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    A Kurdish man waves a large flag of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) political wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), during a demonstration against the exclusion of Syrian-Kurds from the Geneva talks in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli on February 4, 2016

    Kurdish Federalism in Syria: Self-Determination or Kerry's Plan B?

    © AFP 2019 / DELIL SOULEIMAN
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    Many were caught by surprise when the Syrian Kurds, who have not been invited to shape the country's post-conflict future in Geneva, announced that they had established a federal region days after peace talks resumed. The move, according to experts, could reflect a drive for greater rights or the meddling of outside forces.

    "The Kurds have been fighting [Daesh] and al-Qaeda for quite some time. They've lost a lot of blood fighting. My guess is they don't want to feel like they've fought in vain. Although they had de facto autonomy under Assad for quite some time, this is the move to make it more institutionalized," political analyst Daniel McAdams asserted.

    The expert added that the Kurds "have been denied" a place at the table at the rebooted Geneva talks "primarily by the US" despite the fact that Washington has closely worked with the Kurds in a bid to tackle Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

    Kurdish forces have been instrumental in preventing the terrorists from expanding their caliphate. They have been credited with putting an end to Daesh's blitzkrieg in mid-2014 when the militants failed to capture Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. They have also successfully secured Syria's borders, cutting major Daesh supply routes to Iraq and Turkey. 

    McAdams believes that the Kurds were not invited to Switzerland "perhaps under Turkey's insistence" since Ankara views every Kurdish grouping as a direct threat to its security and stability, regardless of whether they are linked to the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) or not.

    Syrian government delegation headed by Bashar al-Jaafari attends a news conference after a meeting on Syria at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, March 16, 2016
    © REUTERS / Denis Balibouse
    Syrian government delegation headed by Bashar al-Jaafari attends a news conference after a meeting on Syria at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, March 16, 2016

    The decision to create the so-called Democratic System of Rojava and Northern Syria was made public on Thursday following a meeting in the Syrian town of Rmeilan. Those present emphasized that they were not trying to divide or break up the country, but rather saw federalization as a way to foster cordial relations with other ethnicities within existing borders.

    "I want to emphasize that any claims that federalization will lead to an independent Kurdistan are groundless. Those, who spread these rumors, want to jeopardize the federalization process. They aim to partition Syria," İdris Nassan, deputy foreign affairs minister of the Kobani canton, told Sputnik. "We do not intend to divide Syria. [For this reason] the federation will not be called Kurdistan."

    Still, experts offer alternative explanations that see outside influence as a possible driving force behind the federalization. After all, often troubled relations between countless factions in the Middle East, as Ron Paul noted, have "been magnified so greatly by outsiders being involved." These include the United States and NATO in particular.

    Smoke billows over the northern Yugoslav city of Novi Sad, some 70 kms. north of Belgrade after NATO air raids late Wednesday March 24, 1999.
    © AP Photo / str
    Smoke billows over the northern Yugoslav city of Novi Sad, some 70 kms. north of Belgrade after NATO air raids late Wednesday March 24, 1999.

    The US foreign policy in the post-Cold War era, according to McAdams, has been "one of divide and conquer. If you look at Yugoslavia and how the US helped to pit the Serbs against the Croats and the Bosnian Muslims, they were essentially able to conquer the former Yugoslavia."

    The same strategy was applied in Iraq and it could well be used in Syria, which is home to Arabs, Armenians, Assyrians, Circassians, Greeks, Kurds, and Turkmens. Sectarian violence used to be a foreign concept for the country, but it has been torn apart along sectarian lines for five years.

    McAdams pointed to the Plan B that US State Secretary John Kerry mentioned in late February. This strategy could be used if the current Syrian peace process collapses. It entails dividing the country into several regions.

    "One has to wonder whether [the Kurdish announcement] is part of the Plan B," he noted.

    Related:

    Kurdish Push for Autonomy Must Not Derail Syrian Peace Talks - US Senator
    Kurdish Federalization May Fuel Conflicts in Region - Egyptian Official
    US DoS Opposed to Self-Rule in Syria After Kurds Declare Federal Zone
    Opposition: Syria's New Constitution Must Guarantee Kurds' Rights, Freedoms
    Tags:
    Middle East, Plan B, federalization, geopolitics, NATO, Daesh, Turkey, Syria, United States, Yugoslavia
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