SDF, Damascus seek departure of foreign fighters in Syria

Jun 14,2018 – JORDAN TIMES – Michael Jansen

The announcement by the political wing of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said that it was prepared to hold unconditional peace talks with Damascus which could amount to a breakthrough for both sides, if negotiations take place. Since the SDF controls between 25-30 per cent of Syrian territory in Raqqa and Deir Ezzor provinces in the north and east, talks that result in the reunification of this area with the 65 per cent of Syria now under government control would reestablish Syrian sovereignty over most of the country. This would leave only Idlib province, held by a collection of takfiri factions protected by Turkey, and pockets of territory under these and other armed groups, including Daesh.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has recently called on the Kurds to negotiate and warned them if they do not reach a deal, he would not hesitate to use force to regain the territory they have conquered. Arab residents, the majority of Syrians living under Kurdish rule, have staged demonstrations calling for the return of Damascus’ governance, exerting pressure on the SDF to reach an agreement. Assad has reminded the Kurds they are, after all, Syrians, implying they need to seek reconciliation with fellow citizens and the government. For Kurds, his statement of the obvious has a serious meaning, as many Kurds have been stateless, including 30,000 who had lived in Syria for decades and were granted citizenship in April 2011 shortly after unrest erupted in the southern town of Deraa.

The divided US administration, which has fostered and armed the SDF, could try to scupper negotiations between the Kurds and Damascus. While US President Donald Trump has said he seeks the withdrawal of the 2,000 US special forces from Syria before the end of the year, Defence Secretary James Mattis has rejected an early US pull-out from Syria. He called such a move a “strategic blunder”, since it would enable Assad to “take advantage” of a “power vacuum”. He said a US evacuation would depend on progress in the UN-brokered, stalled Geneva peace talks. Waiting on Geneva could prolong Syria’s division indefinitely.

In the Trump-challenged communique of the G-7 summit in Canada, the US and its Western allies called on Russia to halt its support for the Syrian government, making it all too clear they have not given up on the regime change scenario, although this would lead to a vacuum in Syria and its collapse as a state.


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