THE ELUSIVE MODERATE SYRIAN REBELS:
By Ghassan Kadi
9 November 2014
American foreign policy makers have the history of creating a boogie man and a saviour in every corner of the world where they intervene. Up until Obama declared that there will be no more American boots on the ground, the saviour has been the American GI, who paid for their lives by the tens of thousands fighting needlessly in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and other places. With Obama’s declaration, the saviour has to be a local; that it unless the new GOP-dominated Congress decrees otherwise and pushes for a resurrection of the boots-on-the-ground resolution.
But assuming that America sticks to its Obama policy and continues its pursuit to arm “moderate Syrian rebels”, many questions have been asked about who are indeed those rebels?
Analysts who want to push the band-wagon of an on-going unbreakable ISIS-American coalition call it a bluff. They argue that America is planning to arm ISIS instead of fighting it. Facts on the ground and in the conflict dynamics indicate otherwise. The rift between ISIS on one hand, and the Americans and their Saudi allies on the other hand is too obvious to be ignored. The rush of ISIS to self-fund was the most significant development that enabled ISIS to break away and chase up its own agenda and interests after the failure of plan-Bandar.
So who are the “moderate Syrian rebels” America is talking about? They cannot be the FSA. The FSA is a spent force and its recruitment drive is virtually non-existent. Not even high salaries can lure in enough fighters in a manner that can counter balance the huge recruitment drive that is fueled by the ISIS theology.
Private contractors such as Blackwater are very expensive and do not offer long-term solutions.
This leaves two feasible options. It is either that American politicians are regurgitating sheer nonsense simply for media consumption in an attempt to prove that their fingers are on the pulse, or that they are planning to use the Kurds.
The term moderate fits the Kurds as the majority of them are not Islamic fundamentalists. The term Syrian can fit them if borders are stretched slightly. All they need is some attraction to turn them into rebels who can serve America’s interests. And rebels they already are. Most of them are already well trained militarily and battle-hardened.
If truth were to be discussed, words should not be minced. Kurdish people are proud Levantines who have played significant role in the history of the Levant. They are part-and-parcel of the wonderful mosaic that makes the Levant what it is. They can attract a lot of sympathy, and they have indeed been the subject of many injustices in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran. Few conveniently fail to mention that their recent plight did not begin with Saddam. As a matter of fact, they have been massacred and bombed by the British in the 1930’s. But because they are highly divided, they neither have their collective power any more than they have loyal regional friends. In brutal honesty, they have more adversaries than allies.
After Saddam’s demise, they have managed to attain autonomy in Northern Iraq and the oil wealth was the icing on the cake. But many of their “compatriots” in Southern Turkey and Eastern Syria continue to live under squalid conditions and abject poverty.
If they get united, the Kurds can turn into a force to reckon with. Their actual number is not exactly known, but to say 30 million would perhaps be an underestimate if anything. The homeland they call Kurdistan is huge. They haven’t thus far been able to unite under a collective leadership, but an American promise of a bigger state than the current one in Iraq, a territory that eats away into Syria and Turkey may just fit the bill and do the job.
What stands in the way of such an American-Kurdish deal is Turkey. Presently, Turkey is the only regional ally of America who is refusing to lend a hand in the fight against ISIS. The reason being Turkey’s fear of Kurdish power expansion inside Turkey and at its borders. Turkey would much prefer to see the Kurds get crushed by ISIS than otherwise. It has no problem with ISIS, and if it appeases ISIS, it can to some extent guarantee that home-grown Jihadists are not going to put Turkey on the terror hit list.
It is also likely that Turkey wishes to see ISIS expand as far as Mecca. An ISIS takeover of Arabia will first and foremost remove Al-Saud from the scene; Turkey’s natural religious rivals, and secondly, an ISIS-controlled Mecca will demand a Sunni army to liberate. And who else but Turkey fits the bill? Pakistan technically does, but Pakistan would not be interested and the logistics would be very difficult.
It is highly likely that Erdogan wants to reverse Turkey’s fortune and dismay of the events of last century when nearly a hundred years ago, Muslim Arabs with their British allies pushed Turkey out of Mecca. Would it not be Erdogan’s sweetest revenge to see the West and Arabs together begging him to liberate Mecca?
But events may not go this far if Turkey accepts America’s plan of arming and training Kurdish fighters to fight ISIS instead. In reality however, Erdogan will never accept a Kurdish state that prunes away a big chunk of Turkey.
Such an impasse can be resolved by one of two ways; either by having an undercover deal in which Turkey and America both agree that the promise of a bigger Kurdish state is going to be deceptive, or by Erdogan accepting the deal as an interim measure so as to appease America, and then pounce at the Kurds when the timing become suitable. That said, Erdogan may not need to lift a finger, because rival Kurdish leaders can be swayed to fight over the bounty they get. The divisions can be brought to the surface resulting in more infighting and bloodshed. This has happened to them a few times in history.
Either way, the Kurds are tipped to lose. The Kurds have been the subject of many deceptions, massacres and atrocities in the past and if they fall into this American trap, it won’t only be for their detriment, but also for the detriment of the entire region. So far, Syrian Kurds have played an honourable and significant role supporting the Syrian government and army, but given the volatility in policy making, this can change.
If and when the Kurds become THE declared “moderate Syrian rebels”, much attention will be needed to see whether or not they will unite under the lures and misgivings of the USA. The wisdom of Kurdish leaders will then be put to the biggest test it had thus far confronted.