The current fragile stabilization in Syria that has become possible due to Russia’s decisive and consistent military and political actions does not guarantee general stabilization in the Middle East. The rapidly unfolding situation in the region around the Kurdish issue suggests that the frustration and chaos in the region will continue.
Let us look into the developments in the region:
First. A delegation of the Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government is traveling to Baghdad to discuss the independence referendum anticipated in the Iraqi Kurdistan, according to Kurdistan.ru. Kurds are trying to persuade the central government of Iraq to agree on a “split up the easy way.” The referendum date may be announced immediately after these talks.
Yet, little depends on Baghdad in the given situation. If the sides fail to come to an agreement, the referendum will be held “the hard way.” The Iraqi Kurds will conduct the referendum anyway, as their leader Masoud Barzani said earlier.
Second. Almost on the same day after a representative conference in al-Hasakah, the Syrian Kurds declared federal region. It is noteworthy that among 200 participants in that conference, there were not only representatives of the Kurdish tribal unions and clans, but also other ethnic and tribal groups, which speaks of the anti-Sunnite factor. This new autonomy will comprise Afrin, Kobani near Aleppo and Al-Hasakah that are populated with Kurds. The united territory will be called Rojava (in Kurdish it means West - Western Kurdistan).
Third. A week later, the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) – a little known party in exile - declared an intention to launch a fight for national self-determination. To that end, the party that two decades ago stopped the military actions in the territory of Iran intends to bring its fighters back to the country. Perhaps, such announcement was propaganda, but this tendency aroused quite interesting reaction of the leading regional and global actors.
There is no need to dwell upon Ankara’s attitude to what is taking place on its border. Emergence of the Kurdish state is a deadly danger for it. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has called the Syrian Kurds “terrorists” who seek to “divide Syria.” This demonstrates the hypocrisy of the Turkish ruling clan. Turkey has done its utmost to destabilize Syria. But for Turkey’s versatile (military, political, economic) support to President Bashar al-Assad’s adversaries, his regime might have resisted the uprising of the Sunnite radicals without the help of Russia and Iran. At least, the civil war in Syria would not reach such large scales. The United States was cool to the idea of the Kurdish autonomy. “We’ve been very clear that we won’t recognize any self-rule autonomous zones within Syria,” U.S. Department of State Spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.
Meantime, Washington is quite loyal to the idea of the independence referendum of Iraqi Kurdistan, as it fully controls the leadership of the Kurdish autonomy after overthrow of Saddam Hussein. This is nothing but a policy of double standards, given that it was U.S. that planned and started gradually “reformatting” the Middle East and this plan implied among others redrawing of the existing borders and establishment of the Kurdish state.
In this light, Russia’s stand looks balanced and realistic. “We believe that the current and future internal organization of Syria is an internal issue, and the representatives of the Damascus government and the opposition should settle it while working on the constitution of Syria at a negotiating table,” said Maria Zakharova, official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Earlier, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Syrian Kurds must be involved in the political dialogue over Syria that was resumed in Geneva. The minister said all the parties concerned must be involved in the talks. Damascus and Ankara oppose this. However, Lavrov said, if the world community ignores the Kurds of Syria, they will undoubtedly ignore the stand of the world community. Actually, the Syrian Kurds declared federation after they were not invited to the talks in Geneva again.
At the moment, one can say for sure that the current instability will gradually shift from Syria to the north, in particular, to Turkey’s southeastern and eastern vilayets populated with Kurds. The confrontation of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkish security forces in these provinces is getting fiercer and bloodier. Turkish punitive forces and Kurdish militia are incomparable, indeed, but with reinforcement of Iraqi Kurdistan (where the main military units of PKK are deployed) and Syrian Rojava, partisans will be receiving regular and increasing support.
Furthermore, many Turkish Kurds are quite indifferent to PKK now, as they consider them “atheist-communists.” However, the situation will change dramatically, with the growing role of the Iraqi and Syrian Kurds, who cannot be blamed for being ‘a brainchild of the former Soviet totalitarianism.’ An independence Kurdish state (the first in the 4-thousand-year history of that people) will fundamentally change the military and political situation in the region and, what is not less important, the moral and psychological, religious aspects that determine the life of the traditionally fragmented and even bellicose Kurdish tribes and clans. A new ideology will rally the PKK fringe politicians and the greatest part of the 30-million Kurdish people round the flag.
All these processes are very likely to happen in Russia’s “southern underbelly,” near the borders of the Transcaucasia and our strategic ally Armenia, first. Moscow considers such a scenario realistic. That is why, probably, it has supplied manpower, advanced weapons, including aircrafts, to the 102nd Russian military base in Armenia within the last year and the first months of the current year. It is no secret that Baku and Tbilisi are at least not happy with Russia’s military buildup in Armenia. Azerbaijani experts, for instance, say it is a military aid to Armenia in case the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh unfolds. These concerns are groundless.
In fact, the Russian military base is a kind of dam near the borders of the former Soviet Union to resist the possible geopolitical “tsunami” that was unleashed by the very complicate and dangerous process of the Kurdish national statehood taking shape.
Guy Borisov, EADaily’s political analyst