News / Middle East

US Pushes Syrian Kurds to Join Rebellion

As the Obama administration pushes to solidify Syria's political opposition, it also is working to improve ties between Syrian Kurds and groups battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Concentrating control in their own areas of northwest Syria, Kurdish leaders have been slow to join the broader rebellion against Assad, preferring to seek greater regional autonomy with Kurds in neighboring Iraq and Turkey.

Before the rebellion accelerated, Assad granted new political freedoms to Syrian Kurds who have long sought greater autonomy inside and outside of Syria.

Malou Innocent, a Middle East analyst with the Cato Institute in Washington, said that move put Syrian Kurds in a bind.

"This really put them on their heels, sort of said: 'Well, should we continue our assistance to the rebellion or should we actually stick this out and see if Assad continues to hold onto power?'" Innocent said.

Kurds reluctance

Kurdish leaders have quit previous efforts to unite the Syrian opposition, saying there has not been adequate regard for their autonomy.  Opposition leaders outside Syria say Kurds have not sufficiently committed to a unified post-Assad state.

"The relationship between the mainstream opposition in exile and Syria's Kurds has been largely antagonistic and very, very tense," said Steve Heydemann, a senior adviser for Middle East initiatives at the U.S. Institute of Peace. "And that gets back to this question of this mutual lack of trust."

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says the Obama administration encourages Assad opponents to include Kurdish colleagues.

"There are a number of reports from inside Syria of some of the liberated areas where Kurdish populations and Sunni populations are working well together," Nuland said. "That’s certainly the direction that we encourage."

U.S. policy varies

The U.S., however, varies its policies on Kurdish communities depending on their country.

In Turkey, there are concerns because Syria's largest Kurdish group is tied to the Kurdistan Worker's Party, which the European Union and Washington consider a terrorist organization.

And in Iraq, U.S. forces protected Kurds from Saddam Hussein, allowing the creation of a bustling Kurdistan over the past two decades.

Analyst Heydemann said Syrian Kurds have been slow to fully commit to the anti-Assad rebellion because they have broader goals involving Kurds in Turkey and Iraq.

"I don't think they intend to play the regime against the opposition," he said. "But they do feel that they have an opportunity to use this moment to try and advance some of their long-standing concerns that they don't feel either side has really responded to yet."

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Comment Sorting
by: Dr. Malek Towghi from: USA
November 24, 2012 2:27 PM
Given the uncertainty of the future of the Western / US support for the Kurds, it is not in the long-range interest of the the Kurds (of Syria particularly) to antagonize Iran and Russia and their allies (e.g. the Alawites/Shiites and the Christians) within the Arab world and Turkey.

Listing the PKK as a terrorist entity while baptizing the Iranian MeK (Mujahedin-e Khalq/gh) as 'born-again' Non-terrorist 'Freedom Fighters' is not something that can reassure the Kurds of the West's sincerity about the Kurdish cause. The Kurds know well that Americans and the Brits are always ready to finance and arm some Baluch (and Kurdish) mercenaries to fight against Iran while allowing Pakistan to continue its ethnic cleansing and slow genocide of the Baluch nation. Without Western diplomatic, financial and military support, Pakistan could never do what it did to the Bangladeshies -- and is doing to the Balochs, Sindhis and the Pashtuns..

No Sir, the Kurds and the Baluch do not want to be treated as mercenaries or puppets; they deserve to be treated as friends -- actually, the only sincere and dependable friends in that vast fanaticism-ridden region.

by: Anonymous
November 19, 2012 1:25 PM
The reality is far from what you will read on BBC,CNN,VOA,etc. I suggest people read alternate sources.

by: Shahin Sorekli from: Australia
November 17, 2012 12:54 AM
Your report entitled “US Pushes Syrian Kurds to Join Rebellion” is too general and contains several misinformation, such as “Assad granted new political freedoms to Syrian Kurds who have long sought greater autonomy inside and outside of Syria.” Assad did not grant any "political freedoms" to the Kurdish people in Syria before the Syrian uprising, neither have the Kurds of Syria been struggling for autonomy before the uprising.
Unfortunately such reports, even TV documentaries, have been misinforming people about the Kurds of Syria, their situation and their demands for quite some time. It is really disappointing, especially when the misinfrming comes from respectful sources such as VOA, BBC, DW and other well-known media organizations.

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