Analysts of Al-Monitor and Kurdistan24 say that Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence referendum has been echoing in Kurdish circles in northern Syria due to nationalistic ties and shared feelings. Kurdish parties are preparing to form a united delegation to negotiate with the Damascus government the formation of a federal state across Syria.
Since the beginning of the year, Syria’s Kurds revealed plans that could ultimately redraw the northern part of the country by linking the Kurdish region of Rojava with the Mediterranean Sea, met with angry reaction from Turkey’s government.
Ankara views the Syrian PYD as an extension of Turkey’s own Kurdish insurgency led by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and is determined to avert Kurdish power next door. Last year, its troops captured a pocket of territory inside Syria to prevent a contiguous Kurdish hold along the frontier.
The Kurdish-led autonomy plans in Syria have advanced as diplomacy has failed to make any progress towards a political solution to the six-year-long war.
The Kurdish self-rule administration, Rojava, is comprised of three cantons: Al-Jazira canton that includes Qamishli and Hasakah, Kobani canton that includes Ain al-Arab and Tell Abyad, and Afrin canton that includes Afrin and Shahba.These cantons constitute 37-40% of Syria’s surface area and are home to 3-4 million citizens from north Syria, including Kurds, Arabs, Turkmens, Syriacs, Assyrians, Circassians and Yazidis, not to mention Christians and Muslims. The cantons also boast key dams, oil fields and wide agricultural stretches.
Assad, who is fast regaining territory in Syria’s most populous eastern regions with Iranian and Russian military support, has repeatedly said the state will recover all Syria.
According to Reuters, Raqqa will be part of a decentralized federal Syria now the city has been freed from Islamic State, tying its political future to Kurdish-led autonomy plans for northern Syria. In a declaration formally announcing Raqqa’s liberation from Islamic State after four months of battles earlier this month, the SDF pledged “to protect the frontiers of the province against all external threats”, and to hand control to a civil council from the city.
Kurdish-led authorities in other parts of the north say they want a federal system that would allow regions to rule themselves without central control by the center. They have been moving ahead with plans set it up, despite discouragement from their U.S. allies and strong opposition from both Turkey and the Syrian government in Damascus.
Russian’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov supported the federal proposal in Syria and said that Russia backs the outcome of the Syrian negotiations, including establishing a federal state. (Reuters)The US stance (officially at least) underlines that a federal state decision should be left to Syrians alone. Former deputy spokesperson for the US State Department Mark Toner asserted the US commitment to Syria’s unity and said, “If Syrians agree on a federal system, it is up to them. But the US opposes the establishment of areas under a semi-independent rule threatening Syrian unity. It creates isolated areas or cantons within Syria. The US does not back the federal system in Syria, unless the Syrian people are all for it.”
The U.S.-backed SDF, which is led by Kurdish militia fighters and also includes Arabs, captured the Syrian de-facto capital of Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate mid-october in a decisive defeat for the group that had ruled over millions of people from central Syria to northern Iraq.
For Andrew Korybro writer for Oriental Review, the most likely outcome regarding the situation now in Syria, is that the post-Daesh battle lines between the Syrian Arab Army and the Kurdish-led “Syrian Democratic Forces” will be frozen in place and enforced by a Russian-American agreement pending a comprehensive political solution to the War on Syria, though the divergent strategic visions between these two Great Powers and their on-the-ground partners will probably lead to this becoming an unresolved frozen conflict for years to come.
- Al-monitor: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/10/syria-federal-state-kurds-turkey-russia.html,
- Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/06/syria-kurds-raqqa-mediterranen
- Oriental Review: https://orientalreview.org/2017/10/27/the-kurds-want-a-federal-regime-change-in-syria/
- Other: Reuters, Al-Jazeera, Financial Times, Rudaw.