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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Syrian Kurdistan

Walter Russell Mead writes about Kurds in Syria obtaining some autonomy, and its implications.
Syria’s Kurds once waged a fruitless struggle with Damascus against discrimination and for basic rights like citizenship and official recognition of a distinct Kurdish language and culture. Now, however, the equation has changed, and large chunks of northeastern Syria are now under the sole control of the Kurds.

Back in July, Butcher Assad ceded the responsibility of governing and maintaining law and order in northeastern Syria to Kurdish leaders. In return they would keep out of the uprising. Syrian Kurdish leaders have taken this responsibility and run with it. ...

... Meanwhile, Assad also eased restrictions on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The PKK is mostly based in Turkey and Iraq, and its insurgency in Turkey has grown more intense in tandem with the Syrian civil war; observers suspect Assad is using the PKK to distract and annoy Turkey. The PKK, according to reports, now occupies towns along much of Syria’s border with Turkey. The past few months have seen an intensifying battle between the Turkish state and the PKK. Ankara claims to have killed hundreds of insurgents, and the PKK has been blamed for a spate of recent attacks on policemen and army checkpoints. A recent article in Turkey’s Zaman newspaper likened the PKK to the Taliban and described widespread drug cultivation in areas of Turkey controlled by the PKK, with enormous profits from the drug trade filling the coffers of Kurdish groups. All this suggests a renewed struggle in the Middle East between the Kurds and their host countries (see map above). We’re likely to see Syrian Kurds start to push harder and more successfully for the same kind of regional autonomy as in Iraqi Kurdistan. Depending on inter-Kurdish politics, we might see the PKK establish a safe haven and base of operations in northeastern Syria from which to launch attacks in Turkey. This could in turn lead to Turkish incursions into Syria.

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