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States United.

Written By: - Date published: 9:44 am, January 20th, 2018 - 12 comments
Categories: democracy under attack, International, Left, political alternatives, Politics, Revolution, socialism, Syria, vision, war - Tags: , , , , ,

Whatever anyone may think or have thought of the multi-faceted warring going on in Syria these past years, one beacon of hope seemed to have been burning in Syria’s north east.

Seemingly neither for nor against the Syrian Arab Army, but defiantly and purposefully against ISIS and other Jihadist forces within Syria, the peoples of three autonomous cantons from various cultural backgrounds, were and are involved in an attempt to live in a new way.

They didn’t and don’t call for internationally recognised independent territory as Iraqi Kurds have done. They are content to be seen as a part of the Syrian state, but want the right to govern themselves within a system of democratic federalism.

From the pre-amble to their constitution

we, the people of the Autonomous Regions, unite in the spirit of reconciliation, pluralism and democratic participation so that all may express themselves freely in public life. In building a society free from authoritarianism, militarism, centralism and the intervention of religious authority in public affairs, the Charter recognizes Syria’s territorial integrity and aspires to maintain domestic and international peace

As in Spain the 1930s, people have traveled from around the world to defend and support the creation of what some see as a brave bid to develop substantive forms of democratic governance.

There is, at least from an anarchist perspective, much to be celebrated in what they are trying to do.


As I’ve commented elsewhere, neither the proto state of Iraqi Kurdistan, nor the Turkish state, nor the Syrian state are keen on seeing the development and spread of democratic federalism.

The US has armed the “People’s Protection Units” (YPG) within Rojava, ostensibly to help them resist and overcome ISIS et al, though some suggest it’s merely a cynical ploy by the US to get a toe-hold inside a “soon to be” partitioned Syria.

Given the US has claimed to be setting up a new 30 000 strong  “border force” in the region, that cynicism might appear justified. I’ve searched for a direct source on what the Democratic Unionist Party (PYD) have to say about this “border force”, since it would seem to fly in the face of their constitution. I haven’t been able to find any direct quotes from them.

In reaction to the US’s statement about a “border force”, Turkey’s President (nice guy) Erdoğan accused the US of forming “terror army” and  threatened to “strangle it at birth”.

Seems it wasn’t an idle threat.

The Turkish defence minister, Nurettin Canikli, on Friday said the assault had begun.

“The operation has actually started de facto with cross-border shelling,” Canikli told the broadcaster A Haber. “When I say ‘de facto’, I don’t want it to be misunderstood. It has begun. All terror networks and elements in northern Syria will be eliminated. There is no other way.” (link)

And so we have two NATO allies on opposite sides of a conflict that also involves Syria, Russia, possibly armed forces from Kurdistan Iraq in the shape of the Peshmerga, as well as, I assume, the remnants of various Jihadist groupings

And the Assyrians, Khirgizians, Armenians, Chechens, Arabs, Kurds and others whose home is Rojava who are merely seeking to develop more empowering and liberatory ways of governance, well, in some ways it looks like 1930s Spain all over again. People don’t matter when powerful, state based political actors are involved in geo-political shenanigans.

And when people don’t matter, democracy dies.

Footnote: Obviously this post is a personal take on one part of a complex situation. The links provided haven’t been provided for no reason. There will be zero tolerance for personal abuse in the comments section, and I’m going to respectfully ask that people make a concerted effort to stay focused on the actual topic of the post. Thankyou.

12 comments on “States United.”

  1. adam 1

    I’m confused, has Turkey declared war on the Autonomous Regions?

    I saw a piece on youtube which had their foreign minister stuttering through about regional security and conflict with NATO partners. He then said they needed to deal with terrorism by these democratic forces, and their US backers.

    It has since been removed from youtube. Otherwise I would have put it up.

    Has anyone else seen that video? Is there another copy of it? It seemed not only to threaten and suggest imminent violence against the Autonomous regions and Syria, but it squarely suggest a future an attack on the USA as well.

    So back to my original question, did Turkey just declare war?

    • Bill 1.1

      A military build-up, 70 odd shells pumped into a neighbouring country, (probably more stuff happening since the post was written) and public statements declaring an intent to wipe out, what Turkish media refer to as, the PYD/PKK.

      Oh. And shooting off to Moscow for a wee chinwag that some reporting says was about seeking permission to carry out airstrikes. Assad has said any foreign fighter jets will be targeted with ground to air defenses.

      I think I’m right in saying that Turkish, as well as US forces, are already illegally within Syria – so in some ways, it might be asked what the point in “declaring” war might be all about?

      Have two NATO members ever fired on one another, and how does NATO’s “mutual defence” policy work in that instance?

      Unless I’m mis-remembering some hint from Assad that he may be willing to discuss matters with the peoples of Rojava to arrive at some mutually agreeable solution, then maybe all we can hope is that enough people who traveled to Rojava will get home and be able to spread the virus. A forlorn hope, but maybe the only one remaining.

  2. Bill 2

    Dropping here for future reference.

    Turkish jets have bombed the Kurdish-controlled city of Afrin in northern Syria, as the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, promised to expand Turkey’s military border operations against a Kurdish group that has been the US’s key Syria ally in the war on Islamic State.

    The raids came on the heels of a week of threats by Turkey, promising to clear the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Afrin and its surrounding countryside, also called Afrin. Turkey’s military is calling the campaign Operation Olive Branch.

    Turkey says the YPG, a group it considers a terrorist organisation, is an extension of an outlawed Kurdish rebel group that it is fighting inside its own borders, and it has found common cause with Syrian opposition groups who view the YPG as a counter-revolutionary force in Syria’s multi-sided civil war.


    In 2016, Turkey trained and equipped opposition forces to drive Kurdish fighters out of parts of north Syria, driving a wedge between two enclaves along the Turkish frontier. Turkish ground forces, including tanks and artillery, crossed into Syria with the fighters to establish a zone flanked by Afrin and Manbij that now serves as hub for Turkish operations inside the war-torn country.

    Turkey’s prime minister, Binali Yıldırım, said the strikes on Afrin marked the start of a campaign to “eliminate the PYD and PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ party] and Daesh elements in Afrin,” referring to the Kurdish Democratic Union party and the Kurdistan Worker’s party respectively, and using an Arabic name for Isis. The PYD, PKK, and YPG all look to the Kurdish Marxist-nationalist leader Abdullah Öcalan as their guide. Öcalan is imprisoned by Turkey for waging a separatist movement in the eastern part of the country.

    The air strikes were accompanied by waves of artillery strikes on the Afrin region.


  3. francesca 3

    I don’t understand any of this. So has Rojava decided to ally with the US?
    And as alluded to in Moon of Alabama,new alliances will be made with Saudi, UAE, and Egypt ?
    If they have,I don’t have much faith in their political savvy or their love of an integral Syria.
    Has Syria/Russia allowed the Turkish attack on Afrin , taking a punt that like so many times in the past, the US will leave the Kurds hanging out to dry,won’t come to their aid, and the Kurds will then review Assad’s offers.
    I doubt the US will confront Turkey militarily , at the risk of losing Incirlik as a base
    Once again, the Kurds may have chosen the wrong side


    • Bill 3.1

      The YPG (the people’s protection units) broke through the siege of Yazidis by ISIS, who had fled up Mount Sinjar back in 2014, with the help of US air cover. (Now, yes. The US has no legal standing in Syria, but…)

      Since then, the US has provided the YPG with light arms and (I believe) some US special forces have contributed heavy weaponry to assaults.

      Needless to say, a cast iron embargo sits around Rojava. Neither Turkey nor Iraq are conduits for anything coming into the region. And the Syrian state (subject to sanctions anyway) hasn’t been in the region since just after stuff “set off”. Without some aid from somewhere, well….

      But are they seeing themselves as allied with the US? Or as taking advantage of the US? Or is it all the other way around? I don’t know.

      Russia has apparently given the green light for Turkish action (withdrawing troops/monitors from the region).

      The Syrian government (and not unreasonably by so-called international “standards”) seems to see itself as having a legitimate right to economic/political control over all of Syria. I did kind of half remember some murmur from Assad that the situation could possibly be worked out to everyone’s satisfaction.

      Do you know (I can’t find out) who or what is behind that “Diken” publication that suggests alliances will be formed between the PYD and SA, AUE and Egypt? Any such thing makes no sense whatsoever from my understandings, but does fall rather neatly into the narrative some are promoting, that the PYD are terrorists in the same vein as Daesh.

      • Bill 3.1.1

        Diken is a Turkish publication launched by a journalist who apparently used to work the Radikal.

        There’s a piece interviewing Wladimir Van Wilgenburg dated 13/10/2016, who had spent some time in Rojava. The framing of the article isn’t the flashest, but the interview itself seems reasonable and Wladimir Van Wilgenburg might be worth checking out for other stuff they’ve written. (He’s got an MA in Conflict Studies and Human Rights and is apparently engaged as an independent or freelance journalist)


        The final question in the interview…

        How do the Syrian Kurds get along with US Special Forces?

        It’s difficult to gauge. You see them riding around but reporters are not allowed to get close to them, especially after the incident when they were photographed with YPG patches on their uniforms. The YPG does view the whole thing as more of a tactical alliance but its very popular among locals. Be they pro or anti-PYD people like westerners. You will never hear anti-PYD people criticizing this alliance with America. They say American support is good and that there should be more.

  4. adam 4

    This looks like the old US tank busting missile. Which would add to rumors I’ve been hearing about US service men and women not wanting the Kurds sold down the river.


    • Bill 5.1

      There’s some good stuff in there. But the basic and simple point has been missed. The “missing” comes out in the following passage – which is right enough, but only up to a point by my way of thinking.

      These [militant] movements have been variously leftist, nationalist, and Islamist in orientation. The emergence of the Salafi jihadis in recent years is only the latest in this succession of ideologies that have all attempted to do one fundamental thing: solve the problems of the underdeveloped masses of Middle Eastern countries.

      “There is an interesting effect that, when the left and the nationalists are eliminated or marginalized from Muslim public discourse, it is the radical religious groups, with some exceptions, that get to claim the mantle of being anticolonial and anti-imperial,” says Omid Safi, a professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University. “A few decades ago, even passionately Muslim intellectuals were also leftists and socialists. But when these leftist movements were persecuted and destroyed, people had to turn elsewhere for help when they felt the power of muscular Western militarism encroaching on their land, culture, and values.”

      What’s being missed is that for decades there has been an unresolvable tension in Syria between Arab secular socialism (Baathism) and radical Sunni-ism. Both reject western solutions to Arab problems and both seek to find Arab solutions to Arab problems. But. Radical Sunni-ism see Baathism as being rooted in western tradition…so, cue “never ending bad shit” – that has waxed and waned ever since the inception of the modern state of Syria. And in 2011 (not without outside ‘help’), the lid blew off.

  5. Bill 6

    I guess this about sizes it up –

    If a Kurdish astronaut were to plant a red, yellow and green flag on the moon, Ankara would immediately launch a space program to go and take it down.

    It thus falls to the people in Rojava to prepare for a Turkish policy they cannot negotiate with. They must find ways to gain either Washington and/or the Assad regime’s support for a little autonomous room in northern Syria, despite Turkey’s stance on the issue. This will not be easy – but neither was the defense of Kobane or the defeat of ISIS in Syria.


  6. Bill 7

    And mad Boris the Johnson...

    5:48 pm (22/2/18)

    UK’s Johnson: ‘Turkey is right to want to keep its borders secure’

    Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is “closely” watching events in Afrin where he believes Turkey has the right to “keep its borders secure.”

    “Watching developments in Afrin closely. Turkey is right to want to keep its borders secure,” Johnson wrote in a tweet on Monday afternoon.

    “We share goal of reducing violence and keeping focus on most important task: a political process in Syria that leads to the end of the Assad regime,” he added.

    So no recognition of the PYD from the guy who openly donated UK public monies to Jihadists the UK government was claiming to oppose – the same Jihadists that the YPG defeated in Northern Syria. But then, since the PYD isn’t interested in statehood, or of overthrowing the Syrian government…

    Also noting Johnson is speaking of a “political process” now the UK, EU, US, SA, etc sponsored armed proxies have been (more or less) eliminated in Syria.

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