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Hurriyet Daily News, a major Turkish newspaper, reported on July 31, 2012 that a “senior US official visiting Turkey says Washington does not anticipate an autonomous Kurdish region in Syria and they favor the protection of Syria’s territorial integrity.” The official, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon on a visit to Istanbul, stated that they (the U.S.) did not anticipate an autonomous Kurdish region in Syria’s future, adding that they favored the protection of Syria’s territorial integrity and explained it to Turkey in a clear way. Gordon added, “Syria has a huge priority for both of us (U.S. and Turkey). We are coordinating very well on the question of Syria. I think we have very similar interests.”
That same day, Reuters reported on a telephone conversation President Obama initiated with his friend and designated sub-contractor in dealing with the Syrian crisis, Turkish Prime Minister (PM) Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In the talks, they discussed co-ordination of efforts to accelerate the process of political transition in Syria, including Bashar al-Assad leaving the administration, and the meeting of the Syrian people’s legitimate demands.
Obama and his administration have consistently supported the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army, in which elements of the Muslim Brotherhood have a dominant voice. That support sits well with Erdogan’s Justice and Development party (AKP), which has inspired the Islamist parties that rose to leadership in Tunisia and Egypt. For Erdogan and Turkey, the idea of an autonomous Kurdish region within a federal Syria is an anathema, and he is seeking to divide the Kurds of Syria, and scuttle the efforts to create an autonomous Kurdish region. The Erdogan regime fears that such a move by Syrian Kurds would stimulate a call for similar autonomy by close to 20 million Turkish Kurds.
The unification of the various Kurdish factions in Syria in mid-July under the auspices of KRG President Masoud Barzani, forming the Supreme Kurdish Council, and now in control of large swaths of the border areas with Turkey, is challenging the Obama administration and Erdogan’s Islamist Turkey to reconsider the Kurds as a serious element in the future of Syria. Until recently it seemed that one had to consider only the Alawi-led Assad regime and the largely Sunni-Arab opposition as the main contenders in the power struggle for control of a unitary Syria. The actions recently taken by the Kurds (three million strong in Syria), who have not yet thrown their support to either side in the conflict, opens up new possibilities for a third way for Syria, a federated Syria, in which minority rights for Kurds, Alawis, Christians and Druze would be guaranteed.
That said, it must be emphasized that the creation of the Supreme Kurdish Council is Masoud Barzani’s way to appease both Obama and Erdogan who seek to implement the Sunni-Arab agenda (supported by Qatar and Saudi Arabia) and Turkey’s interests, and at the same time control the Syrian Kurds, and prevent the formation of a federal Syria or an autonomous Kurdish region. According to Sherkoh Abbas, President of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, the Kurds of Syria resent the interference of both the neighboring governments and the Kurds from the region (Turkey, Iraq, and Iran), Abbas added, “We reject any agreement that is short of federalism.”
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