Kurdish leader: “The US is very hesitant to take the lead”

The US is afraid to support liberal Kurdish Opposition groups due to negative experiences in the past working with liberal Syrian groups. However, Kurdish leader Brian Abbas believes these issues can be worked out and not doing so will cause the world to pay a heavy price.
Brian Abbas with US Senator John McCain Photo Credit: Facebook

In an exclusive interview with JerusalemOnline, Brian Abbas, Director of Government Affairs and Public Relations at the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, stressed that although the US may not realize it, the Kurds are one of their most stable allies in the Middle East during an era where ISIS and Iranian front groups are on the ascent throughout the region: “The majority of the U.S. Presidential candidates realize that while the rest of the Middle East descends into chaos, the Kurds continue to be a pillar of stability and friendship for the United States and minority groups.  That being said, many U.S. leaders do not understand that the Kurds are their natural allies. Nor do some realize that Iraqi Kurds are different than Syrian Kurds. Kurds in Syria have been ready and have the capacity to build an army more than 60,000 Kurdish fighters in less than 24 months.”   These forces could be utilized in cooperation with the West in order to fight against ISIS and other Islamist groups if only they were given the proper backing to do so.   

However, the West led by the US is reluctant to fully support the Kurds.   Part of the issue stems from the Obama administration, who hesitates to take the lead on anything due to America’s bad experience dealing with Syrian opposition groups in the past: “Lately, U.S. foreign policy has been more reactionary than proactive.  This is especially true in combat zones and regions with political strife. The U.S. is very hesitant to take the lead on any decisions that could lead them further into war; which has consequently made bad situations worse and ironically, further drawn them into war.”

“The U.S. is finding it hard to support many liberal opposition groups because they have previously made bad decisions regarding who they get into bed with,” Abbas noted.  “They have already spent billions of dollars arming and training moderate Syrian opposition groups in the past, only to have the weapons and training funneled to Al Nusra or ISIS. Further, they have been unwilling to support the Kurds for fears of upsetting Turkey, which has allowed the PYD/YPG to rule Kurdistan and other unsavory groups to rise in prominence.”  

Part of the problem is a lack of understanding of Kurdistan on the US’s part.   They don’t understand the Kurdish arena well enough to know which groups to cooperate with and which ones not to.   According to Abbas, the Americans do not realize that there are many different Kurdish parties that represent different interests.  Among the various competing Kurdish groups in Syria are the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, the Kurdistan National Council, and the PYD/YPG.  However, not all of the groups have a positive influence upon Kurdish society.   He claims that the main impediment standing in the way of Kurdish self-determination in Syria is the PYD/YPG, which is linked to the PKK terror organization that has implemented numerous terror attacks within Turkey.  But that is not the only issue with them: “The PYD/YPG is working with the Assad regime and they will never break away.”

Aside from the PYD/YPG’s linkage to both the PKK terror group and the Assad regime, Abbas noted that Turkey and other members of the international community will never tolerate an independent Kurdistan run by them: “If the Kurdistan region of Syria were to declare independence or even establish an autonomous state in a Federated Syria under the PYD/YPG, besides being bad for the Kurds of Syria, it would be seen as a threat to Turkey and will also be unwelcome by the US administration.”

However, Turkey and the world would have a different reaction if the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria were to take the same action: “If the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria established an independent Kurdistan in or a Kurdish state in a federated Syria, it would be more welcomed by the United States and Turkey. For instance, Turkey was originally opposed to an independent Kurdish region in Iraq but have since changed their position since the KRG has become a very valuable trading partner with Turkey. Likewise, the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria could establish a Kurdish region in Syria that is peaceful and preserves positive relations with Turkey.”

“There are still avenues for an either a Kurdish state or an independent Kurdistan in Northern Syria under the leadership of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria,” Abbas explained.  “We are an umbrella organization for the Syrian Kurdistan Region, including political parties, NGOs, civic leaders, and tribal leaders. We have the popular support necessary to establish an autonomous region in Northern Syria but we lack the supplies, funding, and military aid and training that we need.  The Kurdistan National of Syria needs to receive the support that it deserves from the international community. We represent the vast majority of Kurds in Syria and we frequently get reports of the crimes committed by the PYD/YPG against Kurds.”

Abbas noted that unless the PYD/YPG change course, their political future is doomed: “The PYD/YPG needs to moderate their views, cut their ties with the PKK, and support a unified Kurdistan under shared leadership elected by the people of a Kurdish region. Short of taking these actions, the PYD/YPG will never successfully gain recognition nor be accepted as a legitimate political party by any administration.   If the PYD/YPG wants to support an aspirational Kurdish state, they need to also support a larger Kurdish front composed of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, the Kurdistan National Council, and the YPG.”

According to Abbas, the US can get over their fear of working with Syrian groups if they work with them in order to establish which groups have shared values and which ones do not: “In the long term, we have a plan to establish a federated Syria that would be successful. We have also factored American, Russian, Israeli and Turkish interests into the model. It would provide long-term stability for a federated Syria while protecting individual and minority rights. We have already laid out the balancing-act necessary to keep Syria together, free, and peaceful.”

Abbas warned that there will be a heavy price to pay if the West does not support an independent Kurdistan or at least a federal Syria: “The old model of Syria will not work and a Syria with a strong central government will be nothing more than a failed state. A centralized state will inevitably lead to a dictatorship or a fractured government (much like Iraq).  It may yet be too late to establish a working Federated Syria but we are willing to give it a try.  Nonetheless, a completely independent Kurdistan in Northern Syria under the leadership of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria would be tremendously successful regardless of regional developments. We have the popular support necessary to recognize our leadership and we have the vision necessary to turn Kurdistan into a developed and prosperous country. This would be our preferable option but we are willing to take baby steps.”



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