The West’s Syria policy is beginning to unravel of its own contradictions.
The Turkish government launched airstrikes against the positions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in north-eastern Syria and the Sinjar area of north-western Iraq in the early hours of 25 April. There were international ramifications to this because the PKK in Syria, which operates politically under the name of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and militarily as the People’s Defence Units (YPG), is the main partner of the U.S.-led Coalition against the Islamic State (IS). Turkey has protested the U.S. engaging the YPG/PKK so deeply and exclusively as its anti-IS partner, being displeased at the U.S.’s uncritical (public) stance toward the YPG, even after the YPG violated U.S.-brokered agreements on its operational theatres and used Russian airstrikes to attack Turkey- and CIA-backed rebels.
In response to Turkey’s anti-PKK operations this week, The Washington Post has hosted an op-ed by Ilham Ahmed, identified as “a co-president of the Democratic Council of Syria”.
The Democratic Council of Syria (or Syrian Democratic Council (SDC)) is the political wing of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF is a front-group for the PKK, mostly designed to assist the United States in circumventing her terrorism laws since the PKK is blacklisted; the PKK is also registered as terrorist by Turkey, the European Union, and NATO. The SDF has some Arab units attached to it, but this multi-ethnic composition is not allowed to threaten the PKK’s political monopoly within the SDF. Ms. Ahmed is also formally the chairwoman of the Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM), the ruling authority in the areas under YPG control that they call “Rojava”. Though TEV-DEM is formally a coalition, most of the ostensibly-different organizations within it are either outright PYD fronts or individuals and parties that have so little support they cannot hinder the PYD.
If these acronyms are beginning to get confusing, that is by design. As a paper for NATO’s Centre of Excellence Defence Against Terrorism noted in 2015, this is part of the “PKK’s continuous effort to escape its terrorist designation”. Ms. Ahmed’s political role, for example, makes much more sense once it is understood that she is a senior official in the PYD and has been a PKK member since joining its military training program in the 1990s. These were only some of the things not mentioned in her op-ed, which was a skilled piece of propaganda that repays some study, since it helps underline some of the misconceptions currently at play over Syria.
Read the rest at The Henry Jackson Society