Neither Syrian factions nor Turkey can prevent Kurdish federalism: US think-tank

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People of Sere kaniye in Syria's Hasakah province bidding farewell to Kurdish YPG fighters killed in clashes with ISIS. Photo: ARA News

ARA News 

QAMISHLO – A new report by researchers at Rand Corporation, an influential US think-tank close to the Pentagon, argues that neither the Syrian regime, opposition forces, nor the Turkish government will be able to prevent Kurds from attaining a federal status within Syria. 

“The regime is not in a position to deliver a decisive blow to the Sunni opposition—to say nothing of reclaiming the territory it essentially ceded to the Kurds in the north and ISIS in the Euphrates River valley—but regime forces have consolidated their control over much of the western portion of the country,” Rand researchers argue.

Although the Sunni Arab opposition, Turkey, and the Syrian regime and regional states fear their precedent-setting implications for their own ethnic minorities, they will not able to prevent the Kurds from gaining their rights, the think tank said. 

“On the other hand, absent the regime’s ability to field a greatly enhanced military capability or Turkish intervention to stop it, it is not clear how the Kurdish progress toward autonomy can be reversed,” the report said.

According to Rand, the Syrian Kurds will attain a similar status to the Iraqi Kurds in 1990s, when Iraq did not recognized the self-declared Kurdish region, or like present-day Iraq after 2003, “(…) in which the Kurdistan Regional Government enjoys enhanced autonomy but still participates in national-level decision making,” Rand said.

“The distinguishing feature of this arrangement would be its asymmetry in that the Syrian Kurds would enjoy autonomy that is not extended to (or, at this point, sought by) other groups, such as the mainly Sunni-Arab opposition or the Druze community concentrated in as-Suwayda,” the report added.

According to Rand, although all Syrian Arab factions including the opposition and regime want the unity of Syria, they will be not able to control the resulting institutions. “(…) pronouncements about commitments to Syria’s unity also ignore the existence of de facto Kurdish autonomy,” the report said.

Therefore, the report says that Washington will need to draw on the support of regional actors not like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, who define success beyond removing Assad, punishing Iran, or preventing Kurdish autonomy.

“Regional partners who are closer to the U.S. position on priorities in Syria include the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Egypt, and their engagement will be necessary to rein in the more maximalist positions of Saudi Arabian and Turkish leaders, who seem inclined to fight to the last Syrian in order to overthrow Assad,” the report argued.

Speaking to ARA News, Washington-based Middle East researcher at the Centre for a New American Security, Nicolas Heras, said: “The dilemma has always been Assad has a statelet, but will have great difficulty retaking opposition-controlled areas, or Rojava. So Syria is de facto partitioned.” 

“They already have to deal with it, and so long as there is a direct US presence on the ground in Syria, which is not going away for the foreseeable future, it will be very difficult for any actor, local, regional, or international, to take away Rojava [Syria’s Kurdish region],” he emphasized.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg

Source: ARA News 

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