More hope for Kurdish unity in Syria after release of KNC prisoners -ARANEWS.NET

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The schisms within the Syrian Kurdish community have never been as deep as the PUK-KPD split in Iraq, however it has been a significant division. This article provides some reason to believe they are making progress:

“The Syrian Kurdish security forces of the Asayish, that are affiliated with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), released several politicians from the rival Kurdish National Council (KNC) on Wednesday and Thursday after mediation by former French Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner and former US diplomat Peter Galbraith that visited Rojava [or Syria’s Kurdistan] this week”.

“Zara Salih, a member of the KNC-linked Yekiti Party, told ARA News: “We look at this step [release of KNC members] as a positive sign and good start. After releasing all political prisoners from the Asayish detention centres we are ready to begin negtoations with PYD and TEV-DEM to reach a new deal.”

“The KNC is the main rival of the PYD, and backed by Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The PYD, on the other hand, is closer to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Both the KDP and PKK have significant influence over the Kurdish parties in Syria, but failed to reach an agreement to share power. As a result, the PYD became the most dominant actor in Syrian Kurdistan, after the People’s Protection Units (YPG) took control of most of the Kurdish regions in Syria in July 2012.”

More hope for Kurdish unity in Syria after release of KNC prisoners

10 new wars that could be unleashed as a result of the one against ISIS -Washington Post

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“The borders of the Islamic State’s “caliphate” are shrinking fast. The group’s strongholds in Iraq and Syria are collapsing one by one. The U.S.-led war has reached a point where questions are being raised about what comes next.

So far, the answer seems likely to be: more war.”

 

This article probably oversimplifies things in the sense that it suggests that these wars are discrete events. Rather, the conflicts being played out in Syria are the product of long submerged tensions that were unleashed first by the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and then the Arab Spring. Once the state system began to collapse in 2010, they were bound to come to the fore. The article is effective though, in the way it identifies the various schisms and how they have been effected by recent events.

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/09/07/10-new-wars-that-could-be-unleashed-as-a-result-of-the-one-against-isis/?postshare=9411473249551782&tid=ss_tw

Why Turkey’s coup failed -VOX, Rudaw & Various

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After a night of uncertainty, Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains in power. Initial reports seemed to indicate that the coup was well organized and on the verge of succeeding. However the plot came unraveled relatively quickly. In the aftermath, there have been mass arrests of military personnel and political opponents, and reports of vigilante justice handed out by pro-Erdogan mobs. See http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/turkish-soldier-beheaded-pro-government-8433319 but be warned, the images are graphic and disturbing.

There are many questions to be answered. The first is why stage a coup? There are a number of reasons why part of the military would want to overthrow Erdogan. Once a major success story, Erdogan’s foreign policy had floundered since the Arab Spring. Not only has Turkey been growing increasingly isolated, his missteps had helped pave the way for Rojava, an independent Kurdish enclave in Northern Syria. They also left Turkey open to terrorist attacks from ISIS. His foreign policy had in fact broken down to the point where the Foreign Minister was sacked and several key policies were reversed. Ties were restored with Israel and overtures made to Moscow and reportedly Damascus as well.

On the domestic front, Erdogan’s reopened the civil war with the PKK, leading to bombings in major cities, and making parts of south eastern Turkey look like Syria. (See: http://rudaw.net/english/middleeast/turkey/140720162 and  http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/turkey-thousands-kurds-flee-historic-sur-district-diyarbakir-curfew-expanded-1540429  Note: several of the images that cycle through the frame at the top right of this blog were taken in Diyarbakir in 2011 before the most recent fighting). Step by step, Erdogan was also concentrating all of the power of the state within his own hands. In doing so he was undermining the country’s nascent democracy and threatening the remaining secular traditions of the Turkish state that the military had historically preserved. To make matters worse, he had embarked on an anti-Gülen crusade that threatened anyone not loyal to Erdogan and the AK Party.  Muhammed Fethullah Gülen was once Erdogan’s ally, but after a falling out in 2013,  Gülen and his followers were branded as subversives. This may have forced the coup leaders’ hand: Either act, or risk being purged.

Given Tukey’s history of coups (see http://www.vox.com/2016/7/16/12204508/turkey-military-coups-history) perhaps the more pressing questions were why did it not happen sooner, and how could it have failed? The answers to the two questions are partially intertwined. Since taking office Erdogan has replaced key members of the military elite, and changed its culture through recruitment and indoctrination. What was once an institution with a strong, coherent secular identity, and a reliable chain of command has become divided -to say the least. There are still some remnants of the old guard, but most of the senior command and a large part of the rank and file are pro-Erdogan, pro-AK. That makes launching a coup so much more complicated. In the past, secular generals could be sure they were all of the same mind and that their underlings would follow their orders. Not any more. As was clearly evident last night, the military was divided with key mobile units remaining loyal to the government. See VOX  (http://www.vox.com/2016/7/16/12205352/turkey-coup-failed-why)

As the VOX article discusses, the plotters also made some fundamental errors. Most obviously, they did not capture Erdogan in the initial stages of the coup. As long as he remained free, he could rally the loyal parts of the military and his civilian supporters to his side. In a sense, there was a logic to the plotter’s strategy. Erdogan was out of the capital on vacation, that left him out of touch and somewhat vulnerable. But the plotters did not count on the availability of social media and Erdogan’s charisma. They also failed to take advantage of the brief period when the controlled the regular media. They were not able to convince enough of the military that they were going to win and that they had a plan. (see the blog War is Boring for a discussion of the battle for perceptions https://warisboring.com/turkish-coup-plotters-lost-the-battle-of-perception-fbb695cbe442#.k976qx5br). These were fatal mistakes.

Finally, one of the most surprising elements of the story is the support Erdogan received  from world leaders and even his opponents, including Kurdish groups. (See:  http://aranews.net/2016/07/kurds-turkish-opposition-parties-reject-military-coup/) There is no one answer to this. From a western perspective, Erdogan is the leader of a NATO state and an elected one at that. Turning on him during a coup was never likely. In the Middle East, few leaders like to see a coup take place. Its a bad precedent for them even if they don’t like the leader. For the domestic opposition, certainly there was a realization that a coup meant the end of elections for the foreseeable future and the loss of what ever gains they had made under the system. Finally, the Iraqi Kurds in Erbil have carved out a working relationship with the Erdogan government which also gives them leverage vis-a-vis Baghdad. A new military government would be an unknown quantity. (See David Romano’s piece in RUDAW http://rudaw.net/english/opinion/16072016).

Successful coups rarely give rise to democracy, no matter how awful the established leader was. When they fail, they make a bad situation worse.

More links:

Turkey coup: Who was behind Turkey coup attempt? http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36815476

Turkey was already undergoing a slow-motion coup – by Erdoğan, not the army
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/16/turkey-coup-army-erdogan

 

 

 

The new PKK: unleashing a social revolution in Kurdistan -ROAR

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The PKK was once animated by a misture of nationalism and Marxist/Leninism. However, PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan adopted a form anarchism while in prison, Murray Bookchin’s libertarian municipalism. This article provides a detailed discussion and analysis of this ideology and how it fits with the PKK’s agenda:

“That day (minus the pacifism) might not be far off. The PKK/KCK appear to be following Bookchin’s social ecology to the book, with almost everything up to and including their contradictory participation in the state apparatus through elections, just as prescribed in the literature.

As Joost Jongerden and Ahmed Akkaya write, “Bookchin’s work differentiates between two ideas of politics, the Hellenic model and the Roman,” that is, direct and representative democracy. Bookchin sees his form of neo-anarchism as a practical revival of the ancient Athenian revolution. The “Athens model exists as a counter- and under-ground current, finding expression in the Paris Commune of 1871, the councils (soviets) in the spring-time of the revolution in Russia in 1917, and the Spanish Revolution in 1936.”

Bookchin’s communalism contains a five-step approach:

  1. Empowering existing municipalities through law in an attempt to localize decision-making power.
  2. Democratize those municipalities through grassroots assemblies.
  3. Unite municipalities “in regional networks and wider confederations … working to gradually replace nation-states with municipal confederations”, whilst insuring that “’higher’ levels of confederation have mainly coordinative and administrative functions.”
  4. “Unite progressive social movements” to strengthen civil society and establish “a common focal point for all citizens’ initiatives and movements”: the assemblies. This cooperation is “not [perused] because we expect to see always a harmonious consensus, but — on the contrary — because we believe in disagreement and deliberation. Society develops through debate and conflict.” In addition, the assemblies are to be secular, “fight[ing] against religious influences on politics and government,” and an “arena for class struggle.”
  5. In order to achieve their vision of a “classless society, based on collective political control over the socially important means of production,” the “municipalization of the economy,” and a “confederal allocation of resources to ensure balance between regions” is called for. In layman’s terms, this equates to a combination of worker self-management and participatory planning to meet social needs: classical anarchist economics.”

 

https://roarmag.org/essays/pkk-kurdish-struggle-autonomy/

Iraqi Kurdistan Economic Report 2016: Kurdistan’s Great Recession -Marcopolis

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By Dr. Mark DeWeaver

Not long ago, the future looked bright for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). Long an oasis of peace in an otherwise unstable region, by 2013 the three Kurdish provinces of Erbil, Sulaimaniyah, and Dohuk had become the most prosperous part of the country. Not only were they developing their own oil and gas resources but they were also diversifying into non-oil sectors such as cement, tourism, and real estate. In the major cities consumers were flush with cash—business was booming at shopping malls, car dealerships, gold shops, hotels, and restaurants. Iraq’s tallest apartment and office buildings were under construction. The region’s dream of becoming the “next Dubai” seemed to be fast becoming a reality.

Today the KRI’s multi-year economic boom has turned to bust. Last year’s 50% drop in oil prices, the occupation of neighboring provinces by Islamic State (IS) militants, and the suspension of fiscal transfers from Baghdad to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have resulted in a government-budget crisis of epic proportions. State-sector salaries have gone unpaid for months at a time, KRG-controlled banks have no cash to fund depositors’ withdrawals, arrears to construction contractors are piling up, and billions of dollars in payments due to foreign oil companies have not been made.

The impact on the private sector has been little short of catastrophic. Consumer spending has collapsed, property prices have crashed, occupancy rates at four and five star hotels have plummeted, and work on many projects has come to a virtual standstill. Capacity utilization at cement plants is falling, car dealerships are struggling, income at banks and insurance companies is down sharply, and sales of big-ticket electronics items are slumping. Businesses that only two years ago were making record profits are now fighting for survival.

Outside of Iraq, Kurdistan’s great recession has attracted surprisingly little attention. While the war against the Islamic State continues to monopolize the headlines, the KRI economy is seldom in the news. This one-sided emphasis on the security situation is unfortunate because it obscures some of the most serious problems the region is facing. The outsider might well be left with the impression that everything in Kurdistan will be fine once enough precision guided munitions have found their targets in the IS-controlled areas south and west of the border. In this report, our objective is to fill in some of the gaps in previous coverage of the KRI by providing a comprehensive account of the region’s current economic downturn. We believe that our findings will be useful not only to those following the KRI economy for practical reasons but also to researchers interested in the business cycle dynamics of commodity exporting countries.

 

http://www.marcopolis.net/iraqi-kurdistan-economic-report-2016-kurdistan-s-great-recession.htm

The Kurdish Predicament in Syria: Balancing Russia, Turkey and the United States -Jamestown Foundation

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An interesting discussion of the Syrian Kurd’s strategic environment now that Russia has began its bombing campaign.

“Despite the good Russian-Kurdish diplomatic contacts, it is more likely that the PYD will strengthen their relations with the United States in the future, since they can only advance against the Islamic State with that country’s support. Without U.S. airstrikes since September 27, 2014, the PYD’s armed militia, the People’s Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel—YPG), would have never been able to connect PYD-controlled administrations of Kobane and the Hasakah area by capturing Tal Abyad in June 2015. Likewise without U.S. support, Syrian Kurdish territories would be very vulnerable to Islamic State attacks. If the YPG or PYD decided to work openly with Russia, this could end U.S. air support. So while Salih Muslim met Bogdanov in October, Ilham Ahmed was in the United States seeking more support….”

“Russia cannot offer the Syrian Kurds much apart from protection against al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra and the rebel’s Military Operation Room in Aleppo, or to supply the YPG with limited weapon supplies. Since last summer, there have been several clashes between the YPG and Nusra-allied rebel groups around Efrin and the Kurdish neighborhood of Shaykh Maqsoud (Aranews, July 31).

“But, these rebel groups are growing weaker and weaker due to Russian airstrikes targeting them and Islamic State advances in Aleppo and towards Azaz. That jihadist organization is now already seven kilometers from Efrin and could capture Azaz (Welati, October 14). This will make it even more difficult for the Turks to protect its favored Syrian rebels or to create a safe zone alongside its border. Therefore, this arguably reduces the Kurds’ need for direct Russian support.”

http://www.jamestown.org/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=44539&no_cache=1#.VjPMErSqqko