August 26, 2013
Tens of thousands of Kurds of Syria fled to Iraq last week, being added to the massive numbers of refugees quitting the country. The borders were until lately blocked due to political and diplomatic tensions but the outflows could not be controlled after the massacre taking place in Damascus and other cities where Kurds were used to live. The alleged use of chemical weapons by the side of President Assad in Syria has stirred up the international debate, and there are increasing rumors that the Kurdish-led government of North Iraq could seek for intervention to exert pressure on Assad. The outcome of these flows can be long-term a major step towards shifting human geography in the region and, possibly, a trigger for the creation of an independent entity of Kurdistan.
Alongside the civil war in Syria, the issue of the Kurds comes again to monopolize international media. As we analyzed last December the conditions of the Kurds in Turkey and the possible escalation of a united movement of the Kurds seeking independence and forming a sovereign state in the region by encompassing all parts of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran being vastly populated by Kurds, the outbreak of so-called unethical means of war through the use of chemical weapons could be an additional step for the other Kurdish communities in the region to get involved in order to safeguard the fate of their compatriots. The recent statement of the Kurdish leader of Iraq Masoud Barzani the he might be urged to act in favor of his compatriots in and refugees from Syria is a variable that has not to be neglected.
In the beginning of the civil war in Syria, Assad has left Kurds out of the struggle in purpose, believing that with this strategy the Kurdish issue would be left to the Turks. When Ankara came into terms with PKK, the issue of dealing with the Kurds of Syria came again into surface and Assad decided that the problem that this community could be unhandled in the post-war era. Therefore, there are fighting groups composed by Assad destined to vanquish the Kurds of Syria, in a effort to extenuate any possible retaliation and the creation of another front against Assad by the Kurds.
Nonetheless, the strategy of Assad to push the Kurds into the exodus is mixed with additional factors that cannot be underestimated. The first is that by attacking the Kurds, the other communities outside Syria could get involved and seek for retaliation. The second is that the outflow of Kurdish population is not only itinerated to the adjacent Iraq, but also to Turkey, where Erdogan is definitely not willing to accept such a development. The final, and possibly most complicated factor is that this massive deportation can ignite sentiments of self-determination by the side of the Kurds of Syria and be a cornerstone towards the creation of the Kurdish state. Such a scenario could alter balances in the Middle East and re-shape the geopolitical chart of the region and the security implications. To my point of view, there is one thing not to doubt about: in a possible creation of a Kurdish state the first state that will be profited from would be Israel. The Kurds are not against the existence of the Israeli state, there are much less prone to religious fundamentalism and extremism, and in general they can be sufficiently characterized as mild and secular-driven.
In a wider context, the most imminent danger in the region is the escalation of war and the ignition of additional areas of turmoil. As we stressed out a couple of days ago, the string of violence is expanding from Syria to Egypt, now to Lebanon and possibly to Iraq, Turkey, and backwards. The direct implications of such a development are various and interconnected, and we are going to deal with in the coming days.