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What Syrian Kurds Can Expect After Daesh is Defeated

© AFP 2023 / Delil SouleimanFemale fighters from the Kurdish People Protection Unit (YPG) take a break on the front line in the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakeh on September 4, 2015.
Female fighters from the Kurdish People Protection Unit (YPG) take a break on the front line in the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakeh on September 4, 2015. - Sputnik International
Thanks to the concerted efforts of Iraqi, Syrian and Kurdish-led troops in Iraq and Syria, the terrorist group Daesh is doomed. The main question now is what will happen when the dust settles following its destruction, Gevorg Mirzayan, Associate Professor of Political Science at Russia’s Finance University wrote in a piece for RIA Novosti.

According to Mirzayan, the most problematic issue will be related to self-rule among the Kurdish population, especially in Syria.

Kurdish Autonomy in Syria

At the moment, Kurds control two large areas in northern Syria. The first is the area spanning from Manbij in western Syria to the Turkish border in the north and Raqqa in the south. The second is Afrin Canton in northern Syria, one of the four cantons of Rojava, a de-facto autonomous Kurdish region established in Syria. The area between Afrin and the rest of the Syrian Kurdistan is currently controlled by Turkish military.

The main entrance to the city of Afrin, along Syria's northern border with Turkey - Sputnik International
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Kurds currently control over 20 percent of Syria’s territory. After the Syrian conflict is over, they are very likely to declare a sovereign state.

Syria is against the idea of replacing the current centralized government with a federation, in which the different regions of the country would enjoy a degree of autonomy. However, according to Mirzayan, this move is inevitable and Damascus will eventually have to agree.

Turkey, which nominally supports the idea of a federation, regards the Kurdish forces as terrorists and doesn’t want them to establish their own sovereign entity as part of a federation in Syria. Ankara believes Kurdish autonomy in Syria would inspire the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a decades-old pro-independence faction in Turkey.

"Kurdish autonomy in Syria, not to speak of Syrian Kurdistan, will strengthen the PKK and revitalize the idea of a third Kurdistan in Turkey, after Iraq and Syria. This is why Erdogan said that Ankara will do everything to prevent a Kurdish state in northern Syria," Mirzayan wrote.

US-Kurdish Alliance

A Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter walks through a damaged street in the town of Tabqa, after SDF captured it from Islamic State militants this week, in Raqqa, Syria May 12, 2017 - Sputnik International
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As Turkey decided to resolve the Kurdish issue on its own, Ankara has faced a serious obstacle: the Syrian Kurds are allied with the United States. The first US military instructors arrived to train Kurdish units in Syria in 2015 since Washington believed Syrian Kurds to be the most reliable ally in the fight against Daesh and protecting American interests in the region. US President Donald Trump continues the policy of his predecessor Barack Obama, and now Syrian Kurds are the only ally Washington can rely on in the region.

"This is why the US doesn’t want Turkey to conduct military operations against Syrian Kurds, because this would prevent them from taking Raqqa. The liberation of Raqqa would symbolize Trump’s victory over Daesh," Mirzayan wrote.

At the same time, Washington promised that the US would take into consideration Ankara’s interests. In particular, the US guaranteed that after the liberation of Raqqa, Kurds would leave the city and return heavy weapons received from the Pentagon.

"Apparently, Washington is not going to make good on this promise. After Raqqa is liberated the importance of Kurdish units is likely to further increase. Kurds are expected to project Washington’s influence in Syria as well as on Iran and Turkey. The Pentagon indicates that it will continue to support Kurds after the liberation of Raqqa," the author pointed out.

Turkish army tanks make their way towards the Syrian border town of Jarablus, Syria August 24, 2016. Picture taken August 24, 2016. - Sputnik International
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Turkey is currently trying to come to an agreement with Washington.

"Turkey is a NATO member and despite the growing independence of its actions, Ankara is still an ally of Washington. Turkey will watch the situation and try to negotiate benefits. But if the negotiations fail to produce the desired results Turkey may start acting more decisively," Vladimir Avatkov, director of the Center for Oriental Studies, told Sputnik.

One of the possible scenarios could be a Turkish offensive on Afrin.

Russia’s Interests

If Turkey decides to attack Kurds in Afrin, Ankara will have to talk to Moscow.

"Turkey and the coalition of Russia, Syria and Iran have similar interests when it comes to the Kurdish issues. None of them want Kurdish autonomy in Syria," Mirzayan wrote.

A picture taken on February 3, 2016, shows the Kurdish flag flying over the Arbil Citadel, in the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq - Sputnik International
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According to the author, the current situation of the Syrian Kurds plays into the hands of Russia in three respects.

First, Kurds will need Moscow, as another ally in addition to the US, which will result in the bolstering of Russia’s influence in the region.

Second, this will have a "sobering effect" on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who will not want to quarrel with Moscow amid tensions with the US over the Kurdish problem.

Finally, support for Kurds will weaken Washington’s positions in the region. The Kurdish problem is one of the most important for the region and Washington’s involvement is likely to turn other regional players against the US.

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