We’ve already noted the strange bedfellows in the Rojava Kurds’ political push to forestalll a US withdrawal from northern Syria, which would be a green light for Turkey to attack their autonomous zone. Well, they just got a little stranger with the arrival in Washington last month of Ilham Ahmed, co-president of the Syrian Democratic Council, civilian wing of the Kurdish-led US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. She and her delegation actually met with Trump at the Trump International Hotel after they touched down Jan. 29. The prez reportedly told the group “I love the Kurds,” and promised that they are “not going to be killed” by Turkish forces. (Al Monitor) Making it even more surreal, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, best friend of fascist dictator Bashar Assad on Capitol Hill, brought Ahmed to the State of the Union address on Feb. 5 as her special guest. Gabbard tweeted about it, and the Turkish newspaper Takvim ran a photo of Ahmed standing beside Trump at the SOTU. We wonder if Ahmed, who represents a radical-left Kurdish revolutionary movement that is influenced by anarchism, is aware that the presidential bid of her host Gabbard has been endorsed by David Duke—who shares Tulsi’s fondness for Assad.
When Gabbard notoriously met with Assad in 2017 it was not to make peace with an enemy but to support an ally. The delegation she was part of was filled with regime sycophants, including adherents of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), which, as its name implies, is a neo-fascist formation. The SSNP was briefly in power in Syria in the 1950s, and brought ex-Nazis to help run the security apparatus, in the manner of Bolivia under the right-wing generals. Today the SSNP is a “satellite party” of Assad’s equally fascistic Baath Party (which has also availed itself of Nazi talent).
Not a great optic to be hanging with someone who hangs with fascists, Ahmed. Just saying. One of the more bizarre examples we’ve seen of Red-Brown politics.
The lefty fans of the Rojava Kurds have yet to grapple seriously with these contradictions. The oft-problematic David Graeber has a piece in The Guardian Feb. 1 with the politically convenient headline “America’s Kurdish allies risk being wiped out—by Nato.” No, they are at risk of being wiped out by Turkey. And despite the fact that Turkey is a NATO member and is “using German tanks and British helicopter gunships,” that’s not the same thing. And the Kurds are looking to the US, top dog in NATO, to protect them from Turkey.
The threat of a US withdrawal abated somewhat Feb. 4 when Senate Republicans joined Democrats to vote up an amendment warning against a “a precipitous withdrawal” from Syria, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying “ISIS and al-Qaeda have yet to be defeated.” (AP) Another odd ally for the Rojava Kurds.
Other contradictions in Syria are also now escalating. The New York Times headline on Jan. 26 read: “Cease-Fire in Syria’s Idlib Province Is at Risk After Extremists Take Over.” This is a reference to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former Nusra Front, which has “gradually gained dominance” over Idlib, the last province of Arab opposition control in Syria. Last month HTS “decisively ousted its more moderate rivals and asserted administrative control.” This has apparently happened with the connivance of Turkey, which has moved many of its forces from Idlib to Afrin to facilitate the HTS take-over. It certainly puts the secular pro-democratic civil resistance in Idlib in a still more precarious position. It also, tragically, vindicates the cynical propaganda of the Assad regime that Idlib is a “jihadist enclave“— propaganda that has been too often echoed by the Rojava Kurds.
Meanwhile, in Turkish-occupied Afrin, which was taken from Kurdish forces last year, Ankara’s troops apparently continue to brutalize the populace. The Turkish-led campaign to take the enclave was given the utterly Orwellian codename of Operation Olive Branch, and the sick irony is made even more perverse by the reports that the occupation forces are destroying olive trees and confiscating the olive harvest from local farms. (BBC News, Jan. 31)
The US, which has tilted to Assad in the Syrian war (especially under Trump), on Feb. 1 apparently carried out air-strikes on regime forces in Deir al-Zor. (Reuters) This was one of just a handful of times, other than the two sets of air-strikes in response to chemical attacks, that the US has engaged Assad forces. The circumstances are unclear, but it may point to Assad, the Pentagon, the Kurds and Turkey alike preparing for a scramble to control Syria’s northeast following the final defeat of ISIS.
Numerous civilian casualtes were reported this week as US air-strikes in support of Kurdish-led SDF forces were carried out on the last ISIS-controlled pocket of Syria, near the Iraqi border in Deir al-Zor. (Al Jazeera)
Contrary to what you may have heard, the Syrian war is not over. We hope that the second act in the country’s contested north isn’t going to be even bloodier….