 | 16 August 2012 | The Kurdish Syrian National Council | | (U) | (U) | ]
[ 5] [Open Source (Not OSC) | Al-Sharq al-Awsat | | 9 July 2012 | 9 July 2012 | Kurdish Political Parties in Syria | | (U) | (U) | ]
[ 6] [OSC | | OSC ID: EUP20120806407005 | 6 August 2012 | | Erdogan Says Al-Asad-Backed KGK Terrorists Seeking To Infiltrate Turkey | | (U) | (U) | Istanbul Today’s Zaman Online in English — Website of English-language daily published by the Zaman media group, supportive of Fethullah Gulen community; URL: http://www.todayszaman.com]
[ 7] [OSC | | OSC ID: EUP20120726406008 | 26 July 2012 | | Erdogan Warns of Terrorist Formations in Syria, Says Intervention Natural Right | | (U) | (U) | Istanbul Hurriyet Daily News Online in English — Website of Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review, pro-secular daily, with English-language versions from other Dogan Media Group dailies; URL: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/]
[ 8] [Open Source (Not OSC) | | | 7 August 2012 | 7 August 2012 | PYD Party Says Turkey Should not Interfere in Syria | | (U) | (U) | ]
[ 9] [OSC | | OSC ID: GMP20120808193001 | 7 August 2012 | | Al-Sharqiyah Roundup: Deputy PM Heads Committee To Investigate Turkish FM’s Visit | | (U) | (U) | London Al-Sharqiyah News Television in Arabic — Independent, private news channel focusing on Iraq, affiliated with Al-Sharqiyah Television, run by Sa’d al-Bazzaz, publisher of the Arabic-language daily Al-Zaman]
[ 10] [Open Source (Not OSC) | Shafaq News | | 31 July 2012 | 31 July 2012 | Turkish Sources: Davutoglu To Discuss Six Points on Syria’s Kurds in Arbil | | (U) | (U) | ]
[ 11] [Open Source (Not OSC) | Hawlati | | 5 August 2012 | 5 August 2012 | Hawlati interviews Abd-al-Basit Sida | | (U) | (U) | Al-Sulaymaniyah Hawlati in Sorani Kurdish — Privately owned newspaper published twice a week, often critical of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)]