In Tirba Spi, a small city 30 kilometers east of the Syrian Kurdistan capital of Kamishly in the Syrian Kurdish heartland, a rally of more than 10,000 Kurds showed up today with hand lettered posters in Arabic, Kurdish and English extolling the message of regional autonomy. One poster read:
We support Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria’s Call for forming Kurdistan Regional Government of Syria.
According to Kurdish National Assembly of Syria (KURDNAS) President Sherkoh Abbas, the posters’ messages in the city of Tirba Spi reflect the growing sentiments of the Syria’s Kurds for regional autonomy. That message has sent the Kurdish National Council (KNC) head Dr. Abdul Hakim Bashar scrambling to catch up with the Kurdish street. Bashar appeared in an interview on Al Arabiya TV today extolling the virtues of a federal Syria. KURDNAS appears to have captured a wave of popular support. Dr. Bashar was the head of a KNC delegation that came to Washington in May, to meet with US State Department officials, Ambassadors Robert Ford, Frederic Hof and Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman. The KNC is viewed as a Kurdish partner of the Syria National Council (SNC), a creation of the coalition of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Dr. Bashar takes his lead from President Massoud Barzani head of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq. The KRG in fact pays Dr. Bashar a salary of $10,000 a month as head of the KNC. Bashar toes the line that Turkey is democratic and both Ankara and the KRG are working together on a solution for Syria’s Kurds. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu commenting in an August 9th Today’s Zaman article, suggested that Ankara might support Kurdish autonomy in Syria, subject to agreement with all of the parties, a herculean task at best. The US wants to keep the structure of the unified Syrian state and military intact believing that they learned lessons from the initial failures of the US occupation of Iraq. Problem is that any central government in Damascus is likely to be governed by Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist elements drawn from the Syrian National Council and Free Syrian Army opposition.
Scheinmann presented the following arguments for a Federal Republic of Syria:
As planning for a post-Assad Syria accelerates, the Obama administration is signaling its desire to keep Syrian political and military institutions intact. However, America’s own, now lengthy and bloody, history of Middle East state building suggests that doing so may be costly, unwise, and at odds with the region’s natural proclivity. Rather than uphold the illusory political order installed by the century-old Sykes-Picot Agreement, the U.S. should encourage the creation of a federal Syrian republic with far greater autonomy for its component parts.
[. . .]
The Iraqi constitution, a document that enshrines federalism as well as recognition of the many, non-Arab Iraqi peoples (Kurds, Assyrians, Turkmen), gives significant autonomy to Iraq’s 18 provinces as well as the three-province Kurdistan region, where the Kurdistan Regional Government has established a fully-functioning quasi-state, with its own parliamentary, diplomatic, and proto-military trappings
[. . .]
Rather than apply superglue to the widening cracks in Syria, as the U.S. tried to do in Lebanon and Iraq, Washington should encourage the establishment of a federal Syrian republic, enhancing the autonomy of its distinct, minority peoples, such as the Kurds and Alawites.
The problem of a unified Syria is that it needs central leadership in Damascus. Given the Sunni Arab majority in Syria, unfortunately the most likely source would be the Muslim Brotherhood Sunni leadership in the SNC and Free Syrian Army militia. That leadership would impose an Arab supremacist agenda inclusive of a Shariah compliant Constitution denying the minority rights of Kurds, Alawites, Druze, Christians and the secular Sunni merchant class.
That prospect was reflected in those posters carried by Kurds rallying in Tirba Spi calling for regional autonomy in North and Northeastern Syria, a reflection of the neighboring KRG in Iraq.
We understand that KURDNAS supporters will soon bring this message to a larger rally in the Kurdish regional capital in Kamishly. Moreover, a rally is in the planning stages to communicate this message to the worldwide media gathered at the Republican Convention in Tampa, Florida on August 27th and 28th. Perhaps the presumptive Republican candidate, Governor George Romney and his Vice Presidential nominee, Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan, may take notice of this Kurdish quest for autonomy nearly six thousand miles from sectarian ravaged Syria.