by Ghassan Kadi
In an article published on the Saker titled “Kurdish Autonomy; Partition or Masterplan”, and as the unsavoury prospect of establishing an independent Kurdish state in Syria was taking form, I emphasised that this scenario is avoidable, and at worst, if it had to happen, and if all cards were played correctly, then a seemingly impending disaster could be turned around and that any potential harm could be mitigated. The first of many conditions I had put for this turn around to be successful, was that Syrian Kurds should stay under the roof of Damascus.
I warned loudly of the dire consequences of any resolution of the Kurdish issue going wrong. At the end of the day, I can only be responsible for my words, and not for how certain people may misunderstand them, or even worse, deliberately twist them to make them sound like they mean the opposite. On that note, and in hindsight, just like I warned, these Kurds should have been induced to stay under Damascus’s umbrella, and take advantage of the situation to bolster loyalty to Syria and national unity. Instead, we are now looking at a clear and present danger of having an independent Kurdish state being established under the auspices of Washington instead of Damascus.
Whether some Kurds – and not all are separatists – have been pushed into America’s nook or chose to, facts on the ground show all the signs of a would-be masterplan that has gone against, not for, the interests of Syria.
Over the last six years, each time Syria gained a new victory or came close to one, a new enemy arrived on the scene to set the war on a different course. Nothing is more despicable and transparent than the overt, uninvited and illegal entry of the USA and company on the ground in Syria. Syria and her allies were rapidly bringing ISIS to its knees and the war was coming to an end. Success after success ensued and after many unconfirmed news, recent reports emerged that Al Baghdadi has highly likely been killed by the Russian military and the mosque in Mosul where he declared his caliphate being abandoned and demolished by retreating ISIS terrorists.
At the analytical level, we need to unpack the various actions of the USA in Syria in order to make sense of their current aims, objectives and strategies, if any.
On one hand, the USA is fighting ISIS, and it is.
On another hand, the USA is helping ISIS by attacking the Syrian Army and Airforce among other things.
The USA has troops on Syrian ground, allegedly trying to fight ISIS only, but without the permission of the Syrian Government who has been fighting ISIS since its inception.
The USA is actively engaging with the Kurdish groups that they promised to assist with their separatist aspirations.
In reality however, the USA will not meet any of those above promises. America, especially Trump’s America, will only do what he deems is beneficial for America.
Much of what happens next in Syria is in the hands of Russia.
In its recent incursions inside Syria, the USA has been working on establishing difficult situations to resolve for both Syria and Russia. On the Syrian side, America is trying to add more variables to the “War on Syria” in an attempt to take Syria’s victory away, and on the other hand, the USA is trying to create a quagmire for Russia inside Syria.
America did not forget its successful strategy of bogging down the USSR in Afghanistan and how it managed to capitalise on this, including how the ensuing financial demise fuelled partly by this war crippled the USSR, enabling the USA to gain single world power status for at least three decades.
Seemingly, America is trying to turn Syria into Russia’s new Afghanistan. At the same time, America will do its best not to allow any party within Syria to score a real victory. And because America and the Syrian Government do not have any relationship with each other, America will use ISIS and the separatist Kurds to gauge its next steps. If ISIS is doing well, America will strike it, and if it isn’t, America will help it. This is America’s strategy which analytically-speaking is flawed. It is only based on creating a perpetual state of chaos and destruction that will continue to eat away at Syria.
It is patently clear that the USA has no interest to see peace established in the region and they make no attempts to conceal this fact. As has always been the case, they want destroyed, fragmented, failed states in the region with amenable, puppet rulers installed.
On the pessimistic side alone therefore, there is much to worry about. Many observers see that Syria could be on the cusp of getting fragmented and many pundits argue that the American plan to create a Kurdish state with the separatists is working.
Russia’s reluctance to engage directly against the US forces cannot be taken as a blanket reluctance to foil America’s plan and thereby allowing that plan to come to fruition. During the Cold War, America and Russia found many ways of engaging against each other indirectly, and they will probably find a way to do this in Syria without allowing the situation to escalate into an all-out confrontation between the two super powers.
But to avoid direct confrontation, both sides will need to find local allies, and if anything, the local allies of Russia are far bigger, stronger, and better prepared than those of America and this is the flipside that America does not seem to be taking into account.
To begin with, Russia can provide Syria with state-of-the-art defence and attack hardware and can train Syrian troops and allied troops to use them; and they have already done much of that. Much of such hardware, such as fighter jets, bombers, attack helicopters and tanks can only be handled by regular armies, and the USA will find it difficult to match such hardware by providing Kurdish militia with something equivalent.
Moreover, the Syrian defence coalition will not only include the Syrian Army with Russia on its side, but also Hezbollah, Iran, possibly Iraq and even Turkey.
In other words, without direct American and Russian engagement, American-backed Kurdish separatists will have a mighty coalition standing up against them, and the odds will not be in their favour.
On the other hand, if America escalates its own direct involvement as it did by downing a Syrian fighter jet recently, apart from risking a direct confrontation with Russia, it too will risk getting bogged down and end up falling into the trap that was meant for Russia.
No one knows how this will pan out and how the lines will be drawn if a major escalation were to ensue, but to conclude that Russia is giving north Eastern Syria to America and the Kurds on a silver platter is quite immature and even naïve at best. To begin with, Russia has always maintained that it will not make decisions about Syria on behalf of Syria. Secondly, when Russia decided to take action in Syria back in September 2015, that action heralded the end of the so-called ‘New World Order’ in which the USA stood as the world’s single super power. Russia cannot and will not allow the clock to be turned back and risk her initiative in Syria to be hijacked by America.
With the fight against ISIS all but over and with Qatar too busy extracting itself out of its own mess, let alone to continue with its support to fighters within Syria, any new major confrontation on Syrian soil, if it happens, will take the “War on Syria” in a totally different direction and with new allies on the ground. The Syrian Army will always be fighting for Syrian sovereignty, and the separatist Kurds are no match.
A lot will depend on which way Turkey will go, and I have always maintained that Erdogan, the Islamist with a bullish attitude, is also a nationalist, and he will never accept to have a Kurdish state south of his borders. His interests are now ironically converging with President Assad’s, and if all parties on the ground who have a good reason for opposing the creation of a separate Kurdish state, work together, the American plot will fail.
To sum up, Syria is now tragically facing the prospect of a new war, before the old one finishes, and this is all because some Kurdish separatists have decided to side with the USA against Syria’s national interests. The pilot light was lit not just at the time the afore-mentioned article was written, but much earlier on when separatist Kurds took similar wrong decisions in Iraq and other places. The reality is that at each and every occasion, Kurds are not allowed to win, and they always pay for their mistakes by way of brutal retaliation. They will soon realise that America’s nook was really a noose in disguise.
What is more tragic is the fact that the area that is already taken over by Kurdish separatists and the American supporters is a lure for a Turkish invasion. If Erdogan decides unilaterally to send troops into Syria to abort the creation of a Kurdish state south of his borders, Syria will soon have to contemplate dealing with getting rid of those Turkish troops.
Syria’s once avoidable new battle is increasingly becoming less avoidable. How and when was this allowed to get out of hand? No one really knows. What I do know is that when I saw in the re-emergence of the Kurdish question an opportunity to address this dilemma once and for all, when I made a clear warning about not allowing an impending catastrophe to turn into a missed opportunity, I said what I believed was right, and more than a year later, my conscience is clear that I did the right thing.