A political model in post-Assad Syria PDF Print E-mail

Syrian Kurds should participate actively in the opposition against the regime and struggle for the overthrow of Assad. It is equally essential that Syrian Kurds control and be a recognized force in its own territory in order to have a role in a post-Assad period.



"Despite public denials, military preparations for intervention in the horrendous Syrian crisis are quietly afoot in Washington, Paris, Rome, London and Ankara. US President Barack Obama is poised for a final decision after the Pentagon submits operational plans for protecting Syrian rebels and beleaguered populations from the brutal assaults of Bashar Assad's army," claimed Debka, a website close to the Israeli intelligence community.


Whether this claim has any merit, Bashar Assad's regime has long lost its legitimacy among its people and the international community. A regime that brutally kills its own people and bombards its own towns and cities is a regime that digs its own grave.


There will inevitably be international interference of some sort to bring the brutal regime to an end. The fact that there is no international consensus on the issue of Syria combined with opposing regional interests only serves to drag the regime to its deathbed. Russia is the predominant international actor backing the current Syrian regime, and Iran perceives Syria as its regional partner and backyard, so it provides all types of support to protect Assad's regime against its own people.


It is not only Russia and Iran's uncompromised support that provides Assad space to maneuver, but also the complex social and cultural structure of Syria and the lack of a democratic opposition with a democratic program to provide an alternative to the regime. Syrian opposition is neither a coherent group nor does it have an inclusive democratic program. The Muslim Brotherhood mostly leads the opposition, and the experience in Egypt in a post-Mubarak period indicates how little stomach the Muslim Brotherhood has for democracy, pluralism and national and minority rights.


The non-Sunni Arab groups in Syria are doubtful and apprehensive about their status and rights in post-Assad Syria, if it is ruled and controlled by the Sunni-dominated Muslim Brotherhood.


In addition, a post-Assad political structure in Syria is highly complicated as it affects so many regional powers. Its strategy and geopolitics directly involve the security apprehension of Israel through Lebanon and disputed terrain in Golan. It worries Turkey through the sizeable Kurdish population in north Syria as they demand a federal political system. The Shiite-dominated Iraq fears a Sunni-led Syria border with its Sunni-dominated areas and Iran may lose a regional partner. Russia, which enjoys Syria as its main gate into the Mediterranean Sea, does not want to lose that strategic port.


All these calculations and regional interests indicate that a political solution to the Syrian crisis will not come easily and without much blood. It is possible that with the end of the regime, Syria may not sustain its integrity and could be divided into separate political entities.




The Kurdish national question in Syria


As Syria plays a key role in the region, any regime change in the country would bring with it serious challenges to the Kurds not only in Syrian Kurdistan but also in other parts of Kurdistan, particularly to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.


A new political formation in Syria has serious potential to determine the future of the entire Kurdish national question in the Middle East, depending on what the role of the Kurds in pre- and post-Assad regime will be, and what sort of political regime is to be established.


Like Iraq, Syria as a political entity was established according to the imperial interests of Britain and France following the demise of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. This artificial political creation forcefully incorporated various national and religious groups, and applied dictatorial and iron-hand rule to keep its integrity and survival. The massacres of late father Hafez Al-Assad during the 1980s in Homs and other Sunni areas have not been forgotten. Bashar's bloody handling of the Kurdish demonstrations in 2005 in Qamishlo, Haseki and other locations have also not been forgotten.


Like Iraq, once the regime lost its dominance and fear over the population, Pandora's Box opened and it was almost impossible to put things back in it. The Kurdish national question is one of the first things to come out of the box and it needs to be dealt with.


Syrian Kurdish political groups, with the exception of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a group affiliated with the PKK, have already declared their political objective in post-Assad Syria as federalism and the right to self-determination. This stance has already gained support from Kurdistan's regional authorities. Very recently, Kurdish groups and intellectuals of Syrian Kurdistan gathered in the capital of Kurdistan Region, Erbil, which explicitly signified the strong bond between the Syrian Kurds and Kurdistan Region.


The Kurds of Syria should create a strong united position and participate actively in the opposition against Assad's regime in Kurdistan. It is not necessary to have an understanding with the mainstream Syrian opposition for the Syrian Kurds to participate in the opposition against the regime. In any eventuality, they should prepare themselves and the nation to demonstrate that they are an active body against the regime and need to be recognized as such. Without active participation and struggle against the regime, the Kurds may not be able to sit at the negotiation table following the collapse of the regime. Should the Kurds aspire to realize Kurdish self-determination and a federal state of their own, they should demonstrate this in the streets and among the people in an active struggle against the regime.




Kurds must face regional challenges


Syrian Kurds as well as Kurdish political actors throughout Kurdistan should also be ready for challenges in a post-Assad period. Depending on how the regime collapses, whether by regional and global interferences or by internal forces, the Kurds will face regional forces against their aspirations. Turkey would probably be the main regional power to stand against the formation of a Kurdish political entity in Syria. The Syrian Kurdish demands of federalism are in sharp contrast with Turkish policy in Syria. Through its influence over the Syrian opposition, Turkey aims for a unitary and centralized state formation with minimum political rights for the non-Arab national groups in Syria.


Turkey rightly fears that formation of another Kurdish political entity in its longest border with Syria could galvanize its own restive Kurds, and it would be almost impossible to seek a solution for the Kurdish question within its own border within the framework of cultural and individual rights. The ongoing political discussion about the Kurdish question in Turkey is mostly confined to the framework of democracy, cultural and individual rights. Mainly thanks to the guerrilla warfare of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the question has so far remained within a vicious circle of security issues and security threats. The issue has not been discussed or contemplated as the collective national rights of millions of Kurds.


Formation of a federal political system and a Kurdish political entity has already given Turkey worry, and establishment of another Kurdish entity at its border would be more than what Turkey could digest. It would not be far reaching to claim that Turkey would use its influence over the Syrian opposition and its regional and international alliances to prevent decentralization of the political system of Syria in a post-Assad period. For Kurds to stand against this, it is imperative that they are ready, organized and in an active struggle against the regime. The Syrian Kurds have no other option but to be able to control and be the main force in the territory of Kurdistan of Syria. It is this control that will enable the Kurds to have a strong bargaining position in the post-Assad period.


It is the duty of all other Kurdish political groups, and to be precise, the entire Kurdish nation to support and back the Kurds in Syria in such a dire period. It is so because the destiny of Syrian Kurds is the destiny of the whole Kurdish nation. This is particularly so for Iraqi Kurdistan.


Consolidation of political entity in Iraqi Kurdistan depends on establishing a decentralized and federal political structure in post-Assad Syria. A post-Assad Syria in a way may be a mirror to the political structure of the Middle East. The model of unitary and centralized state or decentralized and federal structure will be the model in Syria and may provide a glimpse of the future political shaping of the entire Middle East.




The Kurdish Globe

By Mir Mengi


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