Trump is withdrawing from Syria and wants the Turks to replace him. But A Turkish buffer zone in Syria is illegal according to international law. However, Turkey may have alternatives for dealing with the YPG aside from invading Northern Syria.
Now more than ever, the situation in Syrian Kurdistan is unstable. After four Americans were murdered in an ISIS-orchestrated terror attack in Syria’s Kurdish region, ISIS has now struck again, injuring three Americans. This development occurred as an agreement was reached between US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on setting up a safe zone in Syria, a reality which has reinforced Kurdish concerns that what happened in Afrin will be repeated elsewhere.
An Iranian Kurdish rebel, who wishes to remain anonymous, declared that Trump one day is defending America’s Kurdish allies and then the next day, he turns his back on them. Sadly, he does not think the American public will react so negatively to Trump flip-flopping so many times on US support for the Kurds: “The US domestic politics all worry about the government shut down and the border wall. I don’t think they care about what happens in Syria. Now, we don’t know what American policy is. If Senator Lindsey Graham who was against the US withdrawal is now saying there is no difference between YPG and PKK, I don’t know what will happen.”
The murderous ISIS terror attack, which killed 19 people in total, occurred after US President Donald Trump decided to pull US forces out of Syria due to the claim that ISIS was defeated. However, according to the Arab Center in Washington, DC, ISIS was weakened but was not defeated. They stressed that at least 2,500 ISIS terrorists remain entrenched within Syrian territory. Numerous sources in Syria are concerned that a Turkish buffer zone in Northern Syria will seriously harm the struggle against what remains of ISIS.
In an exclusive interview, Sherkoh Abbas, President of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria (Kurdnas), proposed an alternative that will both address Turkey’s concerns about the YPG and also the Syrian Kurdish opposition to Turkey controlling a buffer zone within Syrian territory. According to him, Syrian Kurdistan should be transformed into a buffer zone but it should not be administered by Turkey, who would merely “take radical Islamists” to the region. Instead, he argued that the buffer zone should be administered by the international community, who will let the Syrian Kurds have an election, establish an entity similar to Iraqi Kurdistan and to create a Kurdish National Police Force that will patrol the border with Turkey and administer the Kurdistan region of Syria.
“The PKK and its elements including PYD/YPG is overwhelmingly rejected by the Kurds but they feel that they have no alternative,” he noted. “For this reason, they see them as the lesser evil. But bringing a democracy to the region will create an alternative. There is a model. The Iraqi Kurdish model. The Iraqi Kurds are major trading partners with Turkey. They still got their own safe haven and their own tolerant area. This could be duplicated in Syria. I do not want the PKK ever in Syrian Kurdistan. We need to let the Kurds of Syria and the other ethnic groups in Syrian Kurdistan administer the area and to choose their rulers.”
An anonymous YPG official stated that they are willing to work with the international community in order to create a buffer zone but they want to administer that buffer zone. The source stated that if Turkey attacks Northern Syria, they will fight back in order to defend themselves but they are willing to give the international community a chance. However, Abbas disagrees with their proposal for he believes that Turkey is unlikely to agree to any YPG role since Turkey considers any affiliate of the PKK to be “a direct national security threat” and he does not feel that all of Syrian Kurdistan needs to suffer on their account. When the PKK affiliates withdrew from Mount Sinjar, Turkey backed off but when they did not in Afrin, Abbas noted that the Kurds suffered a catastrophe: “In Afrin, they are kidnapping, raping people and bringing Islamist settlers to kick people out their homes. Do we want the buffer zone to be like this? No, we don’t want this nor Assad. We want Syria to be like Iraqi Kurdistan under UN or EU/NATO protection, not Turkey. The YPG has not done anything for the Kurds.”
Dr. Hakim Bashar, Secretary General of the KDP of Syria, which is closely aligned with Barzani, and Ibrhim Biro, Secretary General of Yekiti Party, which is closely aligned with Talabani, concur with Abbas, arguing that Syrian Kurdistan needs to be inclusive and under the control of EU/UN and local Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and Christians after a free election is held. They also believe the area should not be controlled by YPD/YPG. They claim that the failure of YPG to allow inclusive cooperation caused Turkey to overtake Afrin.
According to Abbas, the KNC, which used to be under his umbrella until they broke off in order to forge an alliance with Barzani while his organization remained independent, is also opposed to Turkey intervening in Northern Syria but they cannot come out and say it up front. He claims that they lost a lot of their credibility on the Kurdish street because of Turkey’s threats to invade Northern Syria. According to him, if Turkey truly wants to destroy the PKK and YPG, they need to offer the Kurdish people a true democratic alternative, which would also result in a 30 kilometer buffer zone that would ensure that hostile forces would not approach the Turkish border, without a single Turkish soldier setting foot in Syria.
Turkey does have a reason to reconsider its decision to invade Northern Syria. Former Israel Consul General Dr. Yitzchak Ben Gad proclaimed that a Turkish buffer zone in Syria violates international law: “A buffer zone that prevents an attack upon the Kurds is a good idea. But if Turkey enters Syria, this is an international problem. The Syrians do not want them in Syria. They would be invading their territory. Syria is an independent country and the Kurds there are allies of the US. No wonder Trump said to the Turks that they have no right to go there and fight the Kurds.”
In conclusion, Abbas called upon the community of nations to establish a safe zone administered by NATO members notably France and the UK, who already have forces stationed in the area and who were active members of the US-led coalition against ISIS. He declared that a Kurdish National Guard should be formed as soon as possible so that all PKK affiliates can be replaced. After that, he declared that all SDF forces and heavy weapons should be removed from areas near the Turkish border. Following that, Abbas proclaimed that an international referendum should be held that will be monitored by international observers so that fair and free elections can be held for the local governing council and a legislature for an autonomous Kurdistan region of Syria, which will stretch from the Iraqi border to the Kurdish mountains west of Afrin.