Like Russia, Syria plays the long game.
Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has stated that once the conflict against terrorist groups is finished in Syria, Damascus will be willing to politically negotiate internal autonomy for Syrian Kurds.
Reuters quotes Muallem, who delivered Syria’s address to the United Nations, as stating,
“This topic (Kurdish autonomy) is open to negotiation and discussion and when we are done eliminating Daesh (aka ISIS), we can sit with our Kurdish sons and reach an understanding on a formula for the future”.
There are several geo-political implications to this statement.
1. Seizing the initiative from the US occupiers
First and foremost, Muallem’s proposals take the wind out of the sails of the United States. As I wrote previously in The Duran, with Syria and Russia quickly securing control over areas east of the River Euphrates, the US is being squeezed out of Syria.
Bearing these realities in mind, one of the only options the US has left is to use the Kurdish national cause in order to foment either a new puppet state in the region that is build on stolen Syrian territory or else create a permanently occupied entity similar to the Serbian Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija. Apart from this, the US will have no choice but to either leave Syria or directly confront the Syrian Arab Army and most likely, also its Russia ally. Presently, the US seems unwilling to confront Russia by any means other than through the US of proxy/terrorist forces and this is unlikely to change.
However, given the extreme backlash against Kurdish separatism in Iraq, the US would not only retain old enemies but gain new ones, particularly in the form of Turkey. Ankara is vocally opposed to Kurdish separatism in Iraq and has threatened to take all measures necessary to stop moves in this direction. Turkey has an even worse relationship with Syrian Kurds. This would automatically mean that the US would be in for a very difficult ride if they backed Kurdish separatism in Syria.
With Turkey’s President Erdogan specifically telling Iraqi Kurds “The Israel flag will not save you”, Syria’s proposals would be a geo-strategic blow not only to the US but also to Israel.
2. Separating SDF terrorists from civilian Kurds with Syrian citizenship
The Arab Socialist Ba’ath party has already given Syrian Kurds full citizenship rights which means that they are co-equals to Arabs as well as to other minorities including Assyrians and Armenians, both of whom are grateful to the pluralistic Ba’athist government for protecting them from foreign funded Sunni supremacist terrorism.
While it is clear that the Kurdish fronted SDF proxy militia is operating as a terrorist force in Syria, the old line about separating terrorists from moderates could work in a post-war scenario where the SDF has been defeated in certain regions and rendered irrelevant in others.
In exchange for negotiated autonomy, one which would clearly have to protect the rights of Arabs in ‘Kurdish regions’ of an Arab Republic, Syria could force Kurdish leaders to weed out those who have collaborated with foreign powers and created a new political paradigm for Kurds in Syria.
This would give the moderate Kurds what they want, it would protect the human rights of Arabs and Syrian minorities and it would allow Syria to further purge her soil of terrorists and enemy collaborators.
3. Leverage with Turkey
Unlike Iraq which is currently collaborating with Turkey in military drills bordering separatist regions of Iraq, Syria has no plans to engage with Turkey after years of Turkey’s participation in the pro-jihadist war against Syria.
However, in actively preventing the formation of a Kurdish state in Syria through a negotiated settlement which Turkey’s new found partner Russia could possibly help to broker, Syria could effective end the current ‘Kurdish excuse’ which is being subtly invoked by Turkey to justify its continued presence in Syria.
Furthermore, Syria could, possibly again via Russia, offer Turkey assurances that Syria will not allow for PKK activity directed against Turkey to foment on Syrian soil. This would be in the best interests of peace in the region as Turkey and Syria both need to eventually come to terms with the fact that they are neighbours.
Historically, Syria’s traditional regional adversaries have been Israel and Jordan and more recently the extremist Arab states of the Persian Gulf. These are the states Syria must be on guard against when looking to the wider future. Because of this, Syria and Turkey will and should slowly but surely normalise relations.
4. Containing Iraqi Kurds
While Iraqi Kurds are politically at odds with their Kurdish counterparts, there exists a fear that the menacing separatist movement in Iraq could lead towards a greater Kurdish push for a multi-state land grab which would be supported by Israel, especially where Syria and Iran are concerned.
If, as is expected, Turkey sends its troops into northern Iraq, it would send a message to the wider Kurdish movement that Kurdish independence equals creating not a greater Kurdistan but a greater Turkey.
Thus, the example of Iraq when viewed simultaneously with the generous offer from Syria, may lead to moderate elements within the Syrian Kurdish movement making the pragmatic choice for guaranteed autonomy versus the prospect of Turkish domination.
Far from being a concession, it was always expected that after the present conflict against imperialism and imperialist funded jihad, Syria would happily engage in a political process with various parts of the Syrian population, including Kurds, in order to develop a settled internal peace.
Syria, in announcing this now however, sends a strong message to radical Kurds and the United States. The message is clear, Syria is a sovereign country and the Kurdish issue is a purely internal matter.