Russia is the Issue, not the Kurds

Russia is the Issue, not the Kurds
Russia is the Issue, not the Kurds
Stories | Tuesday 23rd February 2016

Saleh Muslim’s biggest mistake is that he has been using the issue of Kurdish people’s rights as a justification for the regime to regain control over the areas it had ceded and for Russia to “occupy” Syria.

Muslim’s forces have advanced towards the town of Tal Rifaat, and they have been trying to control the town of Izaaz, while both the opposition and the regime, backed by Iran and Russia, have been fighting the Islamic State. This move on Muslim’s end, we believe, will bring about clashes with Turkey and with the Arabs in Syria as a whole, not only in Aleppo. It will also raise fears of connecting the Kurdish areas together after displacing their Arab residents. What the Kurdish People’s Protection Units [YPG] have been doing threatens the future of Muslim and of Kurds in general, and is laying the groundwork future animosities.

The Russians have been using Muslim to serve their goal of humiliating the opposition right before Geneva III. If Aleppo falls to the regime, or if the oppositional factions in the city are besieged in limited areas in Aleppo, the opposition will face new conditions. A close look at the Syrian situation shows that the Syrian opposition does not have a real presence on the ground in Syria. Jaysh al-Fateh [The Islamic Conquest Army], which is dominated by Jabhat al-Nusra is in control of Idlib; the Islamic State controls al-Raqqa, Deir Ezzor, and a large part of rural Aleppo, and Jaysh al-Islam [The Army of Islam], which Russia calls a terrorist organization, controls eastern, rural Damascus. This situation gives the Russians the upper hand in appointing the delegation they want in Geneva— they can include HaythamMannaa and Saleh Muslim himself if they want. It also forces the opposition to either succumb to Russian terms just to negotiate, or to withdraw from the talks.

Saleh Muslim uses Russian air force coverage in order to advance in the Arab areas west of the Euphrates, which are very important to Turkey. He also benefits from the American attacks on the Islamic State, since the Unites States establishes military airports in his areas and trains his forces. His close relationship with the Americans irritates the Arabs in Syria, because Americans are primarily hostile to Arabs, and because he does [not] attack the Islamic State, which has been harassing and executing the Arabs. Muslim and his allies have been getting rid of Arabs and not getting rid of the Islamic State. All of the reasons mentioned above contribute to escalating hostility between Arabs and Kurds. It is important to remember that the jihadist groups partially justify that. They are actually the reason why the Arabs have not taken a more critical position alongside the US-led coalition, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, the regime and Russia.

The Russian bombardment of areas close to the Turkish borders, which are considered weapons-free zones by the international community, led Turkey and Saudi Arabia to propose that Arab and Turkish forces enter the country in order to fight against the Islamic State and to bring the Syrian regime down. The large wave of displacement caused by the Russian bombardment also led Turkey to reopen its old proposal of establishing a weapons-free zone in northern Syria. The main issue is that all of these proposals are rejected by the United States, which even condemns Turkey for launching some missiles against the Kurdish forces. These Kurdish forces entered Tal Rifaat, took control of the Minnigh military airport, and are preparing to take over the border town of Izaaz, which is the only town through which the opposition forces secure supplies. The American rejection of Arab and Turkish forces entering Syria, combined with the Russian escalation and refusal of the Gulf countries’ weapon and economic deals, will turn Aleppo into a center of conflict, and possibly lead to a minor world war or a major regional war.

The Turkish-Saudi pressure has forced the Syrian regime to come up with a counter proposal—to have its forces enter al-Raqqah. The regime is lying, however, since it simply cannot do that. The dependence [not clear whose dependence] on Muslim’s forces is mainly due to the fact that the regime’s forces, who are backed by Iran, are not able to regain control of areas that they have lost. The United States, which has falsely welcomed the Turkish-Saudi offer, refused to lead the forces, as Saudi Arabia and UAE requested, while Turkey has given the United States two options; to support Turkey or Muslim, but not both at the same time.

Washington keeps saying that it will not abandon Turkey, but that the Kurdish forces are very useful in fighting the Islamic State. Therefore, no ground operation can happen, unless Saudi Arabia and Turkey change the conditions of their deal.

To sum it up, the coordination between Russia and the United States is remarkable. The United States is pushing the whole region to get involved in the bloody clashes taking place in Syria, including Russia itself. 

Everything depends on the Russian response. This coordination might either lead to allowing Turkey to target Saleh Muslim’s locations, or to bringing in anti-aircraft missiles. If Muslim agrees to apply the “trust procedures” requested by the opposition in Geneva, the United States will let Russia continue its advances in the country, and will reject any Turkish intervention in Syria.

In addition to analyzing the current presence of Muslim’s forces in Tal Rifaat and Izaaz, and the illusions of those talking about dividing the country, it is a mistake to perceive the Kurdish People’s Protection Units as representative of Kurdish people, or the opposition factions fighting the regime as pro-Islamic State. All the escalating animosity between the Arabs and the Kurds should be isolated and purged, and this will not begin until a political solution is in place. By delaying that, the United States and Russia are left to lead the situation in the whole region, and not only between the Arabs and the Kurds, to an abyss and growing jihadism. This will lead to a major war between the Russian and the regime forces, and the jihadist groups.

The battles in Aleppo have become regional and international. If the Russians continue to advance, then guerrilla warfare will take place in order to stand up against Russia and the Syrian regime. New and stronger leaderships will form; stronger than the one recently formed by one of the Ahrar al-Sham leaders, and this will be the beginning of Russia’s defeat. The Russian intervention was the regime’s last and most desperate attempt to win the war in Syria, and Russia’s defeat means the defeat of the regime.