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Why Do the Kurds Insist on Being the Country’s Achilles’ Heel?

Until recently, Damascus saw the Kurds as an ally able to help pressure a wide geographical area that needed hundreds of thousands of soldiers and at the same time would constitute a thorn in the Turkish throat, which was greedy to swallow Syrian geography and people at the same time.
Why Do the Kurds Insist on Being the Country’s Achilles’ Heel?

The efforts of Syrian Kurds since the start of the Syrian crisis have focused on attempting to replicate the scenario of northern Iraq after the fall of Baghdad in 2003 (the protests of March 2004 represented an early attempt and available information confirms the Asayish forces were founded on the back of those protests but remained undeclared until the summer of 2012). This is what paved the way for the relationship (more than an alliance) with Tel Aviv after they became aware of its centrality, which emerged after the arrest of Abdullah Ocalan on February 15, 1999. These relations led to pressure on Washington to pierce Turkish obstinacy, which lead to the emergence of a broadly-empowered Kurdish entity in northern Iraq.

Kurdish hopes of replicating the Iraqi example were deflated when Syrian bombers struck positions of a village in the Hassakeh area on August 17-18, in which there were said to be US advisers despite continuous statements by American officials that Washington has no desire to enact a no-fly zone above the city of Hassakeh. However the Kurdish gamble was clearly on the sort of provocative statements that were circulated by the media as if they had drawn a new US approach. Logically as well, Washington has not met the demands of its NATO ally Turkey, which was in a much better position than it is now to establish a no-fly zone. So how can they do this with the Kurdish ally which has the least weight in a set of complicated circumstances dominated by the Russian military intervention in Syria since September 30 last year, and the accompanying distribution of S-400 missiles after that date.

The Syrian leadership were not the only ones to capture the indicators that had confirmed the presence of an early secessionist tendency among the Kurds. This had appeared clearly since the Kurdish Democratic Union Party took over the oil wells in Ramalyan in 2012 despite the fact that this operation was done with the support of the Syrian air force. The Syrian leadership saw in the Kurds an ally able to help pressure a wide geographical area that needed hundreds of thousands of soldiers and at the same time would constitute a thorn in the Turkish throat, which was greedy to swallow Syrian geography and people at the same time.

Reports claim that the PYD has since December proposed to the Americans carrying out a military operation aiming to expel the Syrian army from Hassakeh in exchange for Washington’s pledge and paying the salaries of the state employees whose salaries the Syrian government still continues to pay until this moment. However, the Americans rejected the idea and with that the Kurds preferred to gamble again, and so they gambled by proclaiming “Rojava” on March 16, 2016, which was read to be a moment to stimulate Kurds waiting for suitable conditions or indications from abroad.

It was expected that after Rojava would be followed by rapidly escalating Kurdish steps. However, the barrier had more than doubled. After Washington insisted on keeping relations with the Kurds as a military relationship and not tying any political or financial support, the British and Germans (and as a result the Europeans) rejected cooperating with the Kurdish institutions and financing them, and like that the situation became static until the start of the month of August, which saw the escalation of two variables pushing for a new Kurdish adventure. The first was the success of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces supported by the US in taking control of Manbij on June 8, 2016, after expelling ISIS from there. The second was the Kurdish fear borne of the Turkish-Russian-Iranian rapprochement and the possibility that this could lead to a Turkish-Syrian rapprochement against the backdrop of emerging dangers. It was no surprise that the Kurdish delegation to the negotiations in Hemeimeem called for Damascus to stop any negotiations with Ankara immediately and subsequently.

There is not the slightest doubt that the Asayish mobilization in Hassakeh was at the behest of the Jabel Qandil leadership, which considered Damascus to now be in a weakened political situation while it was expected to regain its strength soon in light of the political and military developments occurring, and this — and this is still analysis in the Kurdish reading — point must not be wasted. However the most important question is if the decision of the Jabal Qandil leadership was taken with American encouragement or not? The answer depends on the prospects for the next stage. If the answer was yes (and this is the most likely) then the American orientation is headed toward making ripe a great area including northern Syria, if not more. If the response is no, then the Kurds have decided, like any fighting faction to blow themselves up after using up their ammunition. Whatever the facts are, the Hemeimeem agreement is nothing more than a ceasefire and it does not have the least elements of permanence and continuity. It is subject to explosion or relapsing at any moment, indeed it is likely that it will relapse at the soonest time based on the data and implications of events.

To finish the discussion, the fevered Kurdish gamble of establishing a no-fly zone extending from Hassakeh to Ain Diwar on the Iraqi-Turkish-Syrian border has failed and it is not on the horizon. This is what American officials have reiterated continuously since the eruption of the Hassakeh events on a daily basis. However the results of that gamble were disastrous — and for the Kurds primarily — and have led to drawing in the Turkish military intervention on the pretext of crushing Kurdish hopes of setting up an independent Kurdish entity in the country’s northeast.

It was notable that the launch of the Turkish operation Euphrates Shield on the town of Jarablus (as announced) came on August 24, 2016, the day that marked the 500th anniversary of the battle of Marj Dabiq, which occurred on August 24, 1516. Of course the Turkish operation will not be a picnic and it is subject to many dangers, especially when the Turkish desires are revealed to be greater through the subsequent steps that Turkish forces take. The Turks can find the shadow of the commander Kheir Bey, who betrayed the Mamluk commander Qansuh al-Ghawri in the battle of Marj Dabiq which occurred to repulse Ottoman forces under Sultan Selim I. That day is not enough and if the Free Syrian Army accepts playing that role, that does not mean the consequences of Marj Dabiq will be forthcoming in subsequent stages.

The question which remains roaming throughout the collective Syrian self is: Why do the Kurds insist on being — and through miscalculations — the Achilles’ heel of Damascus?

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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