The current Kurdistan project, supported by France and the United States, has no connection with the legitimate project which was recognised by the same countries during the Sèvres Conference of 1920. It is not even situated anywhere near the same territory! This pseudo-Kurdistan is no more than a Western bribe intended to turn the Syrian Kurds against Damascus. Its creation will not solve the Kurdish question, and would provoke a conflict similar to that which has opposed Israël and Palestine for close to 70 years. In order to untangle the present situation, Thierry Meyssan retraces the contradictory positions of the nine main external powers implicated in this affair.
- The Kurds are an integral part of Syrian society. This is the statue of Kurdish General Saladin the Magnificent at the entry to the old city of Damascus. He liberated Damascus in 1174 and founded the dynasty of the Ayyoubids.
The displacement of forces and the summer battles in the North of Syria may seem incoherent to some observers, yet each force present continues to pursue its own objectives with tenacity.
While all the protagonists declared that they were fighting Daesh, the Islamic Emirate moved, but only retreated in the desert. The true goal of these events is the eventual creation of a Kurdistan to the detriment of the Arab and Christian inhabitants .
Here is an analysis of the war goals of the main forces present – but let us first note that Syria is a sovereign state, and none of the protagonists listed here have any right whatsoever to amputate it in order to create a new entity.
Nine responses to the Kurdish question, seven of which are illegal
1- Daesh would not contest the creation of a Kurdistan, as long as it was not situated to the East of the Euphrates
The Islamic Emirate - created by John Negroponte, then by General David Petraeus in Iraq - is still under his control. He subcontracts to Turkey the command of this union of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Naqshbandīs, and the Sunni tribes of the Syro-Iraqi desert.
So, when the Turkish army took Jarablus from Daesh, the jihadists withdrew without putting up a fight, in obedience to their Turkish mentor.
After the battle of Aïn al-Arab (Kobane), Daesh accepted the principle of a Kurdistan, but not to the East of the Euphrates.
2- The United States are now favourable to the creation of a Kurdistan in Syria
During the First World War, US President Woodrow Wilson had specified among his war objectives the creation of Armenia, Israël and Kurdistan. Àt the end of the conflict, he sent the King-Crane Commission to evaluate the situation. Their report was as follows:
«The Kurds claim a very large territory, on the basis of their presence, but since they are closely intermingled with the Armenians, the Turks and others, and divided amongst themselves, (Chiites and Sunnites), in Qizilbash , it seems preferable to limit them to the natural geographical zone situated between the Armenian proposition in the North, and Mesopotamia to the South, with the trench between the Euphrates and the Tigris as its Western limit and the Persian frontier as its Eastern limit (…) Since the Turks and Armenians are not numerous, it would be possible to displace most of them out of this zone by a voluntary exchange of population, thereby obtaining a province of approximately one and a half million inhabitants, almost all of whom would be Kurds. The security of the Chaldeans, Nestorians and Syrian Christians who live in the region would have to be guaranteed».
The King-Crane Commission visited the region just after the end of the massacre of the Christians, which had lasted from 1894 to 1923, perpetrated first by the Ottoman Empire, then by the Young Turks with the assistance of Germany’s Second Reich and the Weimar Republic . The Commission was very reserved about the possibility of settling the Armenians in a Kurdish state, since the Turks had used Kurdish combatants to massacre the Christians. Since November 2015, the Kurds of the YPD have been attempting to forcefully Kurdicise the Assyrian Christians from the North of Syria, re-opening this old wound .
In any case, a Kurdistan was created on paper by the Sèvres Conference (1920). But facing the Turkish revolt led by Mustafa Kemal, it was never put into practise, and the United States gave up on the idea with the Lausanne Treaty (1923).
We can see on this map, borrowed from the site Les Cles du Moyen-Orient (The Keys of the Middle East), that President Wilson had planned to create his Kurdistan within what is now Turkey and a small part of the present Iraqi Kurdistan. The present country of Syria is absolutely not concerned by this project.
Red :Kurdish state planned by the Treaty of Sèvres 1920
Blue : Territory placed under French mandate in 1920, taken back by Turkish nationalists
Brown : Territory placed under British mandate in 1920, taken back by Turkish nationalists
Green :Territory attributed to Armenia in 1920, taken back by Turkish nationalists
During the Turkish civil war, Hafez el-Assad’s Syria lent support to the PKK on the basis of President Wilson’s propositions. It offered political asylum to the head of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, who gave his written engagement that he would never claim Syrian territory. While according to the 1962 census, there were only 162,000 Kurds in Syria, a million Turkish Kurds sought refguge there, and also obtained political asylum. They are 2 million today, and received Syrian citizenship in 2011. At the start of the war, they fought to defend Syria against the Islamist mercenaries with weapons and salaries supplied by Damascus.
The United States then changed its mind, and promised the various Kurdish chiefs in Iraq, Syria and Turkey that they would carve out a state for them in Syria if they would turn against Damascus. Some of them accepted this offer.
At the start of 2014, when David Petraeus’s group was planning the development of Daesh and its invasion of al-Anbar (Iraq), he authorised the Kurdistan Regional Governement of Iraq to conquer the oil fields of Kirkuk. This was done without raising the slightest international protest, since public opinion was only being shown the crimes committed by Daesh.
3- Russia supports the rights of the Kurdish minority
First of all, Russia supported the project for an autonomous Kurdish region in Syria on the model of its own autonomous Republics. YPG representation was opened in Moscow last February.
However, confronted with the indignant reactions of the Syrians, it realised that the situation in Syria is different from that in their own country. The Syrian minorities are interlinked in such a way that there is no region where they are in the majority. Over the millenia, the defence of the country has been organised from this mixture of populations so that, everywhere, a minority connected to a potential invader is able to protect the rest of the population. Consequently, the Syrian state does not guarantee the rights of minorities by delegating to them the management of distinct regions, but by organising the institutions and the administration in a secular manner, on both the religious and ethnic levels.
So today, Russia is looking at the Kurdish question in a different light. It has engaged to defend the rights of minorities in general, and this one in particular, but is asking it to choose sides – either for or against the Islamists. Indeed, for the moment, Kurds of all stripes are fighting the Islamists, not because they are Islamists, but in order to take back the territories under jihadist control, and to occupy them in their turn and for their own profit. Russia has therefore demanded that they specify with whom they are allied - Washington or Moscow.
4- Turkey wants the creation of a Kurdistan in Syria administrated by the Barzani clan
Ankara refuses to accept the possibility that a Syrian Kurdistan might serve as a rear operating base for the PKK, and spread its influence to the detriment of Turkey. Ankara maintains excellent relations with the Kurdistan Regional Governement of Iraq, and has no reason to oppose the creation of a Syrian Kurdistan. This is why President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has concluded a secret agreement with one of the two co-Presidents of the Syrian YPG, with a view to supporting this state. However, their agreement did not stand up to the repression of the Turkish Kurds by the same President Erdoğan after they scored well in the general elections of June 2015 .
The Turkish extreme-right wing, whether incarnated by the MHP and the Grey Wolves or by President Erdoğan’s Millî Görüş, professes a racial ideology. According to these parties and militia, Turkey must be Islamic and founded on the Turko-Mongol race, which implies the expulsion of the Christians and the Kurds. This point of view is not shared by the opposition, so that a large number of Kurds is perfectly integrated.
When the founder of the Grey Woves, Alparslan Türkeş, became vice-Prime Minister, and publicly evoked the possible liquidation of the Kurds on the model of the slaughter of Christians during the genocide of the Armenians and Pontic Greeks, Abdullah Öcalan created the PKK. He obtained political asylum in Damascus until 1998, at which date Ankara threatened to crush its neighbour if it continued to harbour him. Hafez el-Assad asked Öcalan to find another country which could offer him asylum. He was finally kidnapped in Kenya by Mossad, with the help of the Kurds of the PDK, and imprisoned in Turkey.
5- Iran is opposed to the creation of a Kurdistan
Approximately 4,5 million Kurds are Iranians. They dispose of a region in which they represent the majority. Altough they have legal equality, their region is still the object of discrimination, and is less developed than those inhabited by the Persians.
The Islamic Republic is very attached to the intangibility of its frontiers, particularly since the creation of a new state could encourage separatism in other minorities, like the Baloch.
Finally, Iran is an ally of Syria, and would not accept that a Kurdistan could be created to Syria’s detriment.
6- The Kurdistan Regional Governement of Iraq is favourable to the creation of a Great Kurdistan straddling Iraq and Syria
The Kurdistan Regional Governement of Iraq is wary of the Kurds in Syria. Indeed, the two population groups do not speak the same language (Gorani and Kurmanji), and have a conflictual history dating from the Cold War. The Iraqi Kurds filter the entrance into their territory by Syrian Kurds, forbidding access to those they suspect of still being linked to the Turkish PKK.
President Massoud Barzani took power in 2012, and blocked elections. He set up a corrupt and authoritarian régime, and did not hesitate to have his opponents assassinated. He expanded his regional territory by 40% with the help of Daesh, annexing the oil fields of Kirkuk, then transporting the oil stolen by Daesh by means of his pipe-line. The conquest of the hatched zone on the map below enables geographical continuity between his region and an eventual Kurdistan in the North of Syria.
Green :Zone of action by the PKK
Hatched in green : Syrian Kurdish region controlled by the PYD
Red : Autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan
Hatched in red : Region controlled de facto by the PDK and the UPK
After having supported Daesh during the battle of Aïn al-Arab (Kobane), the Kurdistan Regional Governement of Iraq approached the YPG, at the request of Washington, and offered it symbolic assistance. «President» Massoud Barzani regularly announces that his region is about to proclaim its independence, and then envisages annexing a part of Syria. However, he is firmly opposed to the creation of a Kurdistan governed by Saleh Muslim.
7- Israël is favourable to the creation of a Great Kurdistan in Iraq and Syria, but not in Turkey
To ensure its security, Israël first of all pushed for the creation of a demilitarised zone at its frontier, to the detriment of its neighbours - the Egyptian Sinaï and the South of Lebanon. However, with the development of missile technology, it abandoned this strategy and evacuated both the Sinaï and South Lebanon. Since 1982, it has developed a strategy consisting of control from the rear of the three great powers of the region - Egypt, Syria and Iraq. In order to maintain this control, it pushed for the creation of an independent state, South Sudan, and is today pushing for the creation of a Great Kurdistan straddling Syria and Iraq.
Since the Cold War, Israël maintains very close ties with the Barzani clan, today in power in Iraqi Kurdistan.
8- France is favourable to the resolution of the Kurdish problem without implicating Turkish territory
In 2011, the French and Turkish Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Alain Juppé and Ahmet Davutoğlu, signed a treaty which planned for the support of Turkey in the wars against Libya and Syria (which had not yet started) in exchange for France’s support for Turkish membership of the European Union, and the solution of the Kurdish question to the detriment of Turkey’s neighbours. In other words, France agreed to create an independent state, either in Syria or Iraq, or else straddling the two countries, in order to be able to expel the members of the PKK. This treaty, which plans for crimes against humanity, has of course remained secret and has not been ratified by their respective parliaments.
On 31 October 2014, President François Hollande received Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the Elysée. One of the two co-Presidents of the Syrian YPG, Saleh Muslim, secretly joined their meeting. The three men agreed to create a Kurdistan in Syria, to the detriment of the present inhabitants, of which Saleh Muslim will be «nominated» Ppresident.
However, after the battle of Aïn al-Arab (Kobane in Kumanji Kurdish), at the demand of the United States, President Hollande received, publicly this time, the other co-President of the YPG, Asya Abdullah, which sparked the fury of Ankara (8 February 2015). Indeed, Madam Abdullah is reputed to be faithful to the head of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, and therefore opposed to the Presidency of Saleh Muslim.
Changing its position once again after the Paris attacks, France pressured for the adoption by the Security Council of Resolution 2249, which authorises military intervention against Daesh, an excellent alibi for the creation of the new state. But the United States and Russia rejected the French project at the last moment, so that Paris can not intervene in Syria without the permission of Damascus.
9- The three main Kurdish factions are favourable to the creation of a Kurdistan, anywhere at all, on the condition that it would not be controlled by their rivals, but by themselves
During the Cold War, the Kurds divided between pro-US (PDK) and pro-Russian (PKK), with the YPG representing the PKK refugees in Syria. To this fundamental split were added others, so that today, there exist about twenty Kurdish political parties.
Kurdish society is organised according to a clan system which resembles that of Southern Italy, so that political loyalty is decided by the family, rather than individually.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Kurdish leaders always gave privilege to alliances with the major powers, rather than the population among whom they lived. In this way, they managed to survive to the detriment of their own people - a situation which is similar to the behaviour of the Maronite leaders of Lebanon.
In 1974-75, the Iraqi Kurds allied with the United States against Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr. But the US did not intervene when al-Bakr crushed them. When asked by a senatorial commission if he was not ashamed of having abandoned the Kurds, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger coldly replied - «The foreign policy of the United States is not a philanthropic endeavour».
The Kurdish leaders, who had accepted the US project in the hope of gaining access to important functions in the future state, refused to bear the responsibility for the Nakba if they were to be distanced from the future power structure . Indeed, it would be necessary to expel or massacre the Arab and Assyrian Christian populations who lived in the North of Syria, and who had given them shelter.
The recent use of force in order to advance each of these projects
During the summer 2016, the United States gave direct assistance to the FDS (in other words the members of the YPG and a few Arab and Christian mercenaries) to take the town of Manbij from Daesh, whom they were in fact indirectly supporting via Turkey. As soon as victory was assured, the Pentagon forced the YPG to leave the town they had just won to the profit of groups opposed to Damascus.
- On 23 August 2016, at the White Palace, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his opposite number Massoud Barzani, head of the Iraqi Kurds, concluded an alliance against the other Kurdish parties.
On 23 August, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Governement of Iraq, Massoud Barzani, was received with honours by the main Turkish leaders. In particular, he had a two-hour meeting with President Erdoğan. Iraqi Kurdistan gave its support to Turkey against the Kurds of the PKK, and etablished a plan with Turkey to destroy its installations in the mountains of Iraq. Besides this, both parties spoke of energy cooperation – probably the way in which they plan to continue the exploitation of the oil stolen by Daesh.
On the same day, the Turkish army entered Syrian territory and took the town of Jarablus (between the frontier and Manbij) from Daesh. The operation was accomplished without fighting, since Daesh obeyed its Turkish mentor. In fact, for the moment, there has never been a battle, here or anywhere else, between the Turkish army and Daesh.
Seeking to expand its advantage, the Turkish army pursued its progression by taking villages as it moved towards Manbij. Although the United States ordered it to halt, it continued its advance. The CIA then supplied anti-tank missiles to the YPG, who used them first of all against Turkish tanks (but not in Jarablus), then against the Turkish airport at Diyarbakır. The Turkish army understood the message, and withdrew to Jarablus, handing the villages to the South of the town to Turkmen militia who, this time, were fighting under the vacant flag of the Free Syrian Army.
The day after the visit of Massoud Barzani, the US vice-President, Joe Biden, also travelled to Turkey. When he was a senator, Biden had registered a proposition for a law which aimed at proclaiming the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan. He announced that he had asked the YPG to withdraw to the West of the Euphrates – an area which includes Manbij – failing which Washington would cease all support for the Kurds. However, since Daesh had already made it clear that they would not allow the YPG to settle East of the Euphrates, it is difficult to determine what territory they have left.
Finally, a tacit agreement was reached between Ankara and Damascus to block a Kurdistan administrated by the YPG, while another agreement was officially concluded between the Pentagon and the YPG to avoid them shooting at each other, despite the new change of position by Washington against the creation of a Kurdistan.