Syrian Kurdish Leader: Revolt Becomes Power Struggle; Blames Turkish Meddling
Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online
Monday, January 7, 2013
An officer of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) stands guard near the Syrian-Iraq border October 31, 2012. Picture taken October 31, 2012. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani
Interview with Salih Musallam; Leader of Syria`s Kurdish Democratic Union Party, by Shirzad Shikhani, in Arbil; date not given: The Kurdish Democratic Union Leader to Al-Sharq al-Awsat: The Syrian Revolution Deviates From Path And Turns Into Struggle for Power; Denied His Party Branch of the PKK; Calls on Turkey To Refrain From Interfering in Syrian Affairs”
Salih Musallam, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Union party, which actually holds the reins of power on the ground in the Kurdish areas in Syria, said that “dark clouds hang over Syria, and whether this regime quits or falls tomorrow, numerous developments will surprise citizens, including internecine fighting among the victorious forces.” He pointed out that “the Syrian revolution deviated from its democratic path and turned into a hateful struggle for power.” He defended his party against repeated accusations of being loyal to the current Syrian regime. He stressed that “the Kurdish people`s revolution began in 2004, seven years before the current revolt,” and that “many members of his party were martyred on the path of struggle against the ruling dictatorial regime.” Al-Sharq al-Awsat met the Syrian Kurdish leader at his place of residence in a hotel in Arbil, where he is visiting to garner the support of the Kurdistan Region`s political parties and forces for Syria`s Kurds to enable them to stand up to what he calls Turkey`s attempts to impose its hegemony on Syria, specifically on the Kurdish areas.
The interview follows:
(Shikhani) In your capacity as leader of the most important Syrian Kurdish party, how do your political party and Turkey currently view one another?
(Musallam) Our party is not hostile to Turkey. We have no intention whatsoever of interfering in Kurdish affairs in Turkey. In fact, Turkey interferes with all its power in Syrian affairs. We reject this Turkish interference. We do not want Turkey to extend its tentacles in our affairs and stain our homes with blood. Yet this does not mean that we reject cooperation with Turkey on the basis of our common interests. After all, Turkey, which used to describe the Iraqi Kurdistan Region`s leaders as mere heads of tribes and clans, was recently forced to acquiesce in the status quo, and has been dealing with them in their capacity as political leaders who play an effective role in the region. Accordingly, we are prepared for dialogue with Turkey because we have common border with it, and this requires that we have balanced and normal relations with Turkey.
(Shikhani) What of Turkey`s fears of your party`s current control of administration and security in the Kurdish areas in Syria and the possibility of your unilateral rule of those areas in the future through the armed popular protection committees? This scenario frightens Turkey, particularly because it regards your party as a Syrian wing of the PKK, which is opposed to Turkey?
(Musallam) There is no justification for Turkey`s fears. We are organizing our ranks in Syria and seeking to rehabilitate the administrations that the Syrian regime`s agencies have abandoned. We are trying to protect our areas so that not any individuals can enter them from the other side of the border. As for the accusations leveled at our party, Turkey has been in the habit of peddling such accusations for a long time. The existence of Kurds wherever they are frightens Turkey. It is well worth it to recall (former Turkish Prime Minister) Suleyman Demirel`s blunt statement that Turks fear any Kurd who demands his rights even if he were in South Africa. This shows Turkey`s official view of the Kurdish cause. I would like to say openly that our party`s ideology favors Abdullah Ocalan`s philosophy and we derive our ideas and propositions from his discourse. However, we do not receive orders from anyone, and do not have any practical relationship with any Kurdish political parties or groups outside Syria. We deal with the Kurdistan Democratic Union Party, the PKK, as well as the political parties in east Kurdistan by the same criterion based on relations of cooperation, friendship, and common fate, no more no less.
A Kurdish Peshmerga soldier holds a Kurdistan flag during a deployment in the area near the northern Iraqi border with Syria, which lies in an area disputed by Baghdad and the Kurdish region of Ninawa province, August 6, 2012. Picture taken August 6, 2012. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
(Shikhani) You talk of normal relations with the other Kurdish parties, but certain reports speak of efforts by the political party of Mas`ud Barzani (president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region) and the party of Jalal Ta labani (Iraqi president) to rally to their respective side the Syrian Kurdish forces. In other words, each of these leaders seeks to impose its hegemony on the Syrian opposition Kurdish parties?
(Musallam) We have emphasized and continue to emphasize that the Kurdish cause in Syria is an affair that concerns the Kurds of Syria. We reject any interference by any party. We reject any foreign party`s imposition of its will or to rally this or that party to its side. The solution must be domestic and local and devised by the Syrian Kurds. But if any other power can help and support us to wrest our national legitimate rights that would be welcome, because we are all in the same boat. But if the purpose of such support is to rally any of our parties to either side, such offers of support would be totally rejected. Right from the beginning we refused to join the Syrian Kurdish National Council because we felt that some groups sought to rally the council to their side. We expected disputes to arise within the council so we avoided joining it. As the first steps were taken to establish the council, we requested to allocate 60 percent of membership to independent personalities, but this did not materialize. Had they approved this request, the council would not have faced all the problems it faces and partisan differences. So we formed the west Kurdistan people`s council. Afterward, we formed the higher Kurdish committee from the two councils and have not faced any problems. The problems arose within the other wing, namely the Kurdish national council with all its political parties, which crippled the Higher Kurdish Committee. We do not want this to happen; we want the committee to be a healthy body. If there is a will to have a healthy committee, we are ready for all forms of cooperation and coordination to avert the problem of polarization. This is particularly true because we are headed to an important historic phase that requires us to be united to be able to shoulder our responsibilities and perform out duties.
(Shikhani) What of your party`s rejection of any presence by elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the Kurdish areas? What of your party`s confrontations with gunmen coming to the Kurdish areas?
(Musallam) We, the Kurdish people, were part of the Syrian revolution and are still in revolt against the Syrian regime. From the beginning, the Kurds made the decision to stick to a peaceful revolution while reserving the right to defend themselves. This is what we have been doing in our areas up to this day. Tens of thousands took to the streets and still take to the streets in peaceful demonstrations in our areas. When the Syrian regime forces attacked the demonstrators, we defended our people and many of our people were martyred. Our basic decision was to refuse arming the demonstrators because we realized from the beginning that if we waged an armed revolution while the Syrian authorities and security agencies had all types of weapons at their disposal, they would handle the demonstrators and protesters with utmost savagery. In terms of weapons, we were the weaker party and we were convinced that if we entered armed struggle against the regime, we would certainly need a foreign power to supply us with arms. We avoided this because we did not want others to impose on us their will and agenda as is happening today. It was not our fault, but the fault of the other party. The party in the Arab areas was unable to maintain the peaceful nature of the revolution, and some parties, particularly Turkey, succeeded in dragging the rebels to the current situation. Turkey succeeded in making the peaceful revolution deviate from its path. What is happening today is deviation by the revolution from its path and turning into a struggle for power. This situation makes us fear the future. The revolution no longer demands freedom and democracy; it is now struggle for power. There are people who want a dictator to quit to replace him with another dictator.
(Shikhani ) But this “peaceful attitude” by your party was interpreted by some as sympathy toward the ruling regime in Damascus; in other words, you did not open a front in the Kurdish areas to avoid preoccupying the regime forces with your areas so as to focus on the rest of the Syrian areas?
(Musallam) When the Syrian regime was in alliance with its Turkish counterpart, spending a 14-year honey moon, there had been intelligence and security cooperation between them to hunt down our party`s members. Hundreds of our loyalists were held in the Syrian regime jails and many of our loyalists were martyred in the regime`s intelligence cells. We started our revolution in 2004, seven years before the current revolt erupted. Our revolution never abated. Members of our party were arbitrarily arrested. Today Turkey became hostile to the Syrian regime and blatantly interferes in our country`s domestic affairs. It is trying to impose itself on our future. In the Doha conference, Turkey succeeded in appointing 41 member of the Muslim Brotherhood out of 61 members of the council. It imposed three Syrian Turcoman members although the number of Turcoman in Syria is no more than 100,000. Turkey only accepted three Kurdish representatives for a people who number more than three and a half in Syria. So the question is: Are we antagonizing Turkey or raising Turkish fears? Or doesn`t Turkey interfere in our affairs and try to even draw up our future?
(Shikhani) Are there any problems between your party and the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria?
(Musallam) Our party is not hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood. We respect all religions and see them as moral values throughout history. However, we think it is wrong to use religion as a tool in politics. We do not antagonize the Muslim Brotherhood, but we do not agree that they dominate Kurdish society. Certain societies may accept the Muslim Brotherhood; this is their business, but we do not accept the use of religion as a tool to dominate politics, particularly in our Kurdish society.
(Shikhani) How do you see the future in Syria?
(Musallam) (Pessimistic) It does not augur well. I expect domestic internecine fighting or civil war, you name it, because the early signs of a civil war are emerging. The Kurdish will protect their areas no matter what the price until the situation in Syria stabilizes and Syria becomes a true democratic state that guarantees all factions their legitimate rights and political and human freedom.
(Description of Source: London Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online in Arabic -- Website of influential London-based pan-Arab Saudi daily; editorial line reflects Saudi official stance. URL: http://www.asharqalawsat.com/)
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Iran Commentary Says Al-Asad Overthrow Not Beneficial for Anyone, Including US
Sunday, January 6, 2013
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (L) congratulates new Syrian National Council (SNC) leader George Sabra during the meeting of the general assembly of the Syrian National Council in Doha November 11, 2012. REUTERS/Mohammed Dabbous
Commentary by Seyyed Mohammad Eslami headlined: “The Reasons Behind the United States`s Possible Turnabout in the Syrian Crisis”
Over the past days, Akhdar Al-Ibrahimi went from Damascus to Moscow and from Moscow to Cairo to engage in counseling for a plan that is said to be the outcome of general agreements between Washington and Moscow. According to this plan, the transition government in Syria will be formed with the participation of the government and the opposition, and Bashar Assad will remain president until 2014 without any executive powers. But why has the probability that the United States is ready for a “turnabout” and is seeking joint steps that are outside the framework of the Security Council or Russia, become strengthened? Will these efforts come to fruition?
Syria`s infectious disease is contagious
Today, almost two years after the start of Syria`s political crisis, conditions have reached a critical point. The infected wound of Asia`s western region has become putrid and everybody is observing this contagious disease with concern. The fourth generation of Al-Qa`ida has formed in Syria and over the past year, blood and bloodshed have become Syria`s most repetitive headline news. Akhdar Al-Ibrahimi, the special UN envoy for the Syrian crisis has repeatedly warned in the past months that the land of Levant is getting closer to Somalia`s fate with every passing day. The Americans are also not optimistic as far as the current trend of developments is concerned. They were in agreement with initiating crisis in Syria because a weakened Syria will create problems for the axis of resistance and will be in the interests of Israel, the United States` strategic ally. But if the current crisis continues, Syria`s destruction, its breakup and the start of a phase that may take years, will threaten everybody`s interests and those of the United States in particular. The damage resulting from Syria`s breakup and regional insecurity will also affect Israel. Even assuming that the armed groups are victorious, this will not be a victory for the White House. Three days ago, Andrew Tabler, a Syrian affairs expert in the Council on Foreign Relations, published an article in the US magazine Foreign Affairs: “In recent weeks, the argument that the rebels` victory in Syria is not necessarily in US interests has gained ground in US foreign policy circles.” He himself is not particularly optimistic over the success of these negotiations, but according to him, a number of experts and decision makers in the United States believe that a possible agreement between Bashar Assad and armed groups is better for the United States, and an end to the violence can prevent the spread of ethnic war between Sunnis and other minorities in this country including Christians, Jews, Alavis, and ... (as published). Tabler also refers to certain individuals in his article: Glenn Robinson, an assistant professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in the United States believes that the victory of the armed groups will block Syria`s path to “liberalism and democracy.” Madhav Joshi, a senior researcher at the University of Notre Dame and David Mason, a professor at the Strategic Studies Institute have also said that the victorious side in the bloody war in Syria will not share power with any other group.
The Doha coalition cannot be trusted
It seems that the United States is pursuing two objectives in its efforts to organize the opposition`s coalition. First, it wishes to restrict Syria`s Muslim Brotherhood and transform them from “the majority within the National Opposition Council” to a “minority in the National Opposition Coalition.” Second, it also wishes to use this minority as a communication bridge between the West and the armed groups, whose occasional victories in the battlefield have had more impact than the activities of all other opposition groups. However, the second objective did not effectively reach an outcome because the 14 armed groups blatantly declared that they wish to establish a new group called “Islamic rule” and they are not prepared to join a coaliti on that is “supported by the West.” Furthermore, Ahmad Maaz Al-Khatib, the head of the coalition and former prayers Imam of the Umavi Mosque in Damascus has explicitly opposed the US decision to include the Al-Nasra group in the black list of terrorist groups. A coalition that can neither play the role of mediator for the West nor is it prepared to bow down as far as political standpoints are concerned, is not worth investing on. We can therefore clearly understand why during the meeting in Morocco, the opposition was not allowed to introduce what they believed was a transition government in exile, and the promise of the establishment of a government in exile has not gone beyond the speeches made by the former preacher of the Umavi Mosque in Damascus. Ahmad Maaz`s political naivete and empty handedness is evident in his failure to reach an agreement with the Syrian Kurds and his emotional response to Russia`s proposal for negotiation with him. Yezid Sayigh, an Arab researcher in the Carnegie Institute, has recently published an article entitled “can the national coalition lead Syria”, in which he has pointed out the Doha coalition`s inadequacy to carry out this responsibility. Serious confusion over the method of interaction between a variety of political and armed opposition on the one hand and the Zionist regime on the other, must also be added to the collection of ambiguities faced by the United States.
Consequently, under the current circumstances, there is no need for the Americans to help in Bashar Assad`s dismissal and to hand over power to groups that do not wish to negotiate with anyone and only understand the language of guns. Nevertheless, even an agreement between Russia and the United States will not undo Syria`s complicated knot. We must once again point out today that the Syrian crisis is an opportunity for sole contention for power by some of the region`s countries rather than an uprising for domestic protests. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey, each of whom has a different motive for fueling the crisis in Syria, have previously shown that they are not committed to international agreements over Syria. In an internal competition with one another, these three countries bypassed the agreements of the Geneva meeting for the establishment of a transition government in Syria and directed a flood of weapons toward this country. On the other hand, even assuming that interference by these countries is cut off, the crisis in Syria has become tainted with “blood” and the two domestic sides of the crisis can with difficulty be prevented from the “thought of revenge.” Furthermore, according to forecasts, the introduction of a possible ceasefire, which is the prelude of Akhdar Al-Ibrahimi`s plan, requires more than 10,000 peacekeeping forces, and providing the costs and ensuring the security of these forces will be an additional problem. Can Akhdar Al-Ibrahimi untie the Syrian knot with his bare hands? We must continue to wait for the answer to this question.
(Description of Source: Mashhad Khorasan Online in Persian -- website of centrist daily published in Mashhad, backed by the powerful Martyrs Foundation; strongly supports Khomeyni`s economic ideals of total independence and self-sufficiency; URL: http://www.khorasannews.com)
© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.