A Pro-US Kurdish State Rises in Northern Syria – Between Irbil and Aleppo
Unnoticed by the world, a Kurdish state last week imperceptibly gained de facto independence.
Covering an area of 80,000 square kilometers, it is home at this stage to 7-8 million Kurdish citizens.
The new Kurdistan situated in northern Syria is an extension of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq and so shares borders with Iranian Kurdistan, southern Turkey and the northern outskirts of the Syrian city of Aleppo.
It defers to Irbil, the official KRG capital and the KRG president, Massoud Barzani is recognized by all its Kurdish denizens, Iraqis and Syrians alike. The Kurdish national flag and language are common to all.
The Iraqi Kurdish army, the peshmerga, has 200,000 men and officers, well trained by American and Israeli military instructors and armed with modern American and Israeli weapons. It is now augmented by an additional 30,000 Kurdish paramilitary fighters – 15,000 members of the Turkish rebel Kurdistan Worker's Party, known as PKK, and a similar number of fighters from Syrian Kurdish militias, the largest of which, the Democratic Union Party-PYD, took a hand in establishing the new provisional Kurdish state.
Until last month, the PYD defended the Assad regime’s interests in Syrian Kurdistan so well that the Syrian government was able to pull its troops out of northern Syria.
But recently, the PYD leader Salih Muslim spoke to Western correspondents about his movement’s strategy and aspirations, "We are able to govern ourselves – we have the strength for this," said.
Fears of a Greater Kurdistan straddling four countries
This remark resonated shockingly this week in Tehran, Damascus, Baghdad and Ankara, whose rulers have always kept a weather eye on their Kurdish minorities’ aspirations for independence. Now, all of a sudden, their attention was jerked away from more immediately pressing concerns.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was busy with preparations for war with the US and Israel; Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was in continuous communication with US President Barack Obama to coordinate their policies on the “Arab Spring” and Syria; Syrian President Bashar Assad was fighting a civil war; and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, felt safe in the certainty of US and Iranian support.
The birth of Kurdish independence, surreptitiously midwifed by the US, was startling enough to make them all sit up and take a second look at this perennial Middle East sideshow.
Erdogan and Maliki felt they had been deceived by the Obama administration.
For 60 years, Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria have suppressed Kurdish struggles for statehood. Now they fear that the first ad hoc Kurdish state ever established will soon threaten to swallow up Iranian Kurdistan and its 7 million inhabitants and the Kurdish provinces covering about one third of Turkish territory in the southwest and east with a population of some 25 million Kurds. They would be drawn quickly into joining the two million ex-Syrian and five million self-governing Iraqi Kurds.
The core mechanism is therefore in place for a Greater Kurdistan, a Sunni state with a population of up to 40 million straddling four countries. Their numbers would grow with the ingathering of the Kurdish Diaspora.
Turkish prime minister feels betrayed by Obama
The rise of Kurdish statehood is in the view of DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military and intelligence sources, one of the most striking historical consequences of the Arab Revolt and a momentous side-effect of the Syrian civil war.
Monday, July 30, Prime Minister Erdogan had a long phone conversation with President Obama.
According to Turkish sources, they discussed ways and means of filling the power vacuum opening up in Syria with Assad’s potential passing.
The White House said “US and Turkish teams would remain in close contact on ways that Turkey and the United States can work together to promote a democratic transition in Syria."
However, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources in Washington and Ankara, the furious Turkish prime minister could barely hold back from expressing to the US President his sense of betrayal.
There is no doubt in Ankara that Erdogan would never have cooperated with the US president in sponsoring the Arab Revolt and the operation against Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya had he known these events would culminate in the establishment of a pro-American Kurdish state bordering on Turkey, with the PKK movement responsible for terrorist outrages against Turkey and its army, installed in its administration.
Anti-American feeling in Ankara is running high.
Tuesday, July 31, the Turkish press, which speaks out very rarely against Erdogan and his policies, ran a large picture taken from the White House website showing President Obama sitting in the Oval Office and holding up a baseball bat, over the caption: "President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey in the Oval Office, July 30, 2012."
Turkish correspondents bombarded White House spokesman Jay Carney with questions to find out what the photo was supposed to symbolize and was it a clue to the hidden meaning behind Obama’s foreign policy. Some wanted to know more about the bat, what it was made of and where it came from.
Ankara flexes muscles for benefit of Kurds in Syria – and Washington
The next day, Wednesday, August 1, the Turkish army launched its first big tank exercise along the Syrian border. For Ankara, the focus had shifted from its campaign to oust Assad to muscle-flexing against the Turkish Kurdish PKK fighters now installed in bases in five Syrian Kurdish cities along the Turkish border. The tanks moved right up to the border as a warning that they would cross over into Syria in a trice if the PKK used its new bases for attacking Turkish soil
The Turkish exercise also doubled as a message to Washington that Ankara would not hesitate to counter US policy for Syria if it conflicted with Turkish interests.
The detrimental effect on Turkish-US relations was the first tremor of the avalanche about to hurtle down on the Middle East as a result of the Obama administration’s Kurdish initiative and other imminent conflicts – even though the new Kurdish state appears on no maps and in no international documents, say DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources.
Assad’s army is too tied up in bloody battles for the control of Damascus and Aleppo to halt the flight of one- third of Syrian territory into Kurdish hands, even though this heralds the breakup of the Syrian state.
The Alawites and the Sunnis are likely to strike out next for autonomous or independent regions in the rest of the country.
A shared US-Israeli-Kurdish brainchild
Our intelligence sources reveal that Obama’s Kurdish Plan was devised and executed by a small group of elite US, Israeli and Kurdish intelligence officials, led by CIA Director David Petraeus, Mossad chief Tamir Pardo and former KRG prime minister Barham Ahmad Salih.
Petraeus came to appreciate Kurdistan and its leaders’ high strategic value for the US during his stint as military commander of Iraq.
Pardo, when he took up his post in 2010, found that Iraqi Kurdistan had an Israeli military, intelligence and high-tech security infrastructure secretly present and in working order. The network of Israeli ties with Kurdish leaders was synchronized down to the last detail with Washington.
Salih, an Iraqi Kurdish politician, was regional prime minister from 2009 to January 2012 and a former deputy prime minister of the federal government in Baghdad. Regarded as one of the sharpest political brains in the Middle East, he is very close to US intelligence and the administration in Washington.
From the time he retired from his official positions this year, he has devoted himself to carving out an Iraqi-Syrian Kurdish state.
Another key figure in the pro-American Kurdish initiative is Masrour Barzani, son of the regional president and a member of his Kurdistan Democratic Party leadership. Masrour is the autonomous state’s director of intelligence and security.
President Massoud Barzani jumped on the new bandwagon himself. Without his active involvement, it could not have started rolling.
It would be hard to find in history the precedent of a state established unnoticed by the world like the new Kurdistan created in northern Syria, the joint creation of the US, Israel and Kurdish statesmen.
Last minute breaking news:
A PYD delegation and allied Syrian Kurdish militias opened an office in Washington Thursday night, Aug. 2. They are in intensive negotiation with US officials for a guarantee that the Kurdish associates of the Turkish PKK will not be declared terrorists.